Every week this season, we’re going to take a look at the previous Saturday’s game and do our best to answer three questions about Oklahoma State football:
What did we already know about this team going into this game?
What did we learn about this team from this game?
What do we still not know after this game?
That one was tough. No loss is ever easy, but good grief that was difficult to stomach, for like a thousand different reasons. Oklahoma State fans have gone through a myriad of emotions in the hours since the Cowboys walked off the field in Waco, having fallen, in truth, two yards short of victory. Through all of that emotion, what did we really learn about the Cowboys on Saturday? Let’s talk about it.
What We Knew
The pass defense is not good. In fact, it’s borderline dreadful. We knew this coming in after the Cowboy secondary starred in Cooper Rush’s Heisman video, and it definitely showed up again on Saturday. The defensive line did its job in Waco, holding the Bears to 136 rushing yards on 37 attempts, an average of just 3.7 yards per carry. It mattered little, however, as the secondary was burned repeatedly. Seth Russell came into Saturday averaging just under 254 passing yards per game. In my game prediction, I said Russell would throw for 350+ on the Cowboys. He finished with 387 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged nearly 14 yards per pass attempt and 21.5 yards per completion. Not good. We all know Baylor’s offense is explosive, but the Cowboy secondary was awful.
What We Learned
There is at least one college football team against which Oklahoma State can run the ball effectively. Look, Baylor has been terrible against the run all year. They were giving up an average of 205 yards per game against FBS opponents (and they weren’t exactly playing Alabama). That being said, the Cowboys came in having struggled to run against, well, everyone they’ve played since 2013. They mustered only 3.8 yards per carry against FCS Southeastern Louisiana, averaged a pathetic 1.9 yards per carry on the way to a whopping 50 yards rushing against CMU (like, total, for the whole game), and an even 100 yards against Pitt on 3.1 yards per carry. So even if it did take them 55 carries to get there, and even if it was against a sub-par run defense, it is noteworthy that this team ran for 213 yards, out-gained Baylor on the ground, and even averaged more yards per carry than the Bears. It’s a step I’m taking with a grain of salt, but it’s a step.
What We Still Don’t Know
Will this Cowboy team get out of its own way? For all of the deficiencies - the run game that looked nonexistent coming in, the pass defense, Mason Rudolph’s uneven play so far this season, the fact remains that the Cowboys were legitimately two plays from winning on the road against a ranked team. The fact remains that the Cowboys have shown they can win in different ways, whether its by throwing bombs all day against Pitt or grinding it out and totally controlling the game against Baylor. The maddening thing about it is that they’ve also shown they can lose in just as many ways. The Cowboys turned the ball over four times against Baylor and simply could not overcome their own self-inflicted wounds. The ceiling for this team is high, even after a disappointing and frustrating 2-2 start. What remains to be seen is how much of that potential the Cowboys will allow themselves to reach.