Despite finishing 24/34 with five touchdowns and 295 yards (and one interception) through the air, Taylor Cornelius left something to be desired in last Thursday’s game. He missed some throws down the field and made some bad reads at times. The groans and chants of “we want Sanders” from the student section grew throughout the night. But his numbers weren’t bad. So what constitutes a successful game for the fifth year senior on Saturday night?
Getting Settled In Will Be A Major Factor
You can see in the highlights above that Cornelius missed some easy throws downfield. He overthrew some guys that were wide open. On one occasion, he skipped the ball at the feet of a wide open Jalen McClesky, just 10 yards down field. But to be honest, I don’t entirely think that those are throws that he can’t make in a game. This was his first time ever playing in front of more than about a thousand fans. If he can settle in to the game next week and find a rhythm, he should be just fine. He will probably never throw the deep ball with the accuracy and consistency that OSU fans have become accustomed to with Mason Rudolph, but he can hit short and intermediate throws and deep balls on occasion.
Numbers Don’t Matter
As we saw last week, Cornelius put up pretty good numbers in a performance that felt empty. If he finishes with nearly 300 yards again, it won’t mean much if those yards were amassed in five yard dump offs to Chuba, who takes it for 55. We should be looking not at the number of yards that Cornelius puts up, but how he gets there. Is it five yard dump offs or 10-15 yard strikes over the middle?
Is The Deep Ball Dialed In?
I don’t believe that Cornelius needs to be hitting on the deep ball to be successful. Oklahoma State has a solid stable of receivers that can gain yards-after-contact. Corndog absolutely needs to be hitting on the short and intermediate passes to be successful, but the deep ball isn’t an absolute necessity. But I do think that it’s important to look at. If the deep ball is hitting on Saturday night, I think Corndog will be just fine. I’m willing to look past a shaky first game because this isn’t an easy stage to play on. But the jitters should be worked out by now and I think his performance on Saturday will tell us whether or not this is a guy that OSU could ride for the rest of the season.
Even if we walk out of BPS or turn off our TV’s on Saturday night with murky feelings about Cornelius’ work, I still think he should start and get good reps against Boise State. I am not in the camp of playing Brown or Sanders if its not absolutely needed and I think Corndog should have the longest of leashes. However, if he struggles against Boise and its a game that the Pokes are in danger of losing in the third or early fourth, I would like to see Brown or Sanders get a chance. They’ll get a combined eight games to play in while still qualifying for a redshirt and if worst comes to worst, I think OSU should play Cornelius in the games that he can win and Brown / Sanders in the ones that he can’t (if they are in fact better options than Cornelius, which isn’t a given)
Obviously that’s down the road, but as for Saturday night, look for the kind of plays and throws that Cornelius makes, not the numbers in general. The first game jitters are out of the way and hopefully we’ll get to see the best version of Taylor Cornelius on Saturday. And if not, hey, it’s the first Oklahoma State Saturday night game since Bedlam in 2015. Surely we can enjoy that.