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10 Thoughts On Oklahoma State’s 38-31 Win Over Iowa State

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Sorry these are tardy. Had to scoot like Jeff Carr in the open field to a good buddy’s birthday party shortly after the game.

BOX SCORE

Oklahoma State beat Iowa State on Saturday afternoon in Boone Pickens Stadium 38-31. I’m not completely sure how it happened or who caused it to happen, but it did, and the Cowboys enter the bye week 4-2 and 2-1 in the Big 12. We have a lot to discuss from Mike Gundy taking the mantle from Les Miles in the clock management department to The President reinserting himself in the All-American race. Let’s get to work.

1. The defense doesn’t stink (?) and Jordan Sterns is massive

I literally wrote down on a piece of paper in the first half, “this defense might stink” before Iowa State ended the game like this:

  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Punt
  • INT
  • Punt
  • TO on downs
  • End of game

I’m not going to say the defense is good or anything like that but they did hold Iowa State to under two points per drive (Iowa State had 17 drives!), created three turnovers and gave their own offense every chance to win the game.

We are also probably underplaying how important it is that Jordan Sterns missed this game. He is this defense’s soul. He might be this team’s soul. Playing without him is like the United States going to Paris for the 2018 Ryder Cup without Patrick Reed. You can do it. It’s just not going to be the same. That is the first and last time anyone will ever compare Jordan Sterns and Patrick Reed.

2. Elect the man

James Washington is outrageously good at football. It was reported early in the day that Washington was going to have to sit this one out, and who could blame him. But then he played in what could have been called a questionable move given his obvious concussion last week, and he played one of the best games of his career. By questionable I mean isn’t having a concussion like being pregnant? Either you are or you aren’t?

Anyway, that whole “oh well, James is going to miss ISU, we will probably still destroy them” notion flew out the window quickly as No. 28 strapped the squad on his back and dragged them across the finish line. Here are Washington’s five best career games from a rushing+receiving yards total:

  • Pittsburgh (2016): 296 yards and two TD
  • Texas Tech (2015): 200 yards and two TD
  • TCU (2015): 184 yards and three TD
  • OU (2015): 169 yards and one TD
  • Iowa State (2016): 168 yards and two TD

Mason Rudolph went to him over and over again, sometimes out of sheer exasperation, and Washington could not stop delivering. Cal Ripken thinks James Washington is consistent. He had innumerable circus catches (some of which didn’t even count), the eventual game-winner and the one that sparked the comeback late in the third quarter.

He is truly unbelievable.

3. Speaking of that late third quarter rally

Oklahoma State scored 24 unanswered in the last 17:54. During the first half Mrs. Pistols traipsed out to the shed, watched for three minutes (which she rarely does) and said, “this game is boring … these teams look average.” I spend hundreds of hours a month trying to think about write about and talk about Oklahoma State football, and she said it perfectly in three minutes.

After I came in afterwards she asked, “did we lose?” I said, “No.” She gasped. That’s how broke we looked in the first 42 minutes. So I guess my question is: Why does it take having your back against the wall for this team to do something special. Why can’t it be special just for the sake of being special.

I think the obvious answer is: Hey, it’s not like they’re not trying to score in the first 42 minutes! To which I have to say those are two totally different teams I’m watching in the first 42 minutes compared to the last 18 minutes. There’s a switch, and they found it. I just don’t know what led them to it and how they can find it sooner. It’s quite perplexing (more on this later).

4. Sinor for Heisman (really)

So Zach Sinor is really good, and I thought he contributed mightily to OSU’s second half comeback. That sounds like an insane thing to say, but here is where Iowa State started its second half drives on OSU punts:

  • Own 6
  • Own 15
  • Own 15
  • Own 20
  • Own 10

The touchback in the second was his first (!) of the season, and he pinned ISU inside their own 20 five different times when OSU was seemingly teetering on the verge of taking a loss. I know we joke about him because ha ha punters, but I’m not sure OSU wins this game without his performance in the last 30 minutes.

5. (As always) it’s all about turnovers

Mike Gundy’s teams since 2005 are now 31-2 when forcing three or more turnovers and turning it over one or fewer times. They are 14-1 when creating three or more and turning it over zero times as was the case on Saturday. The only loss was against Baylor’s third string QB last November.

More importantly than getting the extra possessions, though, was the fact that the fumble recovery by Ashton Lampkin and the interception by Jordan Burton infused a semi-catatonic crowd with a little juice to close out a game that should not have been as close as it was.

The weird thing about playing bad teams at home is that if it goes badly it starts spiraling. Coaches get booed, players get jeered, fans leave early and the entire thing feels messier than the intro to a Trump rally. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday, but Lampkin and Burton re-ignited a stadium that badly needed it and saved a game OSU couldn’t afford to blow.

6. The run game was still pretty solid

The overall numbers don’t rock, but if you take out end of the game and Mason getting sacked OSU rushed for 4.5 yards a pop. That would be worth dancing in the streets over if Iowa State wasn’t the worst defense in the Big 12 thus far. Additionally, ISU allows 5.5 yards per carry on the year so that 4.5 number isn’t looking all that great anymore.

Still, if you’re OSU, you’ll taking anything north of four at this point. Justice Hill wasn’t as great as he’d been in the first few Big 12 games (he might be getting tired), and Mike Gundy yanked him after his fumble before the play was even over I think, but Jeff Carr had a slick 33-yard run, James Washington got in on some trickeration and Barry Sanders shouldered the load after Hill exited stage right.

The most important thing is that there’s something (anything really) happening on the ground which provides at least a little bit of space for QB1 to go to work.

7. Numbers sometimes lie

I should not be allowed to discuss Mason Rudolph in any public forum in the same way I should not be allowed to discuss Brandon Weeden in any public forum. There is no semblance of non-bias. No preponderance of rationale. His numbers rocked again (26/44 for 351 yards and four TDs). He ran it well. He didn’t turn it over. He hit deep ball after deep ball and whet the lips of NFL scouts with some of his downfield throws to Jalen McCleskey and The Prez.

Then there are the short and intermediate throws. The throws over the heads of McCleskey and Blake Jarwin. The throws not even within five feet of anyone. The throws I don’t understand. He’s just been a little bit off. My stance on No. 2 hasn’t changed, and his ability to protect the rock is wildly undervalued, but his accuracy has seemingly diminished since last season.

Coming into this game, he was a tick off of last year’s 62.3 percent mark, and  that will go down a bit after this week. The oddest part is that he seems to be getting better at throwing the deep ball and worse at throwing the shorter stuff. If you want a problem to fix, that’s the one. But it’s still been a little disconcerting to watch at times this year. Rudolph has been great this year, don’t misunderstand me, but he can still be so much better which if you’re looking at the pace he’s on (see above) is quite terrifying.

8. #Math

The end of the game was once again a mess. I understand why Gundy doesn’t want to run it (fumbles), but you have to deal in reality and reality says that you cannot keep kneeling it and burn the last of the clock at the end of the game. I told my buddy Matt Amilian a few weeks ago that Gundy is at Les Miles levels of clock management and he sort of laughed at me. He texted me during the final two minutes: “You were right about Gundy and Miles!”

I believe Gundy noted that he would rather make ISU go 80 yards in 20 seconds after punting than risk a fumble or botched FG, but you still have to punt there which is also a risk. I’ll let PFB intern Caleb Deck who was at the game take it away on Gundy and the clock. This is what he said in our Slack thread about an hour ago:

Holy crap do we not have a football GA who can whip out their iPhone and do some end of game clock management math?????? Literally sitting on the 2nd to top row just screaming “ITS STILL NOT GOING TO WORK WE TRIED THIS BEFORE TIME SHIFTS FOR NO MAN GUNDY”

9. Gundy’s teams are bizarre

Mike Gundy is a wild and crazy human being. He is hilarious, often odd and sometimes outrageous. He does not seem like your typical multimillionaire football coach. His teams seem to take on his quirkiness at times. He can be aloof, appear disinterested and get out of his groove. All of these things would sum up how OSU played for most of the game on Saturday.

But the great thing about Gundy (and his teams) is that he never fully ejects. He never quits on the fans or his school, and neither do his teams. This might be the weirdest, most frustrating team he’s ever had. But it’s also a talented one. A much more talented one than Iowa State. And on a day when it could have rolled over and played dead, it instead pulled a Lazarus in the last quarter and half and took care of business. Say what you want about Gundy and his teams, they rarely lose games they should not lose even if you’re cursing your TV the majority of the time.

10. On to the bye week

At the birthday part I went to tonight, there was an OU guy, a Baylor guy and a Tech guy. The Baylor guy said to me, “Houston lost, the Big 12 is dead,” and he’s not wrong from a national standpoint anyway. But the encouraging thing about Houston losing and Texas giving OU everything it wanted in Dallas is that I’m more convinced than ever that the Big 12 race is wide open.

OSU is getting its bye week when it most desperately needs it and will open the second half of the year with Kansas. That means it will likely sneak into Halloween still having lost only one game overall in the conference race. The team I watched on Saturday certainly cannot run the table and win the Big 12, but that’s also the same thing I think I said about 39 different times last year about a team that played the final game of the season for the Big 12 title.

Gundy’s teams are often strange, sometimes bizarre but almost always good. Maybe this one will keep doing the same thing Gundy has been doing for over a decade now much to the chagrin of those calling for change: Just win.

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