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Four Quarters: Spencer Sanders’ arm, legs, decision making against Texas

The redshirt freshman and Oklahoma State’s coaching staff have some things to work on.

Oklahoma State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Oklahoma State suffered its first defeat of the season Saturday with a 36-30 loss to Texas in Austin. We’ve all got a lot of thoughts on a game that felt like one OSU should have come away from victorious.

But there are four things in particular that I think need to be addressed.

First Quarter: Who’s to Blame?

Let’s talk about the touchdown play that wasn’t.

It was the Cowboys’ second drive of the game and on 3rd-and-7 from their own 23, Spencer Sanders threw a pass to a WIDE OPEN Dillon Stoner, that he couldn’t hold on to.

I get it. Stoner should have held onto the ball. But it’s the fact that he went from wide open to having to stop and turn around to catch it, allowing the defender to catch up and tackle him at full speed that bothers me more. Stoner would have scored six if Sanders had put that ball in front of him instead of making him come back for it.

The issue, like the week before against Tulsa, where Tylan Wallace kept getting separation, but kept having to turn around and come back to the ball, is that Sanders is putting is receivers in situations too often where their chance of success goes down. And then the fan base puts the blame on the receiver.

I don’t think it’s about arm strength. It might be about not trusting his arm. I think it’s still about timing.

It’s something that Adam Lunt and Mitch Gift of Tape Doesn’t Lie have talked about. Sanders hangs onto the ball for too long, takes too long to make a decision. It’s something we saw A LOT last week against Tulsa where Wallace kept having to turn around and come back to the ball allowing the defender to catch up to him.

Look, Sanders was better about it after that one. It’s something that is fixable, but it’s something that needs to be fixed because it could be the difference between OSU’s offense this season being really good and great.

Second Quarter: Sanders the Runner

That said about Sanders, he is a redshirt freshman who is only going to get better. Despite the two interceptions, he still posted a 77.6 QBR. Not bad.

One thing he’s already great at, is using his legs. Yes, he should have done so on the first interception instead of throwing — but that’s a teachable moment.

There are numerous examples of how dangerous he is as a runner.

There was the run to give Oklahoma State it’s first touchdown of the night.

though none is good as his final big run of the night.

Sanders is the kind of guy that has given OSU fans fits when he was on the other team. Now that he’s in Stillwater, I get it. I get why everyone loves having a true dual-threat quarterback.

Third Quarter: Bad Call Coach

So about that fake field goal. It wasn’t good.

Oklahoma State fans are fair to criticize that decision, especially after the delay of game penalty that pushed the Cowboys back five yards further. You watch what happened, even if Jelanie Woods had caught the ball, the play had zero chance of working.

While it was bad, I actually think there was far worse play calling in the game. Especially every time Oklahoma State needed to gain one or two yards.

Oklahoma State ran 10 plays where they needed just a yard or two to pick up a first down or get into the endzone. Twice they passed with Sanders going 1-of-2 with one first down. The other times were run plays. Three of those gained a first down or touchdown. The other five went for -4, 0, 0, -1, 0.

And too often they were obvious. The fourth down play call where the Cowboys lined up under center just a yard away from a first down at the Texas 3-yard line.

Texas did everything they could to shut down the run on Saturday, and they did a fair job of it. So why, when OSU needed to gain a few yards did they keep going back to run plays that didn’t work? Your guess is as good as mine.

Which leads me to my final point.

Fourth Quarter: Decision Making

What stinks the most about this game, is that the defense held Texas to fewer yards than LSU did. Oklahoma State got breaks it doesn’t often get, like two fumbles on special teams that the Cowboys recovered. Not to mention nabbing Sam Ehlinger’s first interception of the season, which was more about luck and timing than poor passing.

Sure, not everything went the Cowboys’ way — the missed first down call, the onside kick — but I come away from that game believing that Oklahoma State is just as good as Texas, just not on that night.

The decisions in the redzone and in short yardage situations though, felt stubborn

Oklahoma State got into Texas’ redzone six times and ran 22 plays. Only two of those were pass attempts; One 6-yard pass to Hubbard on TD before half and an incomplete pass to Wallace at Texas’ 13. Otherwise it was run plays that, more often than not, didn’t lead to the desired effect.

It’s one thing if a team just flat out beats you. You did your best, but they were just better. That’s not the feeling walking away from Saturday. Not to take anything away from Texas, they had a great gameplan, it just feels like OSU’s coaches played right into Texas’ gameplan and never adjusted well.

Sanders has be quicker and better at making decisions — the first interception where he should have just run comes to mind — but he will figure that out.

Don’t get me wrong. There were bright spots. OSU found ways to run the ball better in the third quarter. But it still felt like they were running their heads into the wall assuming they would eventually break through, and never did.

It feels like the Cowboys let one get away from them on Saturday. Hopefully they learn from their mistakes quickly with No. 24 Kansas State coming to town on Saturday.