The Taylor Cornelius era will mercifully come to an end on Monday afternoon when the Cowboys face the 24th ranked Missouri Tigers in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. This season has had a wild number of ups and downs. The good was really good, but the bad was really bad. Which Oklahoma State team shows up on Monday will determine if this team finishes with a winning record or a losing record. With that being said, I’ll get into a few thoughts on this season of Cowboy football.
The ups and downs of this team were well documented this season. Students had two opportunities to rush the field at Boone Pickens Stadium following OSU wins against Texas and West Virginia. I’ll even throw in the victory over Boise State and the one point loss in Norman as an “up.” However, this OSU team hit rock bottom against teams like Kansas State, TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech, all teams that finished the regular season at or below 6-6. As it turns out, the best wins this season seem like great wins against top 10 teams, but in reality, West Virginia finished 8-4 and if Texas doesn’t beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, they won’t reach 10 wins either.
Oklahoma State hasn’t just struggled with consistency this season either though. 10-3 seasons are great, but each of Oklahoma State’s three consecutive 10 win seasons were about as disappointing as a 10 win season can get in Stillwater. I type this as I’m watching Clemson take an early 3-0 lead on Notre Dame is the CFP Semifinal, and I have to wonder if Oklahoma State will ever get there. Will the Cowboys ever put together a complete season?
Well this was not the season I expected from the running backs group. Some of that is because of the play of the offensive line. Couple that with the announcement of J.D. King transferring and Justice Hill getting injured, ending his Oklahoma State career early, and Chuba Hubbard was the only real bright spot of this group in 2018. Now this endlessly deep group is searching for depth going into the 2019 season. The Pokes got some help in the form of community college transfer Dezmon Jackson, but it wouldn’t stand to hurt the Cowboys by adding another body. Oh right, Deondrick Glass hasn’t committed yet! That brings me to my next point.
It was another good not great year on the recruiting trail for OSU. It was just the kind of class that Mike Gundy seemingly always signs. A few lower rated prospects who probably flew under the radar but have the potential to be stars at the next level, a few higher rated prospects (Boomer, Ford, and buzzer beater Langston Anderson) to go with a bunch of three star prospects that will probably live up to their three star rating.
On the other hand, Mike Boynton has been about as aggressive as possible on the recruiting trail since being named head men’s basketball coach at Oklahoma State. The fruits of his labor came to fruition in the form of Avery Anderson, the Boone twins and Marcus Watson. Time will tell what kind of success they bring to the program. When will Mike Gundy get aggressive on the recruiting trail? Boynton’s missed on plenty of five star recruits, but Gundy often doesn’t offer those recruits.
I’m not here to complain much about football recruiting because it’s been good, but it could be better. OSU has to start getting some of the talent out of the DFW area that OU normally gets. That may never happen, but the best OU players come from Texas, and more often than not DFW specifically.
The Offensive Line
I talked a lot about the offensive line throughout the course of the season. This group was a mainstay in my “Three Things to Improve On” weekly post. The offensive line might as well have been made up of turnstiles early in conference play, but they did improve as the season progressed. The performance is disappointing because OSU might have won a few of their close games if they had played well.
On the other side of the football, it was a pretty good season from the defensive line. If the offensive line had played as well as the defensive line did, the Cowboys probably would have won a few more games. Of course this is all speculation, but the game is won in the trenches. With the talent OSU has at skill positions, especially on offense, a good offensive and defensive line should get this team close to 10 wins every season. The offensive line is where this team often came up short this season.
This team overachieved and underachieved at the same time. Now with Spencer Sanders likely taking over the reigns of this team next season, expectations could reach pretty high levels. Unfortunately, we’ve never seen Sanders take a snap in a collegiate game. That makes it hard to set any expectations. Dru Brown will be back next season as well.
The future of this team isn’t so clear right now. What is clear is that Mike Gundy set high expectations from the OSU fan base when he coached OSU to three straight 10 win seasons. Will the next era of Cowboys reach 10 wins in consecutive seasons? That seems to be the new expectation in Stillwater.