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10 Thoughts On Baylor’s 35-24 Win Over Oklahoma State

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I love college football. Is that the outcome I wanted in Waco? Nah. But man, that was a terrific football game with some big time hitting.

Get the Southeastern Louisianas and CMUs (especially the CMUs) out of here, and bring on some Big 12 Conference football. Oklahoma State lost 35-24 to Baylor on Saturday night and fell to 2-2 on the season in a wacky game that felt like it lasted eight hours, and we have a LOT to discuss. Let’s get after it.

1. You Have To Score Late

A lot of people are just destroying the defense (and we will get to that in a minute), but the reality is that OSU had the ball inside the Baylor five yard line twice in the last 13 minutes and walked away with 0 points. That cannot happen. Let’s handle these separately.

• The 4th down: I’m OK with going for it on 4th down when you’re down four with 13 minutes left. As Carson smartly pointed out, OSU was like 99/100 on third downs which feels mildly unsustainable to say the least, and Baylor’s defense was gassed. They called the right play too …. for before the timeout. When Baylor regrouped after the timeout, I thought OSU needed to open something out. Roll Mason out. Something. Baylor was ready for what everyone knew was coming.

• The fumble: This is what happens when you ride a freshman. It just … happens. Nobody in the stadium felt worse than him. And why wouldn’t you ride him? Justice Hill put on one of the best RB performances of the last five years with 20 carries for 122 yards and a TD. Alas, I would have liked for that to have been 124 yards and two TDs.

2. A Team Built For Turnover Margin

When you’re a team built to win off of turnover margin and you lose the turnover battle 4-2, you’re probably not going to beat a top 20 team on the road. In the Mike Gundy era Oklahoma State is 6-11 against teams when it turns the ball over four times or more. Two of those wins were against Grambling State and Troy. It is 4-9 when turning it over four or more times and only getting two or fewer turnovers from its opponents. Those fumbles, all three of them, lost the game.

The two by Hill were particularly damning. OSU was driving at midfield at the end of the first half to take the lead before Baylor got it back and up seven going into the locker rooms. And OSU was driving to go up in the middle of the fourth before Baylor got it back and put things to bed. We were talking about this in Slack as the game was going on, but it’s insane how much a game can flip on two plays.

3. Justice Hill is Joe Randle 2.0

One of the big reasons I refuse to walk away from this game completely bummed out is No. 27. Dude can ball. He even made the nonsensical run around the end to the short side of the field look like a great play call!

He just has a vision and an explosiveness and an aura that none of the other dudes have. I thought Mike & Mike mixed it up well in the backfield on Saturday night, but the bell cow has arrived, and he’s here for ~48 more games.

Also, how amazing would it have been if Baylor’s first loss post-scandal had been delivered by a kid named “Justice”?

4. What is Your Identity?

Doug Gottlieb talked about Brad Stevens talking about this one time. Teams have to have an identity. I discussed this in our little postgame show. What is this team’s identity? If the 2010-2011 teams were defined by Weeden2Blackmon and the 2013 team was defined by the best defense in school history (*arguably*) and even the team last year was defined by winning close games late, what is this year’s team’s identity?

I feel like I’ve seen four different teams play in the first four weeks. The offense has vacillated between “Madden 2017” and “Iowa 1991” and there seems to be little rhythm to what OSU does throughout games. It’s a little disconcerting to watch, and sometimes it feels like when the chips are down OSU doesn’t totally know who it is yet. That takes time to figure out sometimes, but I would have hoped a veteran team like this would have discovered it by Game 4.

The strangest part about all of this is that our go-to identity might be as a Big 10 team! OSU’s offense controlled the game on Saturday night which is not something I can remember happening that often in the Gundy era. It kept the ball for over 41 minutes, ran 100 plays, completed 14/24 third and fourth downs and held Baylor to just 12 possessions. Bucky, Sparty et al. would be might proud. And this might just be who we are!

Mike & Mike certainly committed heavily to the run with 55 carries (to just 45 passes). It’s just the 16th time in the Gundy era OSU has ran it 50 or more times in a game. It was 14-1 coming in. The only two losses are now this Baylor game and the 2006 Texas Tech game. Even more startling? OSU was 30-3 coming in when it ran it 45 times or more and 8-0 when running it 55+ times.

5. Grading Mason Rudolph

I know Rudolph only had 279 yards on 27/45 passing and 0 TDs, but it felt like he played better than last week when he put up 540 yards and two TDs. Maybe I’m crazy, but he was locked in during the second half. The fumbles are an issue [scheduled tweet], and he didn’t throw the deep ball all that well, but he spread it out, found all his receivers, made big boy throws and had Joel Klatt looking like me after watching Rory McIlroy hit a 3-wood from about 285 yards out.

HE CAN RUN, TOO.

I don’t know that I want his number called like 20 times a game on the ground, but No. 2 was out there trucking fools in the second half like he was the second coming of Timmy T. (shoutout to Justin Southwell on the comp). It felt like his runs actually opened up the offense a little bit at the end, too.

6. Horses (and Dogs)

This might be the last year Baylor is eligible for the Kentucky Derby with its stable of thoroughbreds as they get phased out via #crootin because of the scandal from earlier this year, but make no mistake: Baylor still has some dudes. It’s pretty crushing that OSU got lit on fire by a wide receiver who beat his dog earlier in the year (everybody knows the standard suspension for beating dogs is three non-conference games against horrendous teams!), but Ish Vick can play.

He had eight for 175 and two TDs, and OSU had absolutely no answer for him. This has been a staple of the Briles (and post-Briles) era. Playmakers at wide receiver that make other squads hold their hands up and say, “we got nothing.” It also doesn’t help when Robert Griffin vs. OU stuff is happening.

What a joy that fellow is. I hope he has a tremendous year!

(I do not hope this).

Also, of all the dislikable personalities in Waco, I do believe Little Briles is the least likable of them all. He has that Ted Cruz “makes you want to put your hand through a wall” face down pat.

7. In Defense of the Defense

OK, I know some of you are acting like OSU’s defense has gone the way of General Custer at Little Bighorn, but what exactly did we expect against Baylor? Is this Baylor offense as good as it has been in the last four years? Probably not, but they still have some of those aforementioned horses, and Seth Russell is now 12-0 as a starter. This isn’t Kansas!

Last year, Baylor averaged over 3.3 points per drive which was top five in the country. On Saturday, OSU held them under three (2.9 actually). Baylor had 12 drives and scored five touchdowns. You turned them over twice and got a huge stop deep in their own territory in the second half.

The 99.5-yard drive late was frustrating mostly because OSU’s defense wasn’t even on the field for 20 minutes of the actual game, and you had to have a stop at that point, but if the offense scores from inside the five (twice!) we’re probably all crooning warrior poems and praising that ol’ OSU bend-but-don’t-break D right now.

Could the defense be better? Absolutely. Does Glenn Spencer get a not-quite-free-but-post-Thanksgiving-levels-of-discount pass because he jumps around and hits his players in their Chrome Pete helmets? Absolutely.

But going on the road against one of the most dangerous offenses in the country, turning them over a couple of times and getting seven stops out of 12 tries is not exactly the worst thing in the world.

8. This Was Far Different From Last Year

I remember sort of throwing up my hands last year at one point and thinking, “what are we supposed to do? They’re just a lot better.” That wasn’t the case this time around. Presuming Baylor hasn’t fallen that far, then I think OSU might actually be more talented this year than it was last year (even though the record doesn’t show that so far).

My buddy Matt Amilian and I discussed this after the game, but there’s a universe that exists (and we might be living in it!) in which Oklahoma State is the better team out of these two teams. The number of plays that could have flipped the game in OSU’s direction is far higher than the number of plays that could have resulted in a BU blowout.

That’s why …

9. It’s not Wrong to be encouraged

I don’t feel like I’m wrong to walk away from this game thinking, “I like this team!” The problem with this season so far (other than MAC referees) is that we had unrealistic expectations coming into September. Think about it. What if OSU had lost, say, the Kansas State and West Virginia games last year (both quite losable). Our expectations coming in are “man, 9-3 is a really good year with this nasty schedule … that would be great to get to the Alamo Bowl” instead of “9-3 is a terrible season … we’re way better than that!”

I’m not trying to play the “woe is me, we’ll always be the little brother” card here, but we have to be realistic about the situation we’re in from a schedule and talent standpoint. Those one-possession games start to even out over time. We have a tremendous quarterback with a promising freshman running back, world-class receivers and a pretty average offensive line and defense. When you look at it like that, 9-3 starts to sound pretty good, right?

10. Where do we go from here?

How big is next week?

The Texas game in Stillwater can be a season-shaper. You win that and take down a poor Iowa State team and now you’re 4-2 going into the bye week with an asterisk by one of those losses and an understanding that you largely contributed in giving the other one away. That’s a team that can be dangerous going into the second half of the season.

On the other hand, if you lose to Texas and are all of a sudden 2-3 with Iowa State coming to town, that’s a pretty big bummer of a situation. Is the Big 12 title out of the question right now? Probably, but if you beat Texas and Iowa State you can at least keep the dream alive for another month or so. The Big 12 is going to be an absolute circus over the next two months, and I am definitely here for every single bit of that.

Plus, OSU now has a real RB1 to go with one of the three best QBs in the conference, and I’m still more bullish on the defense than most. This loss is frustrating because it feels like you were at least equally as good as Baylor and gave away a real opportunity to make a statement, but it’s also a boon because I’m not totally sure there’s anyone in the conference that completely out-classes OSU. Does OSU have far and away the best talent? Not by a long shot, but I think you can at least be competitive in all the big games (unlike last year).

I’m already fired up for Texas. Onto the next one.