Cowboy football is baaaaaack! Each Monday, we’re going to take a look back at the previous Saturday and try 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?
With all the excitement of that first Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium came our first look at what the 2016 Cowboys are going to look like. Sort of. We’ll learn a lot more about this team in the weeks to come when they face teams that didn’t go 3-6 in the Southland Conference last season, but we already know more than we did over the summer.
What We Knew
Oklahoma State is better at football than Southeastern Louisiana. Look, we knew coming in that this was a mismatch of near Savannah State proportions. You can debate the decision to schedule FCS teams, which our own Dustin Ragusa did here, and a look at future schedules suggests those making that decision for OSU may have changed course on the idea. Regardless of how you feel about playing FCS teams, the fact is that the end result of this game was never in question. I realize that’s not news, but it does serve as important context to everything we saw and didn’t see on Saturday.
What We Learned
Justice Hill DEFINITELY deserves to play. This backfield is crowded. And one of the things that didn’t happen Saturday was separation among the RBs. No one really stood out, but Justice Hill was maybe the most exciting out of the backfield. Sure, OSU could redshirt Hill and still have four capable backs to run with, and mostly due to that fact, I think a lot of us were a surprised when reports started surfacing that Hill was going to play and maybe even start at RB. Saturday, we saw that hype was mostly justified. He didn’t blow the doors off SLU, but his six carries for 33 yards (exactly none of which were fluke yards) were pretty exciting to watch. He proved he belongs in the rotation and, as the only true freshman in the group, he has the most room to grow and improve throughout the season. I’m pretty pumped that his growth and improvement is going to happen on the field. Another reason to be excited about this - the playing time he gets this year should pay big dividends going forward.
What We Still Don’t Know
Is the offensive line really any better than last season? This is one of many questions that I just don’t know if you can answer against an opponent like Southeastern Louisiana. It seemed, at times, as if there were some better running lanes being opened up compared to what we saw last season, but it’s really not productive to compare results against SLU to results against OU. What may be a good indication is to look at this game compared to last season’s game against Central Arkansas. Southeastern Louisiana hails from the same conference as UCA, and the two played a pretty competitive game last season, which UCA eventually won 21-16. Against the Bears last season, Oklahoma State ran the ball 35 times for 164 yards. That’s an average of 4.7 yards per carry. On Saturday against SLU, the Pokes ran the ball 37 times for a net of 142 yards, which is an average of 3.8 yards. I do think the starters played more plays against UCA last year than the starters played against SLU on Saturday. And I do think the line looked much better with the starters in than it looked once Gundy started getting other guys some playing time. Ultimately, however, I just don’t think we learned much of anything. Offensive line play is still a huge question mark for this team and there are some big time defensive fronts looming later on in the schedule, so hopefully its a question we can answer in a positive way sometime soon.