The Texas Tech game was tough to watch. Plain and simple. It gave several of us at CRFF the same exact feeling that last years’ Big 12 opener against TCU did. You couldn’t help but to feel hopeless when the offense was on the field. We had our annual “Mike Yurcich what are you doing?!??” game. Past the first quarter, every Taylor Cornelius drop back felt like it wasn’t going to end well. The Pokes got beat by 24 at home to a team that was 14-point dogs. But yet, we will try and find three positives while limiting this piece to just three negatives. Here goes nothing.
Positive One— Jarrick Bernard
This may be one of the brightest points of the whole season, not just the Texas Tech game. Bernard finished the 24-point blowout with his first career interception and a game-high 14 tackles (13 of those were solo!!!) to pace the defense. After losing both starting safeties from last years’ squad, the importance of Bernard’s performance to this point can’t be understated. Letting up 41 points sounds like a poor performance but I guarantee any school with a good offense will take that any day of the week against Texas Tech. They didn’t hemorrhage points either— allowing 24 in the first and 17 in the second half aren’t bad numbers.
While the Pokes got blown out, Bernard was incredibly encouraging and provides hope that the defense will only get better after a pretty terrible showing last season. If the true freshman can help anchor a reliable defense in the coming years, you have to think that the offense will come along as Spencer Sanders takes over in the coming years.
Positive Two— It Was The Big 12 Opener
I don’t know if this is exactly a positive or not but you all watched last weeks game... it’s slim pickings trying to find positives, so I’m going to spin this as a positive. Oklahoma State has lost five of its last seven conference openers including each of its last three. I haven’t been in college long enough to have seen an OSU conference opening win. We all thought it was the end of the world when Oklahoma State started 2-2 with losses to Central Michigan (“losses”) and Baylor. Of course the Pokes finished 10-3.
This team has Taylor Cornelius and not Mason Rudolph. This team isn’t finishing 10-3. But not many of us (should have) expected OSU to win that many games. Three straight 10-3 seasons might make it seem easy, but there is a reason that it took the most successful quarterback in school history to achieve that. We knew that this was a rebuilding year. Before the season, I wrote that this year just felt like an 8-5 kind of year. I’d say that’s still about on track and that is okay. You can’t win 10 games every year (unless you’re Alabama).
Positive Three— All Is Not Lost On Offense
One of the products of the Mike Yurcich what-are-you-doing game is the mystery that is Justice Hill. The junior back carried it 12 times for nearly 10 yards a pop. Yet Yurcich thought it would be a good idea to let Corndog throw it 38 times. Why he chose not to lean on Justice to help jump start the offense in the second half is beyond
me pretty much everyone, but I’ll get in to this more below. Justice had a great night despite the fact that he should’ve gotten more carries. Tylan Wallace was an absolute animal. He had six catches for 109 yards with over 10 minutes left in the second quarter. That’s unreal. This offense still has plenty of weapons, they just need someone to lead them at quarterback.
Negative One— The Yurcich Game
I just mentioned it above but Justice Hill finished with 12 carries for 111 yards. Nearly 10 yards-per-carry. Why Yurcich chose not to lean on him to try in spark the offense is absolutely beyond me. Even being down 24 points with six minutes left, why not try it out and at least see if that could get you any sort of offensive production, which the second half was completely devoid of.
Mike Yurcich said after the game Justice Hill didn't receive enough carries. Only had 12, for 111 yards.— Mark Cooper (@mark_cooperjr) September 23, 2018
Hill has just 46 carries through four games. That's the fewest over a four-game stretch since the first four games of his career (44).
Yurcich was apparently aware of what we were all wondering during the game. Maybe he just didn’t realize how little he used Justice until he got the box score after the game, but either way not using your All-America level back when you need him most is inexcusable.
Negative Two— Corndog In General
Outside of a nice 20-yard first quarter touchdown throw with two defenders draped all over him (and one!!) Taylor Cornelius looked pretty bad. He routinely under-threw the deep ball which lead to an interception on one occasion. He has absolutely no touch and hasn’t shown that he can hit a pass more than 25 yards down field. The offense is predicated on elite receivers burning their defenders and the quarterback being able to hit them down field in stride. Cornelius has shown no semblance of being able to do that.
I’m still on the start Cornelius train because I honestly believe that Gundy would be starting Brown or Sanders if he thought they were ready. Maybe he should start one of them even if they aren’t ready, but this was always going to be a rebuilding year. Losing two of the most productive players in school history doesn’t mean you turn around the next year and you’re still just as successful. I think Corns should get the start against teams he can beat— Kansas, K-State, Iowa State, Baylor. But for the part of the schedule that is still up in the air, why not give the nod to one of the two other guys and let them prove themselves? They can play in a combined eight games (four each) without burning their respective redshirts and they’ve used zero games in the first four. Who says no? Hopefully not Gundy.
Negative Three— The Next Game Is Against Kansas
You would think that this would be a positive. An easy road win would help gain back some confidence after getting thrashed by a team that you were supposed to beat by 14. That is probably what will happen and that is a good thing. But if the Pokes were gearing up for Texas or TCU or West Virginia next week, Gundy might’ve tried to shake things up. Maybe we would have seen a new quarterback or a better offensive game plan that includes more Justice Hill. Instead OSU gets a pretty much free win where Taylor Cornelius will likely play good-not-great football and nothing will really change. Then OSU comes home to face Iowa State, a more challenging but not necessarily change inspiring game.
By the time Texas rolls around on October 27 to start OSU’s tough stretch to end the season, Gundy will likely still be riding high and mighty on Taylor Cornelius and that could cost OSU the game against a stout Longhorn defense. That will not send a homecoming crowd home very happy. The backlash after the Tech loss was pretty bad, just imagine if that had been homecoming. That is very well what we could be looking at if Gundy doesn’t at least look in to making some changes before then, even if it is against lesser competition where he might not need to make a change.