Oklahoma State heads into a much-needed bye-week coming off a 31-12 loss to Kansas State. It’s the Cowboys first multi-game losing streak since the end of the 2015 season and lowest scoring game since putting up just seven points against Texas back in 2014.
This is... not good.
Oklahoma State isn’t just on the verge of ending their 12-season bowl streak, it’s over the cliff and falling toward a 4-win season. Something that seemed unlikely heading into the season, a lack of a bowl game, now looks inevitable.
The Cowboys will now get two weeks off to prepare for a homecoming showdown with Texas with a lot of major questions and no obvious answers. But before we get to that, we have a lot to talk about with OSU’s dismal performance against the Wildcats.
One positive takeaway so far this season
Before things get ugly, let’s say by something nice about this Oklahoma State team. They have yet to allow points on the opponents’ first drive of the game. Kansas State was close, with a missed field goal.
#OKState has not allowed a point to any opponent on its game-opening drive this season.— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) October 13, 2018
Ok, just a warning. From here on out it’s... not good.
This is the most undisciplined team I can remember under Mike Gundy.
Yes penalties are a major part of it. Oklahoma State’s second drive of the day should have ended in six. But the Cowboys went from a touchdown to a 3rd and 24 with back-to-back penalties. Then the Cowboys have to burn a time out because Marcus Keyes wasn’t on the field for the field goal attempt. Yes it was a questionable PI call on Wallace, but let’s not act like it’s some uncharacteristic issue.
Oklahoma State ended the game with seven penalties for 70 yards. That’s actually the least penalties and penalty yards the Cowboys’ have had in Big 12 play this season.
This year is such an outlier for a Cowboy team that was really disciplined the past few years. As we’ve discussed before, the Cowboys had been getting better and better about penalties the past few seasons leading to a Gundy-era low in 2017.
But it’s not just that OSU is penalized, it’s that penalties are killing Oklahoma State drives and extending opponent drives. They tend to come at the most in-opportune times; on third downs.
And it’s not just penalties that point to issues with discipline. OSU having to burn a timeout on the field goal attempt because an offensive lineman wasn’t on the field is just comical. It continues to fortify that the special teams are not only still bad, they’re not getting better. Also bad for the special teams? Kansas State almost had another return TD against the Cowboys like they did in 2017.
The special teams have been an issue long enough to say a change needs to be made. I wouldn’t say they’ve cost OSU a game, but they haven’t helped. But the penalties? I think they are what’s costing the Cowboys.
Where did the run defense go?
Oklahoma State had one of the best run defenses in the country. They were holding teams to 117 yards-per-game, good enough for 23rd in the country and the best in the Big 12.
Against Kansas State. It completely disappeared. Oklahoma State not only gave up the most running yards of the season (291), the Wildcats not had 122 yards on the ground in the first half, more than all but Iowa State and Texas Tech had total.
The loss of Darrion Daniels is obviously a huge problem. Iowa State and Kansas State both had a couple of easy runs up the middle, especially in the redzone. It’s something the coaches are going to have to look at in the bye-week.
Oklahoma State will be happy to see Duke Shelley’s eligibility expire.
Duke Shelley didn't play against Oklahoma State in 2015 as a freshman, but he's picked off Oklahoma State in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Not too shabby. #KState— Riley Gates (@Riley_Gates) October 13, 2018
That was in the first half. Shelley had a great game against the Cowboys on Saturday finishing fourth on the team with six tackles and actually grabbed both of Taylor Cornelius’ interceptions. OSU won’t miss him.
I said this on twitter, and still don’t mean it as an insult to Taylor Cornelius, but Tylan Wallace is so good and will be even more impressive when he’s got a more accurate quarterback throwing to him.
He has a knack for finding the football and putting himself in a position to come down with it. Guys like him, especially coming after James Washington, Marcell Ateman, and Justin Blackmon, are why Mike Gundy should pay Kasey Dunn whatever he wants.
Here's that Tylan catch again. Insane. pic.twitter.com/MTvQgXh35Q— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguys) October 13, 2018
Streaks come to and end
It’s been a season of streaks ending. The Cowboys’ 9-game winning streak against Texas Tech ended earlier this season. So did their 6-game winning streak against Iowa State. But against Kansas State, four major streaks came to an end;
- Oklahoma State’s 7-game road winning streak
- Justice Hill’s 12-game touchdown streak
- 33-straight games with a turnover
- 19-straight wins when leading at halftime
That first drive was the perfect encapsulation of the 2018 Oklahoma State team.
A 7-yard completion to Tyron Johnson followed four yard run for a first down by Justice Hill. But then? A 2-yard completion, incomplete pass, incomplete pass, punt that was tipped by the defense. Yeah, Oklahoma State got a fortuitous bounce and roll, but it felt like the most “2018 Oklahoma State drive” possible. It was a sign of things to come.
This isn’t 2014
I understand all of the comparisons to the 2014 season. That Oklahoma State team wasn’t great. But there are a number of reasons this one might be worse, and it starts with this; that 2014 team could beat bad teams.
Those Cowboys were 5-1 before the losing streak and that loss was to defending national champs and eventual 13-1 play-off team Florida State. They beat Texas Tech, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Iowa State. The only “bad” team they lost to was a far more talented Texas team late in the season. That team also didn’t have the weapons this team has (more on that next...) on offense.
These Cowboys have lost as favorites to Texas Tech (good but not great), Iowa State (good but probably going to be better), and Kansas State (garbage). This team doesn’t have “we’re on our back-up quarterback” as an excuse to point to. This team has major issues on defense whereas in 2014, it was more about the defense never being able to stay off the field because the offense went 3-and-out so often.
This might be worse than 2014. In fact, if something doesn’t change, we won’t be using 2014 as the “bad” comparison, we’ll be using 2018.
What a waste
We can talk about the fact that Justice Hill only got four carries in the first half (he also got two catches). Or that he ended the game with just 11 carries for 41 yards, his lowest total since the South Alabama game, but his lowest in Big 12 play ever.
But what matters most is that this is likely Justice Hill’s last season in Orange and Black and Oklahoma State might not go to a bowl game.
There is an argument to be made that Hill is the best running back of the Mike Gundy era.
Even that 2014 team made a bowl game and their best running back was Desmond Roland (okay it was probably Tyreek Hill but that’s a discussion for another day).
To have the career of a player as great as Justice Hill end in a 4-to-5 win season will be the greatest travesty since the misuse of the above mentioned player.
It’s time to make a change
This isn’t about Cornelius’ ability to play quarterback. I actually think that behind a better offensive line and on a team that averaged 5 penalties a game like last year, Cornelius would be perfectly fine.
But at this point, “fine” isn’t going to get it done. The Cowboys need a spark, because ever since the fumbled punt-turned safety against Iowa State this team has looked flat and uninspired. In fact, ever since the win over Boise State, they’ve looked that way.
I don’t think fans are the only ones who realize what this season is and has become. The players are performing like it’s a thought that’s crossed their minds as well.
I like Taylor Cornelius, but when a quarterback can’t lead his team to victory either physically or emotionally, it’s time to make a change.
After seven games, this team is what it is, incredibly flawed and inconsistent. You can see the potential for them to be good, but also understand why there’s little reason they’ll pull it together. The only question now is, what change can be made to improve things enough extend that bowl streak to 13.