After three-straight years of Cardiac Cowboy comeback victories, it was more heartbreaking than heart racing in Oklahoma State’s 48-42 loss to Iowa State on Saturday.
It’s the Cowboys’ second home loss this season, and second-straight conference home loss. Worse, it’s the first loss to Iowa State since the dreaded 2011 game, and first Cyclone win in Stillwater since 2000.
Not surprisingly, fans are feeling a little disheartened so far, and no one seems to have an answer for what’s wrong other than, things need to get better.
Now that I’ve had enough time to fully digest everything that happened Saturday, here are my main takeaways.
The offensive line is a problem
Mike Gundy on his offensive line back in August: “I’ll be shocked if we’re not better than we’ve been in a number of years the first of October.” It’s early October and the offensive line might be worse than 2014.
That year they gave up a Gundy-coached Cowboy high 40 sacks. Right now, they have allowed 18 sacks through six games, or three a game. At that rate, they would end 2018 with 36 (39 if OSU reaches a bowl game).
On Saturday, it wasn’t just Taylor Cornelius that was often surrounded by white shirts. Running back Justice Hill was held to 2.75 yards-per-carry, his lowest since his freshman year. Justice Hill is amazing and has shown time and time again this season an ability to make the first guy miss. But the second and third guy? Yeah, no one can do that, especially when they all arrive behind the line of scrimmage.
Until this issue is corrected, and it may not be this season, it doesn’t matter who is behind center, the Cowboys are going to struggle offensively.
Momentum the wrong way.
I’m not going to say that special teams cost Oklahoma State this game, but the momentum took a Chris-Carson’s-bicep-sized swing in Iowa State’s favor after Zac Sinor dropped a punt that turned into the safety in the first quarter.
It was another game where the special teams made costly mistakes that led to points for the opposing team.
I can’t help but wonder if Gundy thinks he’s just outsmarting everyone by having a graduate assistant and an analyst run one of the most important aspects of the game. If he thinks that not paying an assistant full-time is just so clever, despite the evidence proving contrary to that theory.
All I know is this, with the problems Oklahoma State already has, having a special teams unit that has a habit of swinging momentum in the favor of the opposition more than it’s own team is going to continue to force OSU to fight uphill more often than not.
What’s up with the penalties?
I wrote last week about the issues with penalties so far this season. Before Saturday, the Cowboys’ were averaging 7.2 penalties and 71.4 penalty yards per game. Those numbers will go up after Oklahoma State wracked up nine penalties and 87 penalty yards on Saturday.
Think about that. 87 yards. That’s nearly a full football field Oklahoma State gave up to Iowa State. On Saturday, most of those came on the offense, which killed drives and murdered momentum.
I’ve always believed Mike Gundy runs a disciplined program. So what’s going on this season to make the team so undisciplined? Whatever it is, it needs to be addressed soon
Give Iowa State credit
For the second time this season, Mike Gundy was outcoached.
Matt Campbell and his coaching staff came into Stillwater with an offensive and defensive scheme the Cowboys’ hadn’t seen. They threw a true-freshman quarterback onto the field that no one had tape on, then ran slants, RPO, and QB runs they hadn’t used all season.
On defense, they blitzed unlike they hadn’t blitzed all season, including using corner blitzes that (credit to Robert Allen), they didn’t use against Oklahoma and TCU.
And Purdy was amazing. He was completing passes on the run that would make NFL quarterbacks jealous.
It was a good plan that worked to perfection.
The end of first half
There is nothing about Mike Gundy that drives makes me Norman Bates-y as much as how he handles the ends of first halves.
On Saturday, with two minutes to go, and everyone knowing that the Cowboys were going to get the ball back before halftime, Gundy refused to call a timeout and preserve the clock.
When the Cowboys did get the ball back, they had 16 seconds which was time enough to get in field goal range. Instead, Gundy called.
He did the same thing against Texas Tech two weeks ago. He’s done it time and time again. He did the same thing last year against West Virginia.
Mike Gundy is a conservative coach. He didn’t used to be, but somewhere along the way he became one. He used to be able to get away with it. He may not any more.
Right now, Cowboys sit at 4-2 overall, 1-2 in the Big 12 with the best teams in the league still to come. The rest of the schedule is back-loaded with the best teams coming in late October and November.
And it’s even more daunting than we thought before the season. OU hasn’t missed a beat (offensively), Texas isn’t back, but they’re good, and West Virginia is better than we all thought. Right now, the two games that look like the best bets for OSU to nab two more wins are both on the road; Kansas State and Baylor.
I think what hurts the most for Oklahoma State fans, is that this is starting to feel like a throw away year, both in performance and Gundy’s unwillingness to make a change at quarterback.
The most demoralizing thing for Oklahoma State fans, you can't even call this a rebuilding year. You're not building anything with a 5th year senior walk-on quarterback. You're simply losing and wasting a season.— Bryan Keating (@KOCOKeating) October 6, 2018
Anything can happen. The Cowboys upset OU on the road in 2014 and had no business doing so. You can’t rely on upsets, but unless OSU is willing to make a change in the bye week next week, that’s exactly what might happen if they want to reach a bowl for a 13th straight season.