Oklahoma State did not have an ideal season opener against Missouri State. The Cowboys were favored by well over 30 points, even after it was announced quarterback Spencer Sanders would miss the game in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. There were plenty of things that went wrong against Missouri State. Here are three things I would like to see from Oklahoma State in a week two home game against Tulsa.
1. A Complete Football Game
The catastrophic ending helped Oklahoma State fans to forget that the Cowboys once led Missouri State 20-0. An L.D. Brown touchdown run with 10:57 remaining in the 2nd quarter gave Oklahoma State the 20-point advantage, and it was all downhill from there. Missouri State connected on three field goals in the 2nd and 3rd quarters to cut the lead to 20-9 before an Alex Hale field goal gave Oklahoma State a 23-9 lead with 13:05 remaining in the game. It was the Cowboys’ first score in almost two entire quarters.
Jason Shelley connected with Tyrone Scott for a touchdown with 3:06 remaining in the game to cut the OSU lead to 23-16. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by OSU and recovered by Missouri State on the OSU 16 yard-line. The Cowboy defense really stepped up in the last three minutes, preventing Missouri State from tying the game on two separate occasions.
At least Oklahoma State looked good for the first quarter and change, right? This week OSU desperately needs to put together a complete game. The defense played a complete game for the most part and saved the day at the end of the game. The offense struggled mightily after the 1st quarter. Mix in some questionable decisions from the coaching staff and OSU put together the kind of game that results in a one-score win over a team like Missouri State.
Spencer Sanders appears to be out of the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, but the starter for the game against Tulsa still has not been announced. If Sanders isn’t ready to go, Illingworth and the OSU offense will have to play much better. I know Tulsa lost to UC Davis in week one, but that’s even more reason not to take the Golden Hurricanes lightly.
2. Better Play from the Offensive Line
The offensive line didn’t look good against Missouri State last Saturday. There’s really no other way to put it. The rushing numbers say a lot about the offensive line’s performance. OSU had 28 carries for 54 yards and two scores. That’s just 1.92 yards per carry. Brown finished with just 30 yards on 15 carries. Only one sack was allowed, but the push-up front has to be better, especially on running plays.
The running backs also have to be better. Dezmon Jackson carried the ball three times for 14 yards and Jaylen Warren carried the ball six times for nine yards. The offensive line deserves a lot of credit when those guys play well and the quarterback isn’t sacked or hurried. It often goes unnoticed when the offensive line plays well because everything runs how it should. When the offensive line doesn’t play well though, it shows. The offense can’t operate how it wants to. Then Mike Gundy is forced to throw the ball twice and save Missouri State two of its timeouts late in the game because he doesn’t trust the ground game to pick up the first down. That decision is a different conversation though.
3. Spencer Sanders
There was plenty of discourse about Spencer Sanders throughout last season. At times he played really well. Other times he made bad decisions that, at times, cost OSU opportunities to win football games. It was an issue he had throughout his first full season as OSU’s starting quarterback in 2019. The coaching staff raved about how much progress Sanders made as a quarterback this spring after not getting a proper spring to prepare before the 2020 season. I, for one, am excited to see this progress.
I don’t think Shane Illingworth deserves a whole ton of blame for what happened against Missouri State. My only major complaint was his decision to throw into double coverage too often. Oklahoma State fans shouldn’t forget that Saturday’s start was just the third of Illingworth’s career. On the other hand, he did captain an offense that only managed 23 points on Missouri State. Illingworth has the potential to be a great college quarterback, but he needs consistent reps to get there. OSU fans would be wise to remember that when Sanders makes mistakes this season because it will happen.
The only touchdown passes Clemson, quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei threw last weekend was to the defense, albeit, a great Georgia defense. Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman hopeful Spencer Rattler looked rusty and inaccurate at times against Tulane. North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell cost his team a chance to win, throwing three interceptions against Virginia Tech. All three of those teams make for more formidable opponents than Missouri State, but I say all of that to try and put Illingworth’s performance in perspective, especially given his inexperience. With all of that said, I will take Spencer Sanders as QB1 for every game remaining on OSU’s 2021 schedule. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and out of the COVID-19 protocols.