Oklahoma State remains one loss away from bowl eligibility after a devastating 35-31 loss to Baylor on Saturday. The loss, one where Oklahoma State led by 10 in the fourth quarter, leaves the Cowboys reeling and without a lot of options for a sixth win.
There is a lot to talk about with this one.
Not used to seeing OSU lose games it should win.
I’m not talking about facing inferior opponents. I’m talking about being in a game with a lead in the fourth quarter where the offense is playing well, and somehow losing. It doesn’t happen often.
During the Gundy era, against a team that OSU is better than, with a lead in the fourth quarter, I can only really think of two other examples where somehow OSU just gave it away; 2016 Central Michigan and 2013 Bedlam.
The Cowboys had been great in close games... until this year.
OSU should have come away with the win and made the right calls down the stretch to do so (we’ll talk about the 4th down), but due to a number of things, including bad defensive play and more penalties, they didn’t.
The 4th-down was the right decision
There were a lot of people on Twtter after the game, arguing against the decision to go for the 4th-and-3 with 1:30 left in the game. I disagree.
Oklahoma State has been pretty good on 4th downs this year. Up to that point the Cowboys were 13-19 on the season and 2-2 in the game. If they get the 1st down, they can run out the clock because Baylor had no timeouts left.
Throw in the fact, that the defense hadn’t been able to get a stop, or not get a penalty, since Charlie Brewer had come into the game, and Gundy’s decision was the right one. The odds were in his favor.
What I didn’t love was the play call.
Jelani Woods was the primary target here, everyone confirmed in postgame. Woods got caught by TCU lineman, and that was pretty much that. https://t.co/0dzKtAYJsf— Guerin Emig (@GuerinEmig) November 3, 2018
The further away from it, the less I dislike it, but I would rather Oklahoma State had put the ball into Justice Hill’s hands. Cornelius had been playing well, but if he was going to keep it, I would have rather he had run it.
It’s going to be one that likely haunts Mike Gundy, Taylor Cornelius, and this team, especially if they can’t nab a sixth victory somewhere in the last three games.
A tale of two halves
This first half of this game was like deja vu. It was Kansas State all over again. After a first drive with great play calling and creativity, the gameplan reverted back to what hadn’t worked at all during Big 12 play.
Where did the Texas offensive game plan go? Why did Cornelius have 24 passing attempts in the first half? Why on 3rd and goal from the 2 is he throwing a fade route?
It was frustrating to watch and ended with 10 points and two missed field goals.
Then, the Cowboys came out of the locker room after halftime and looked good. For the first time this season, it seemed like the team actually made second half adjustments. I could also argue it was their best second-half performance during Big 12 play this year.
After the first drive went three-and-out, OSU scored on the next three in a row, and you finally saw some real creativity. They went a little more pass heavy in the third quarter when they had the wind to their backs, and run heavy in the fourth when they were heading into the wind.
Funky little formation here, split backfield with JD and Justice, JD goes in motion to the H-back spot and then both stay in to max protect. So much more creativity from Yurcich in the second half #okstate pic.twitter.com/6gDTxD63Zi— Dustin Ragusa (@DustRagu) November 3, 2018
The loss is only that much more devastating after watching the offense finally play so well in the second half. Here’s hoping they start games with the same mindset they had in the second half moving forward.
OSU is its own worst enemy.
If you want to really know why OSU lost the game on Saturday, here you go: Oklahoma State had 12 penalties for 133 yards. That’s the most penalties OSU has had since the 2012 loss at Arizona where the Cowboys had 15 (!!!) penalties for 167 yards.
The defense accounted for nine of those penalties on Saturday, with A.J. Green alone responsible for four of them. Yes, one was another awful PI call — he’s a averaging about one a game — but the others were just bone headed.
And it’s not just the number of penalties. Six of them were for 15 yards each.
Every single Baylor scoring drive — with the exception of the 75-yard TD run that came on the first play of the drive — was aided by an OSU defensive penalty. Even the first two Baylor drives, that ended with an INT and a missed field goal, reached the red-zone thanks to a penalty.
I don’t know what the problem is or how to fix it, and at this point in the season, I’m not sure the coaches do either.
Speaking of Green
A week after having probably the best game of his career, he followed it up with the worst.
Along with the four penalties for 48 yards, he was responsible for Baylor’s last two touchdowns, including the game winner.
It’s tough to stop a team when your best and most important player in the defensive backfield is also its biggest liability in the game.
The defense as a whole
If the cameras hadn’t shown me a shot of Jim Knowles on the sideline during the game, I would have wondered if Gundy had brought Glenn Spencer back to Stillwater during the week.
The defense looked more like the Spencer defenses of old more than a Jim Knowles defense. The first half was all bend-don’t-break. They got lucky on Baylor’s first two drives with an interception and a missed field goal. But in the second half, the defense finally broke, especially when Charlie Brewer came into the game.
So far, I would not call year one of the Knowles experience a success. I am in no way bailing on Knowles, but I also don’t have any expectations of it taking any steps forward the rest of the season.
The Special teams...
I’m not mad at Ammendola. Both misses were on LONG field goals into a strong wind.
But a blocked punt? Enough.
At this point, I’m not looking for a special teams that can help win games, I just want to see one that doesn’t cost Oklahoma State games.
And you could argue it helped the Cowboys lose today. Instead of going into the half up 10-7, they trailed 14-10. That four points is what Baylor won by.
It’s not going to get fixed this year, obviously. But it’s time for Gundy to stop trying to out-think the room, and just hire a special teams coordinator.
The other guys
Tylan Wallace was great as always, but Dillon Stoner and Tyron Johnson stepped up.
Stoner was HUGE in the third quarter, especially on one third down touchdown drive where he caught three tough passes, including two on third down.
Meanwhile, Johnson tied Wallace with eight catches, and was big early one. A lot of Wallace’s catches came late in the game. Johnson was the guy in the first half and early in the second who was making things happen.
I’m just going to leave this here...
This really is the most disappointing loss of the season.
This was the first time #OKState blew a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead and lost since Nov. 3, 2007. Cowboys led Texas 35-14 going into the fourth quarter that day and lost 38-35.— Mark Cooper (@mark_cooperjr) November 3, 2018
This team is what it is.
You can talk about quarterback changes all you want. I actually thought Cornelius was okay on Saturday. He wasn’t great, but he certainly didn’t lose the game. He had some really good moments.
But at this point in the season, nine games in, we know what this team is; it’s undisciplined and flawed. It’s got talented players on the offense. But it’s a team with no margin for error, that makes a lot of errors.
I don’t know if Oklahoma State will get another win this season. What I do know is, they’re not going to suddenly turn a corner and become something other than what we’ve seen the past two months. If they avoid penalties and mistakes, they can win games. If they can’t, they’ll be spending their winter break in Stillwater for the first time in a long time.