Well, this season is going to have its ups and downs, huh? The Cowboys took care of business tonight, however it wasn’t always as smooth as the scoreboard indicated. Yes, Oklahoma State dominated. But we all knew that would happen, and there were some red flags that popped up that we will discuss later. Here is what happened in the 58 - 17 win.
The team got off to a great start and were up 17-0 in the blink of an eye. Justice had a 93 yard run, and the Corn Dog had a 32 yard run. The defense was aggressive and held the Missouri State offense to just 2 yards of offense after 18 minutes.
Missouri State was able to put together one long scoring drive in the second quarter, but the Cowboys scored another two touchdowns to take a 31-7 lead into halftime. Missouri State tried to make it interesting in the third quarter by scoring on three consecutive drives, but the OSU running backs were having none of it. Chuba Hubbard and L.D. Brown both had huge touchdown plays and Taylor Cornelius broke out of his mid-game slump to finish his day with 295 yards passing and 5 TDs.
Like I said, just as expected. However, I want to dig deeper and look as the good and the bad from this first game. First, the good (as I am an eternal optimist).
Shocking, on fire take here...Justice Hill might lead the team in touches this year. The first 4 touches of 2018 were in the hands of Justice Hill and I’m not complaining. More of that please. Not only did the offense run through Justice, but he already looks to be in midseason form. He utilized his unique blend of cuts and spin moves to amass 121 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving before the first quarter was over. His night was short, but the need to keep him fresh outweighs the padding of his stats. TL:DR...He is pretty good.
Could This Defense Be Something?
I know, the competition is not elite. However this is a very different looking defense from what we are used to seeing in Stillwater. The aggressiveness was evident on every play. They just kept coming at 100 miles an hour, every single down. I love it! I also love seeing Calvin Bundage and Jordan Brailford disrupt every pass play. Good luck blocking those two on passing downs. Also, there was a 3rd and 14 near the end of the 3rd quarter that made me so hopeful for the future of the season. In the previous regime, I would cringe during this situation because I just knew that the corners would play about 40 yards off the line of scrimmage and the offense would gain 10 yards more than they would need to convert. On this particular play, we sent the house on a blitz and forced the QB to throw the ball away.
The defense did show some staples of an aggressive defense by giving up some chunk plays, and during the third quarter they surrendered three straight scoring drives. However, this is going to happen with an aggressive defense and we need to get used to that.
Backs on Backs on Backs
Hoo boy! I have been writing about the embarrassing depth at running back, and that was on full display tonight. At various and multiple different times throughout the game, Chuba Hubbard, JD Kind, and LD Brown flashed with large chunk plays. This is all great news, considering the passing game will be taking quite a step back from what we are used to. Oh, and Chuba is fast.
Now it is time for those red flags I talked about earlier.
Taylor Cornelius is Not Mason Rudolph
Well, duh. After some high hopes (and possibly too high of expectations) we placed on Cornelius once Gundy named him the starter, he was very up and down during his first start at Oklahoma State. He started off hot, hitting on 8 of his first 9 throws. Then the wheels sort of came off in the second quarter. He threw a terrible interception in the red zone off his back foot, and nearly threw an interception in the middle of the field on a deep pass (again off his back foot). His mechanics seemed lazy and it showed with some terribly inaccurate passes early. This is not the Mason Rudolph era, and we should expect some bumps along the way. There will be lots of great tape for Cornelius to review, and to his credit he did make some good throws after the rough patch. And he is faster than I thought. We must keep in mind that he is also in his first season as the starter and we need to give him some time to grow. Prepare yourselves for a roller coaster at the QB position, Cowboys and Cowgirls.
First game jitters were evident, but there is plenty to clean up before we start playing the big boys. Specifically, turnovers and penalties (offsides...stop it). We discussed the interception and almost interception(s), but a fumble also happened. Against a team that can capitalize on the turnovers we will pay a dear price. Also, there was a big punt return by Dillon Stoner called back because of not one but two penalties. This was particularly frustrating because it was the first good punt return in, like, forever. I do think having some film to look at is a good thing, but we need to get a jump start on fixing those before Boise State comes to town.
All in all, this was a great start to the 2018 season. Some things to fix, sure, but that was to be expected. As long as we can keep the running backs well fed, we should be quite the competitive crew this year. Go Pokes!