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How Spencer Sanders compares to other QBs under coach Mike Gundy through 12 starts

Sanders’ touchdown to turnover rate and number of turnovers isn’t great.

TCU v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The calls by the Oklahoma State fanbase for Spencer Sanders to be benched after another multi-turnover game this past Saturday grew loud, but they weren’t going to sway coach Mike Gundy, who said he is sticking with his quarterback.

The complaints aren’t surprising after Sanders’ three-turnover performance. It was his third game with at least three turnovers in his 12-game career* as a starter. That’s not ideal, especially when noting the Cowboys are 0-3 in those games.

But, Sanders did “look” better this past Saturday than he did last season, despite the mistakes. The redshirt sophomore is getting better, making quicker decisions. He’s only played 12 full games as a start because of injuries.

Where does Sanders stacks up against other QBs under Gundy after their first “regular season” as a starter, specifically when it comes to touchdowns, turnovers and the all-important win?

Seven QBs have started and played at least 12 games during the Gundy era.

Quarterback TDs INTs Fumbles TD/TO % Record
Bobby Reid 21 10 3 1.61 6-6
Zac Robinson 30 9 2 2.72 7-5
Brandon Weeden 32 13 2 2.13 10-2
Clint Chelf 33 11 1 2.75 8-4
Mason Rudolph 24 12 4 1.50 11-1
Taylor Cornelius 38 11 0 3.45 6-6
Spencer Sanders 24 14 7 1.14 8-4

(Note: Since Sanders only played one drive and one snap in the 2020 season opener against Tulsa, we are not including that game in his records.)

Unfortunately, Sanders has the worst TD to turnover rate of all of them and the highest number of turnovers.

It’s a concern that needs to change, but he’s not the only one who had a high number of interceptions during his first 12 games. Mason Rudolph, who is remembered fondly, had 12 interceptions in that span. One could argue that number might have been higher if he hadn’t been pulled every time OSU entered the redzone in 2015, of which nine of the games we are referencing here occurred.

Again, interceptions aren’t great, but you can live with them. Some are on the QB, some are on the pass catcher and some are great defensive plays. Plus, at this point we have to accept Sanders will likely have turnovers because it’s part of his gunslinger mentality. They should get better as he continues to improve.

Seven fumbles — eight if you do count the Tulsa game and blame him for the dropped hand-off in the first quarter — are a major problem. Fumbles are more on the player and their ball security. Yes, a defensive player can make a great play to punch the ball out, but defenses are always trying to punch the ball out. Most of Sanders’ fumbles have come on sacks and hand-offs. That’s a lack of ball security and concentration.

Turnovers aren’t great. We worry too much about interceptions sometimes and OSU has been really unlucky in where some of the turnovers this season have come, especially in the 2020 Texas game.

OSU is currently tied for 83rd in the nation in turnovers lost at nine and tied for 91st in turnover margin at minus-1. The Cowboys are minus-5 in turnovers this season. That’s been the biggest difference between OSU being really good and great.

I’m in the “you have to keep playing him” camp. The College Football Playoff isn’t in the picture anymore, but a Big 12 title is. OSU isn’t winning a Big 12 title this year with true freshman Shane Illingworth, and not beating Oklahoma with him, though the Cowboys probably aren’t beating them either way.

OSU still has some big aspirations that are very much achievable this year. I don’t think you can achieve those unless you ride with Sanders.

Turnovers or not.