Oklahoma State is 2-0 after a 55-13 thumping of South Alabama on Saturday night in the house that Boone built. There was plenty to like, and plenty to dislike in the Cowboys final warm-up before the season starts for real. Allow me to unload the six thoughts I had during and after the win
Cornelius looked better.
After a 3-and-out to start the game, Taylor Cornelius looked much better in game two...
Was what I wrote early on.
He looked... not great in the second half, threw two interceptions, including one that was really, really bad.
Here’s the thing. I believe that Cornelius can make all the plays that Mike and Mike want him to make. I believe he’s better at the short and intermediate passes than Mason Rudolph. I think he can complete deep passes and throw them well. I also think he looked much more comfortable in game two than game one.
That being said, there are real concerns. He under throws the ball way too much. His bad throws are REALLY bad. Yes, he put up 428 yards, but he was inefficient completing just 25 of his 40 passes. That’s not going to get it done against great, or even good teams.
Look. I know everyone wants to see Dru Brown and Spencer Sanders. But this idea that they’re going to come in and be better than Cornelius is... well... silly. If they were, Gundy would play them. Don’t give them the Alex Cate over Brandon Weeden story again. I know. But you’re just going to have to get over the fact that right now, Taylor Cornelius might just be the Cowboys’ best chance to win.
The Cowboys are getting creative
With Tyron Johnson’s one-yard touchdown carry...
...and J.D King’s 25-yard touchdown catch, the Cowboys have had two straight games with a running back with a receiving touchdown and a receiver with a rushing TD.
I have no idea if that’s any sort of record. What it is, is fun. It shows that not only is OSU being really creative, they’re doing whatever they can to make sure their best players get the ball in their hands with room to run.
One of the great things about Cornelius is his short and intermediate throws. That combined with the level of talent OSU has at running back is why the Cowboys are working to get the running backs out into space, on the edge, and then getting them the ball. It’s worked beautifully through two games, with big plays by the running backs.
These wrinkles are especially important with the issues on the offensive line. Through two games the Cowboys have had issues running the ball in the red zone.
On the flip side of that
Offensive Analyst Bob Stitt’s Presence Already Being Felt
Speaking of creativity... the wrinkles we all thought former Montana head coach Bob Stitt would bring to Oklahoma State when he was hired as an offensive analyst are happening.
Stitt is known for some creative fly sweeps and fly sweep motions. We’ve already seen two lead to touchdowns in the Cowboys’ first two games.
The Tyron Johnson touchdown we showed you earlier, and the Jalen McCleskey run against Missouri State.
These wrinkles fit perfectly with Oklahoma State’s personnel. They’re fast at receiver and running back, and so far, had great success getting to the edges. It’s also been a really successful play in the redzone where the Cowboys have struggled.
It’s going to be fun to watch the other ways OSU utilizes these wrinkles throughout the season.
When Dustin Ragusa was still with CRFF, he wrote a great look at Stitt’s offense that I would suggest you read.
Tylan Wallace is the Present and the Future
A lot of people are going to talk about Tyron Johnson’s performance on Saturday, and deservedly so. He finally looked like the future NFL player we’ve been waiting to see.
But more importantly than what No. 13 did on Saturday, is what true sophomore Tylan Wallace did, putting up career highs in receptions (10) and yards (166).
As a true sophomore, you can expect at least two more season inn Stillwater after this one.
We knew Oklahoma State had depth of talent at receiver, but we didn’t know if it had “a guy.” Tyron is one, but Tylan might be a second. We’ll know more against better competition, but if OSU has two future pros catching passes again this year, it’s going to be a huge benefit not only this year for Taylor Cornelius, but next season for whoever is the starter under center.
Do turnovers matter as much?
Obviously, you don’t want to turn the ball over. If Cornelius was thrown INTs left and right we’d be seeing Dru Brown or Spencer Sanders behind center.
But, after years of OSU’s defensive success being so abundantly predicted on turnovers, do they matter as much as they did? Is the success of Jim Knowles’ defense as dependent on forcing turnovers as Glenn Spencer and to some extent, Bill Young’s defenses were?
Obviously turnovers matter. You want to protect the ball and hope to force the other team to cough it up. That being said, this defense doesn’t feel like it’s nearly as reliant on them as past iterations. It seems like forcing 3-and-outs and getting stops are more important than forcing fumbles and grabbing interceptions.
Don’t get me wrong; if that’s the case, I love it. I’m just curious.
That pick-six in the third quarter though, was really nice to see.
Special teams are still a problem
Good grief. A week after thinking things looked much improved, the Cowboy special teams reverted right back to their disastrous 2017 version.
Between the blocked punt which led to a touchdown late in the second quarter and South Alabama averaging over 20 yards a return of 5 kick-off returns. And the coverage was... mediocre at best. Maybe it was too much to expect a significant turn around quickly. But with guys like KaVontae Turpin and Isaiah Zuber still on the schedule, if things don’t get better quickly, the special teams are going to cost Oklahoma State a game.