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Who is to blame for OSU football’s struggles in 2018?

We asked and you answered pretty emphatically...

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Terms used to describe OSU’s football season:

· Crazy

· Roller Coaster

· Unpredictable

· Psychotic

We were all perplexed. The only thing we knew was if we expected them to win, they lost. When we expected them to get lathered up, they either won or came within a hair of doing so.

Even Head Coach Mike Gundy has said “I don’t have the answer. It’s the dangdest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Despite our amateur analysis, we all had some idea what was coming last Saturday because we’ve all been paying attention during the previous eleven games.

Hell, we had an inkling what was coming at Baylor because we watched the game in Manhattan.

We could have guessed what happened in….well, honestly, nobody had any clue THAT was going to happen in Manhattan.

The thing that stops me, however, is that we are all on the outside looking in. We can’t see the day-to-day interactions or the body language. We don’t deal with the discipline and execution issues. We are not immersed on the ground level of the program. All we see is the end result on Saturday.

You know who is immersed?

Head Coach Mike Gundy, and for five million dollars I need to hear something better than “Welp, golly gosh dag nab it jee whiz I just ain’t got no idea.” (paraphrased.)

You should have had some idea when OSU went 40 minutes without scoring against Texas Tech.

Do something different…

You should have had some idea when they couldn’t score more than 12 points in Manahattan.

Do something different…

You should have had some idea when they amassed 133 yards in penalties in Waco.

Do something different…

You should have known that you needed to do something different to get them ready for TCU.

Gundy alluded to the team being a bit flat at the beginning of last week, and that he was concerned about a letdown after the big win against West Virginia. OSU fans in unison….

Doesn’t have to be a big thing. Even the smallest of changes can have huge impacts. Gundy is completing his 24th season as either an assistant, offensive coordinator, or head coach at Oklahoma State. Are you telling me he doesn’t have any coaching tricks up his sleeve? Nothing to shake things up, get the team’s attention?

In my small sample size of personal coaching experience, one thing I knew for sure…when the opponent was BIG, you didn’t need to motivate. You needed to instill the belief that you could hang with Goliath. When the opponent was small, THAT’S when you needed to find a way to motivate the players to perform as if they are playing Goliath.

These are not professional athletes. They are kids going to school, just a few years separated from puberty and at widely varying places on the emotional maturity scale. Leadership is key, and it has to come from not only the coaches, but also some of the players who understand what it takes. You need vocal AND quiet leaders. Sometimes you get lucky and have some starters, key players that naturally step into the role of keeping the troops in order by speaking to or getting in other players faces.

But if you don’t have that the coaches have to fill that void. You need vocal coaches involved regardless, setting the example for the younger leaders. You need to figure out how to tap into the emotion and passion of the players. It can take decades to develop that skill, the ability to zero in on an individual athletes buttons. If the head coach is not that person, then there better be assistant coaches or coordinators that bring the fire. Unless you are Alabama, talent alone doesn’t get you there, and even the Tide gets fired up. I can guarantee you Nick Saban has lit folks up, and he’s not afraid to do something different to shake things up, even after an entire season spent reaching halftime of the College Football Championship game.

Don’t presume that I’m advocating for changing QBs by that last comment. I’m not on the ground floor and don’t know what’s in the talent cupboard. But in a season where the team CLEARLY had the talent to compete with the top teams in the league it appears the head ball coach chose to stay the course despite the painfully visible warning signs. With over 700 votes, as fans, you seem to agree with that assessment:

From an analysis perspective, you can go at this a couple of different directions, but for me, in the end, it all leads back to the coaches. I will say that I’m very shocked that more of you didn’t vote “Schemes” given how much we bitch about the offensive play calling and adjustments. You quite clearly don’t think talent is the issue.

If you lump together those things that are directly in the hands of the coaches (recruiting/talent, schemes/adjustments, coaching leadership), then you get 80% of respondents that put this directly on the coaches overall.

If we look at categories, 73% agree that leadership in general was the main issue this season.

However I think lumping things together pales in comparison to the fact that 53% agree that the coaches didn’t set the tone, and I would argue that number should be at 73%.

Coaches speak all the time about developing young men. It should have been painfully clear last spring that there would be a vacuum of player leadership. Should have been excruciatingly clear this past August in fall camp. The COACHES need to find and develop those players because you HAVE to have them. Obviously they can’t control who those players necessarily will be, or how quickly they grow into that role. That is the one place where I’ll give them a bit of a pass.

I understand that stability is key in a program. There are limits to the amount of time spent practicing. But in a year where the issues you had were well within your control to address it appears that not much changed. Other teams were able to overcome the thing you can’t control…injuries…and yet OSU couldn’t get past themselves. THAT, for me, is all on the coaches. I would argue this trend has been brewing since 2015 when Mason Rudolph and James Washington were still here and well on their way to being stars. Big performances in big games, lackluster against lesser opponents. That alone points the finger at the program more than the players. You could claim with evidence that Gundy has struggled with making big changes without being forced. The only examples I can think of where a big change was made during the season by choice was 2013 following the loss to West Virginia, which almost led to a Big 12 title, and Zac Robinson taking over for Bobby Reid in 2007. Folks can point to 2009 and 2014 as examples of Gundy being unwilling to pull the trigger for wins. Do we add 2018 to that list? Funny that the only examples I can think of involve quarterbacks...

At the end of the season, regardless of the bowl outcome, Gundy will set forth on his journey into his 25th coaching season at Oklahoma State, and his 15th in the only head coaching gig he’s known. As with all good coaches I’m sure he’s still learning, so let’s hope the educational opportunities presented in 2018 don’t go to waste.