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10 Thoughts on a Ludicrous 13-10 Oklahoma State Win at Texas

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AUSTIN, Tex. — How we doing fam, we OK yet? Are you reading this between COOPs or just after about 15 of them? Have you even changed the channel yet, or are you leaving it on ABC for the Big Ten game of the week after we saw the Big Ten undercard at 11 a.m. between Oklahoma State and Texas? Are you even breathing? If you haven’t taken a breath for more than 10 minutes please call your doctor or David Blaine.

Also, you’re in good company.

“I’m usually pretty good in games,” said Mike Gundy after whatever it is we watched on Saturday. “But when we don’t adjust on offense, I don’t breathe very good. So I was potentially — potentially on a respirator at that particular time (before Ramon picked the ball to end it).”

The Cowboys escaped with one in Austin 13-10 on Saturday, and to call it an escape is to say Andy Dufresne dug a small hole to get out of prison. Its world-class offense scored one offensive touchdown on 16 (!) offensive drives and could only muster two field goals on the last 13. It was an atrocious performance (that we’ll get to in just a minute).

But the Pokes were bailed out by Glenn Spencer’s defense, which somehow limited Texas to just .66 points per drive and got a game-sealing INT in overtime by none other than Ramon Richards to end one of the ugliest games of the Gundy era.

Incredibly, as PFB Nate pointed out after the game, this is the fewest points a Mike Gundy-coached team has ever scored in a victory. Before this game the Cowboys were 0-12 coming in under Gundy when scoring 14 or fewer. Of course they were also 42-0 when holding opponents to 14 or fewer. So I guess something had to give.

On to the 10 thoughts!

1. What Did I Just Watch?!

This was me for most of the final three quarters. ?

If that’s what Big Ten football is like then I would rather Oklahoma State go to Conference USA when realignment happens again than play Iowa and Northwestern!

It was astonishing to watch an offense that was tracking to be the most efficient in the last decade lay that big of an egg, even against Texas. Even when it didn’t play well against TCU a few weeks ago, it still scored 31 points. I would have said coming in that the regulation floor for this offense was 20 points. Like the “holy crap we’re playing Wudtee and Ramon on offense and there are 29 players injured” floor.

I was wrong. It was as bizarre a game, much less win, as you’ll ever watch and Oklahoma State game have under Gundy … but at the end of the day, it’s still a win (stats are for losers etc.)

I do take issue with one thing Gundy said in the postgame, though. He attributed the win to OSU’s culture of no fear, no fatigue and no frustration. That’s partially true because OSU’s defense hung in and hung in when it had no reason to want to, but it’s also true that Texas’ offense was running like three plays. Then Sam Ehlinger got a little bit out of his world, and the Cowboys ended our misery.

2. Figure it out

I’m not an offensive coordinator. I’m not even a football coach nor do I pretend to be one. I’m lousy at Madden. I can barely understand what guys like Thomas Fleming and Adam Lunt are talking about when they describe schemes and plays to me.

But here’s what I watched on Saturday from the DKR pressbox. Texas dared Oklahoma State’s offensive line and running backs to beat them with three-man fronts and tiny boxes all while giving James Washington the Justin Blackmon treatment. There were times when Texas was playing a safety so far back it looked like he was returning a punt!

“They were so far back that I thought they thought it was a punt,” said Gundy. “I asked ’em (on the headset), I said, ‘why is that guy that far back?’ And somebody was on the headphones being a smart butt, and said “Well, They’ve stopped us. What difference does that make?” And I said, that’s true. That’s bad, though.”

There are two issues here. The first is that OSU can’t run on three-man fronts that aren’t even really trying to stop the run. The second is that they kept trying the same stuff when they saw it wasn’t working.

Texas came in No. 105 in the country in pass yards per attempt on defense, and OSU ran it 51 (!) times to just 38 passes.

I get that:

  1. Texas’ DL was showing less respect for OSU’s OL than Gundy shows to hairclippers and …
  2. Oklahoma State nearly had walk-ons in on the OL because of injuries, but …

You have to figure it out. Be who you are. I asked Yurcich if what Texas threw at them was the same as what TCU threw at them a few weeks ago. He said in the secondary that it was, but they were different up front because of the three-man rushes.

It felt like they could have still run their regular passing stuff but just added a safety valve with Justice Hill out of the backfield which they did at the end of the first half (and it worked!) or just hit some short stuff over the middle. But riding Justice Hill over and over and over again, 33 times in all — it just didn’t ever seem like it was going to work. And it never really did. OSU averaged just 2.9 yards per carry.

“The offensive guys know that I like ’em, but we stunk in the adjustments we made in the throwing game, period,” said Gundy. “We gotta be better than that. We didn’t panic, we were fine, we were drawing stuff up, and we were talking. There were holes in that defense, okay? There’s holes in it. We just didn’t get to it.”

I think the only time they tried to throw it deep resulted in a 65-yarder to Moss-ell Ateman. It was Bedlam 2016 all over again, albeit with a much different result.

3. Importance of momentum

Think back to the fourth drive of the game. What I said pregame was coming to fruition. Oklahoma State came in as the No. 3 team in the country in offensive TDs scored in the first quarter, and they were about to punch another one in to go up 14-0 (which, as it turned out, would have been plenty of points to win the game!) But them Justice Hill fumbled, Texas went 90 yards, and we got one of the most bizarre final three quarters in Mike Gundy’s 13 years as the head coach.

Rudolph told me afterwards that he didn’t feel like that turnover played into things that much, but I can’t help but think it would have been a completely different game otherwise.

Also, Mike Gundy was thinking what we were all thinking during the Texas TD.

4. How Perfect was the ending?

Ramon Richards having some miscommunication on the coin toss followed by him sealing the deal with a pick is the only way a game this wacky could end. I was on the field so I’m still not sure what happened on the toss, but the referees pointed that it was Texas ball going one way and it ended up being OSU ball going the other.

“I knew when Ramon went up, and I saw his hands, I knew that he would make the catch because he’s a former quarterback, and it was kind of a soft pass,” said Gundy, making one of us. “I knew right then, and I was trying to figure out why that happened. I didn’t know I had been living so good.”

5. Feelings Flip

It’s funny, isn’t it, how much things can change in a week? Last week, people (who aren’t morons) were singing Mike Yurcich’s praises and secretly wondering whether Glenn Spencer couldn’t be improved upon. Now 31 drives and 23 points later and somebody has probably started a GoFundMe to buy Spencer a KFC so he can have some of his beloved fried chicken whenever he wants it.

Here is a reality that many are unwilling to grasp: Good players /coaches/coordinators/etc. can have bad games. Was Yurcich terrible against TCU? Maybe, but turnovers sunk the Pokes against the Frogs. Was Yurcich (and his offense) terrible against Texas on Saturday? Unequivocally. Gundy said as much in the postgame.

“It had something to do with the other team, and we didn’t adjust very good, period,” said Gundy. “Our coaching on offense has got to be better than that. I’ve done that, too, I’m not throwing Yurcich under the bus, or all those cats. I’ve done it. I’ve made mistakes.”

Spencer pleaded with us in the postgame not to write anything too flowery about his defense because you’re only as good or bad as your last performance. Bodies of work matter, and Yurcich’s has still been pretty terrific. Does that mean he didn’t struggle mightily on Saturday against Texas and hasn’t struggled to make adjustments his entire career? No it does not.

And guess what? That’s going to be a massive storyline for the rest of the season.

6. TCU Purpleprint

Oklahoma State’s problem now is that TCU and Texas have shown teams how to stop Oklahoma State, and it appears that Oklahoma State might be incapable of adjusting. That does not bode well for the next two games, especially the one at home.

“The next group is going to do what they did,” said Gundy. “If I play you in basketball, and I run a box and one on your best player, and I play that good, the next team is going to run a box and one. We’re going to get that, so our guys better figure it out, plus West Virginia plays that anyway. West Virginia plays two robber, two holes, so it would be pretty safe to say they’re going to start out that way, and they’re going to say, have you figured out what to do, and if not, then good luck.”

7. Field Flipping

It won’t get talked about a lot, but that punter matchup was the Heisman candidate vs. the Heisman candidate your special teams coach told you not to worry about. Zach Sinor looked like Imposter Klay Thompson and Michael Dickson looked like the real deal. He had 11 punts, six of them went 50+ and five landed inside the 20. Elite.

“He should have won (the Ray Guy Award)” said Gundy. “He changed the field on us. I don’t know what the yardage is, I just know that every time we got a little bit of field position, he changed the field. When they punted and didn’t have it, he downed it inside the 10. He was fantastic for them.”

8. Defensive line was spectacular

I know Texas only runs three plays — off tackle, WR bubble and Ehlinger as a bowling ball — but I thought OSU’s defensive line was fantastic, as good as I’ve ever seen it. Did Texas come in with the No. 82 offense in the country in points per drive? Yes, but did OSU hold them to less than half of that number on Saturday? Absolutely.

“We got out there today,” said Jordan Brailford who had 1.5 sacks and 1.5 TFL. “We had a lot of pressure coming from the inside and outside. It was a good feeling — everyone was flying around … getting some hits on the quarterback. It was just a good overall game.”

Also, it helps when you have guys like this behind you.

9. End of Half Flubs

I asked Mike Yurcich if Oklahoma State tries to hurry up at the end of halves or if they just stay in their stuff and see what happens. His answer was … curt.

Could have fooled me, too, because I watched a team at the end of the first half that had 2nd and 19 on its own 44, needing just 20ish yards to get into a range where Matt Ammendola could feasibly make a deep one. What did it do? Ran the clock all the way down and tried a Hail Mary. I watched a team at the end of the game get the ball twice on its own 20 and rush the ball six times to just two passes, seemingly content to punt it away. OSU did not have punts on back to back drives all season, by the way. It had four such occurrences today.

I saw a team that played like it was being coached by Ted Cruz on offense! I don’t know who that goes against, whether it’s Yurcich or Gundy, but contrast it to what Iowa State did against OU in Norman a few weeks ago. They played the clock out at the end of the first half with less than a minute left, scored and rolled out of there with a victory. To me, it’s less about the points you score (although today it ended up being about that!) than the aura you set for your team for the rest of the game.

10. Good to go to a game

Despite the insanity, or maybe because of it, I loved being in Austin today. I wrote a gamer for CBS Sports, got to do a pregame show with Carson Cunningham (thanks for having me, KOCO!) and attended an all-time Gundy presser afterwards.

I also took the greatest photo of my life (for those asking why I was in blue, it’s generally frowned upon to wear orange in the press box).

On a personal level I love getting to cover this sport and this team. There’s never any shortage of drama, and you can argue that Gundy is the most zany, fun coach to write about in the nation. I also loved seeing them sneak out of Austin with their fifth straight there — although Lunt and Fleming are probably going to have to write a 10,000-word magnum opus on how the offense can be improved before West Virginia.

For now, though, OSU is 6-1 overall, 3-1 in the Big 12 and still alive for another week in the conference title race. Oh, and for the 11th season in a row, I get to say this ….

WE’RE BOWL ELIGIBLE!

On to the next one.

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