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Four Quarters: Spencer Sanders’ play, turnovers and Oklahoma State’s defense

Make up your mind about Sanders, and lay off the defense.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After a couple of days to sober up decompress, it’s still hard to think about the frustrating 45-35 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday. After a nice 4-1 start to the 2019 season, the Cowboy team we saw take the field in Lubbock looked

First Down: Sanders’ Turnovers

On the first drive of the game, one play after the announcers commented on Sanders’ poor handling of the ball, he gets hit and fumbles. It would go on to be the first of five turnovers for the freshman quarterback in the game.

I have no idea the last time an OSU quarterback had that many turnovers in a game. I don’t feel like looking it up. But can’t have happened often.

It almost feels like the culmination of the last four games.

Through six games Spencer Sanders is responsible for 11 of Oklahoma State’s 13 turnovers. That’s eight interceptions and three fumbles. After not turning the ball over through the first two games of the season, here’s Sanders’ turnover numbers the last four:

2, 2 , 2, 5.

I get other players deserve some credit. LD Brown completely whiffing on a block led to Sanders’ second fumble on Saturday. And a un-called hold on Stoner helped the Tech defense nab their third interception. But overthrown balls, not leading receivers, and not securing the ball when he’s being sacked are all on him.

I’m glad Gundy hasn’t pulled Sanders’ for Brown. That’s a great way to really let the turnovers negatively affect Sanders’ phsyche. But something has to change. Tech scored 13 points off turnovers in a game where Oklahoma State lost by 10. Considering the Cowboys’ inability to force turnovers, it’s going to be hard to win the turnover battle if Sanders’ keeps giving the ball away.

Second Quarter: Just Stop it Fans

It seems there are two groups of Oklahoma State fans this season.

1. The Spencer Sanders Apologists

It’s not that they don’t realize Sanders has made mistakes, they just seem to blame a majority of them on the offensive line and wide receivers. Has Stoner been perfect? No. Has LD Brown been a good pass blocker? Nope. Has the offensive line had issues? Yes.

But trying to skirt the blame away from Sanders and put it everyone else is ridiculous. Are there cases where the mistake is more on the receiver or offensive lineman than the quarterback? Of course. But he’s the quarterback, and fair or not, it’s on his shoulders.

2. Those Calling for Dru Brown

I get it. After three first-half turnovers I wondered if Gundy would make the move. But Gundy is smarter than all of you and understands the importance of not ruining his star QB’s confidence in an attempt to win one game against Texas Tech.

It hasn’t been pretty, but the kid is still a freshman. And what he can do with his legs is still incredibly impressive.

Throwing Brown in may have helped OSU win on Saturday, but as everyone has said, this is about the long-game.


Here’s the truth; Sanders has gotten worse just about every game since week one and it’s really started to show during Big 12 play. You wouldn’t expect to see your quarterback regress, yet here we are.

And the biggest issue isn’t the big things. It’s the little ones. Not securing the ball, trying to do too much (still), running out of bounds and losing yards instead of throwing it out of bounds.

Not seeing the field is still a major issue.

All that said, he’s the guy this year and moving forward. What he brings to the team with his legs even Dru Brown can’t replicate.

But that can all change if progress isn’t seen. For now, we stick with Spencer. But if things continue to move backwards, there will come a point where even his legs can’t help him avoid the bench.

Third Quarter:

Now, all that said, the offensive line wasn’t great.

Texas Tech has five TFLs, three sacks and a forced fumble in the first two Oklahoma State drives.

After the offensive line seemed to figure things out against Kansas State, Texas Tech’s defense absolutely shredded them. It seemed like they were in the backfield as much as Spencer Sanders and Chuba Hubbard (can we imagine Chuba’s numbers if OSU had, say, Wisconsin’s offensive line? Yes that’s a slight at Jonathan Taylor).

The offensive line played better after the first quarter (just like the Kansas State game), but by the end of the day, Texas Tech had seven sacks, 14 tackles for a loss (TFL), and four quarterback hurries. Some of the blame on sacks goes to Sanders (the play in the fourth quarter where he ran out of bounds instead of throwing it away counted as a sack).

Give some credit to Tech’s defense. They came to play. Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks had himself A DAY.

Here’s the thing. OSU is about seven deep on the offensive line and two of their best are out. This is going to happen. If OSU can get Tevin Jenkins or Dylan Galloway, or both, back after the “off” week, we can expect better offensive play.

The position group has been good this season. Far from great, but good. That’s a step forward from years past. Plus, with Sanders’ indecisiveness, some blame falls on him for seven sacks, two fumbles, and 14 TFLs.

But if OSU has aspirations of a third-place or higher finish in the Big 12, the blocking is going to have to be better. That includes from guys like Jelani Woods and LD Brown.

Fourth Quarter: Lay off the defense

Remember in 2018, when Oklahoma State’s defense would keep it in close games in the first half while the offense sputtered only to run out of gas once the offense started to figure things out?

Welp. That was Saturday.

The defense did everything it could to keep OSU in that game. Off the three first half turnovers, Texas Tech only scored 10 points.

But after second half adjustments by Texas Tech (ALL THE SCREEN PASSES), and Jett Duffy turning into Pat Mahomes, the defense finally started to give.

Then again, what do you expect when they faced a Texas Tech team that had 18(!!!) drives in a game while OSU’s offense kept going 3-and-out or turning the ball over on their side of the field.

It wasn’t a great performance by the defense, but they did enough to get OSU the win. The offense just let them down.

Overtime: What is Oklahoma State?

I feel like for awhile there, I knew what this team was.

A disciplined program that did the little things well, beat the teams they were supposed to beat, knocked off a team or two they weren’t supposed to, and lost to Oklahoma.

They did it with brilliant offense, good special teams, and a defense that forced turnovers.

Now?

I see a team that struggles with the small things. I see a team that has become incredibly inconsistent, and a team that I can now expect to lose at least one game each season that they honestly have no business losing too.

I see a defense that can’t force turnovers, even when they opportunities arise. I see special teams that don’t just feel neutered, but seem mistake prone. I see an offense that can’t find consistency, and despite some wild formations, didn’t seem all that creative.

We can make jokes about Jett Duffy being a back-up (he actually started the season as the 4th string), but unlike other cases in the past where back-ups gave OSU fits, the coaching staff KNEW he would be the guy all week.

Sanders wasn’t great, but the play calling on offense was questionable, often. It’s like they had no idea what to do in 2nd and 3rd and long situations. Not to mention, just like the Texas game, they got outcoached. They played right into the hands of Tech’s defensive gameplan, and once it was obvious to everyone, stubbornly kept that gameplan going.

I’m not one to suddenly jump off the train. I still think this is an 8-4 team like I picked in the preseason. I still think Gundy is the goat. I’m still on-board the Gleeson and Knowles hires.

But this isn’t the team I thought I knew anymore. In fact, I really don’t know who this program is anymore. With six games left on the schedule, I hope I find out and I hope I like what I find.

Second Overtime: Let’s retweet

There were some wild formations like this one. If only they’d worked.

Let me go ahead and quote myself.

Agreed.

The dance moves to stay on his feet were nice.

Gundy’s conservatism reared its ugly head.