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Four Quarters: Spencer Sanders, Jim Knowles, Chuba Hubbard

Plus, three fun overtimes!

TCU v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Oklahoma State Cowboys is bowl eligible for the 14th straight season thanks to a 34-27 win over TCU on Saturday. The win gets the Cowboys to 6-3 this season.

It was a good win, and a lot of positives to take away from it. That said, you could also argue it took Oklahoma State forcing four turnovers to beat a now 4-4 Horned Frogs team by seven in Stillwater.

But the upside to a win is, we get to focus on the positives more than the negatives.

First Quarter: Tylan Wallace who?

Ok, I’m kidding of course. The news of Wallace’s season ending ACL injury left me feeling OSU would have a hard time winning Saturday.

But guys stepped up in big spots.

In a game with just nine completions, five guys caught passes, though none as big as Dylan Stoner’s two touchdowns and Braydon Johnson’s 47-yarder.

It wasn’t just that. It was also seeing Tyrell Alexander and LC Greenwood on the field. The entire wide receiver group nearly got into the game.

There was one thing that was a concern.

The question heading into this game was whether or not Spencer Sanders would use Wallace’s injury as an opportunity to turn to other pass catchers more often. He didn’t.

In the first half, Stoner was targeted on six of eight pass attempts. He caught three.

It worked in this game, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Teams will now know Stoner is going to be Sanders’ first look. They’re going to have to work on getting him a second “first look” option. The upcoming idle week is a perfect opportunity to do so.

Second Quarter: Sanders!

My concern over Sanders is still going with his first read more often than not, but his performance Saturday was good.

The first drive of the game was good, but there was one play that really showed Sanders’ growth; the 57-yard touchdown pass to Stoner.

Props to Stoner for getting open, but that was all Spencer Sanders. Not just Sanders’ elusiveness or his improved awareness of what was going on around him, but his decision to not take off and run.

Sanders dodged three sacks, stayed calm, didn’t run when he could have, got his feet set in the pocket and hit a wide open Stoner for the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the day.

Was Sanders perfect? No because he still keys in on his first target too much. But it’s awareness plays like that touchdown that show how much better he is playing. It’s the offensive play-calling to utilize the quarterback run game that he’s doing even better with.

He’s going to have some bad throws like his interception on a deep pass, but he’s protecting the ball better, carrying it better and making smarter decisions.

Third Quarter: Jim Knowles is back

The blitz king seemed to go into hiding to start the season because the defensive line was still figuring things out.

Now, they know who and what they have, and Knowles is using them to perfection. And it’s not just the blitzing. It’s the defenders getting into the backfield and making quarterbacks make poor decisions.

Here are the stats I think are most impacted by the way Knowles blitzes over the last three games:

Against Baylor: 4 sacks, 9 TFLS, 0 QB Hurries, one turnover

Against Iowa State: 2 sacks, 6 TFLs, 5 QB Hurries, three turnovers

Against TCU: 5 sacks, 7 TFLs, 8 QB Hurries, four turnovers

Compare those numbers to the rest of the season.

Sacks TFLs QB hurries Turnovers
First 6 games 8 29 23 6
First 3 Big 12 games 2 12 8 4
Last 3 Big 12 games 11 22 13 7

Jerrick Bernard’s interception against TCU is what this defense is designed to do; pressure the QB into making poor decisions.

Maybe the turnovers are a fluke. Maybe OSU will go back to not forcing any through the last three games of the season. OSU’s ability to get more pressure on QBs through the rest of the season should lead to more opportunities.

Kolby Harvell-Peel now has three interceptions in the last two games. He’s had plenty more opportunities throughout the season, but was never able to come down with the ball. Now he has. Why? The defense is finally getting settled in to Knowles’ scheme. So instead of focusing on the basics, players are able to start forcing turnovers.

That leads to my final point; I think Knowles defense might be finally clicking.

I’ve said since his hiring, I would wait until Year 3 to decide whether or not Knowles style would work for OSU. They had to basically remake the roster to fit the scheme. I’m not ready to call it a success yet, but it’s certainly trending that way and doing so with mostly underclassmen.

Fourth Quarter: Chuba Hubbard goes off

I don’t remember the last time we talked about Chuba Hubbard in here. We take for granted the fact he is a cheat code.

Let’s look at all the reasons:

  • His 92-yard touchdown run is the longest run of his career and tied for the fourth-longest rushing play in OSU history.
  • First back to put up 200 rushing yards on a Gary Patterson coached TCU defense
  • Eighth best rushing season in OSU history and is just 284 yards from being alone in second place — with four games to go.
  • His numbers stack up pretty damn well against the past few Heisman winning backs.

(Side note: Alabama running back Derrick Henry had no business winning the Heisman in 2015 over DeShaun Watson or Christian McCaffrey.)

  • First OSU running back to go for 1,600 yards during the Mike Gundy era. Reminder, Gundy has had Justice Hill, Joseph Randell, Kendall Hunter, Chris Carson, etc.

There are arguments against Hubbard for the Heisman: a lot of carries, plays against Big 12 defenses and most yards come on big plays. But those arguments ignore the fact he’s putting up these numbers behind an offensive line that can’t stay healthy and is inferior to the likes of Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Whatever happens from here on out, whether he’s a finalist or heads to the NFL after the season — what we are witnessing is the second best rushing season in OSU history. Just keep enjoying it folks.

Overtime: That helmet

I’ve never been the biggest fan of the paisley graphic helmet. But, replacing the barbed-wire stripe on it with the badge? Brilliant move. That’s a nice helmet.

Second Overtime: Make e’m count

Shout out to PFB for this stat.

By they way. All wins. All blow outs.

Third Overtime: Weird trend?

In case no one else has mentioned this, but OSU’s last two game both ended 34-27 with the Cowboys winning. Just a little weird.

I hope that’s not the final score against Kansas.