Saturday night’s game was marred by sloppiness and some perhaps over-conservative play calling. Gundy and offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson decided to fire Chuba Hubbard straight into the abyss (that might as well have been the sun) that is the Texas defensive line 37 times. Hubbard finished with 3.3 yards-per-carry which is far below his season average of nearly nine YPC heading into the Texas game.
Despite Hubbard’s off night, Oklahoma State was able to keep it a one-score game at the end of the night, losing 36-30. Lets hand out our three star performances from what is Gundy’s fourth-straight loss in Big 12 openers.
Three Stars: Spencer Sanders
The freshman wonder is on the board for the first time in our stars segment (granted it started in Week Two and he definitely would have received stars for the Oregon State game.) Sanders finished the night completing 19 of his 32 passes for 268 yards, no touchdowns and two INT’s. He added 18 carries for 109 yards and a score on the ground.
Those numbers won’t wow anyone but they don’t need to. This was the first test of Sanders’ young career and he went on the road and made some mistakes. But he bounced back from those and helped give his team a chance to win the game in the final quarter against a top 15 team in the nation.
First, this run late in the game kept any hope alive. Sanders gained 33 yards with his legs on a play that started from the right hash, veered all the way to the left sideline before finishing near the right sideline. I’m no mathematician but that has to be 60+ yards of running. And once he finally goes down, he pops right back up for the next play.
OH...MY...LORD.... Spencer Sanders good night. pic.twitter.com/JVo2aXnOgc— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) September 22, 2019
Earlier in the game, we got this beautiful bomb. Sanders had a couple throws like this one where he pushed the ball down field and hit his target with a near perfect ball. Sometimes the Longhorn defender was able to break up the pass but the point stands: This kid can wing it. He’s going to have his fair share of freshman mistakes this season, but I think Spencer Sanders has a chance to be really special, partly because of his ability to rely on his legs to make a play when things break down.
Our boy Spencer Sanders with a long bomb that would make Patrick Mahomes blush pic.twitter.com/ddLi6pI7yS— OK State Probs (@OKSTProbs) September 22, 2019
Two Stars: Kolby Harvell-Peel
It could be argued that Harvell-Peel should be the three stars recipient. His overall performance might have been better than Sanders, but Sanders wow’ed me with some of the plays he made.
Harvell-Peel was the leader of a Cowboy defense that held Texas to 36 points on Saturday night. Granted Texas has piled up injuries in the backfield behind starting running back Keontay Ingram and was without star wide receiver Collin Johnson, the Pokes still did a fairly good job of slowing down the Longhorn offense. Texas scored less points against OSU than it did against LSU (38) and LSU has one of the top defenses in the nation.
For the first time since, well, as long as I can remember, an Oklahoma State defensive back took home the Big 12 defensive player of the week award. Harvell-Peel recorded nine tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His efforts helped keep OSU in the game against a fringe-Heisman candidate quarterback. Sam Ehlinger won’t win that award, but he is a top 10 quarterback in FBS.
He joins running back Chuba Hubbard (offensive player) and quarterback Spencer Sanders (newcomer) as conference weekly award winners this season.
One Star: Special Teams
...and making plays when it matters.
The coaching staff made some puzzling calls. The fake field goal run on fourth-and-eight sparked a quick six-play 73-yard scoring drive for the Longhorns to increase the lead from five to 13 early in the fourth. As I mentioned at the top of the article, Chuba ran the ball 37 times at a clip of 3.3 yards for each carry.
That being said, an opportunistic special teams did all it could. They fell on two muffed punts and nearly recovered another. They also nearly recovered an onside kick that would’ve given OSU the ball near midfield with a minute left and all three timeouts with a chance for a 37-36 win. After a year when watching the special teams was frustrating, it looks like that unit could be solid for the Pokes this season.
Obviously part of this goes on Texas. The first kick recovered by OSU was understandable, but the return man should not have been near the second kick and it opened the door for OSU to win the game (or at least cover the 6.5 spread.)
Why you choose to come up and slide to field this punt at this stage of the game is beyond me.
Part of the success is due to Texas’ special teams missteps, but the Oklahoma State special teams put itself in a position to make plays and it did. Both of the recovered muffed punts led to points and had a huge impact on the game. The defense added a turnover as well; Kolby Harvell-Peel came up with a big interception and return to put Oklahoma State inside the Texas 40, trailing by five. Unfortunately that resulted in the fake field goal...