I got a text from my buddy (and former roommate) Nolo after the Iowa State game last weekend late on Saturday night that said “I love this team, I loved the Iowa State win, but there’s a big part of me that wonders if this is a house of cards that’s about to come tumbling down.”
I’m not sure tumbling was the correct adjective, but he was right about the rest of it. Baylor did to Oklahoma State what Oklahoma State did to TCU a couple of weeks ago — came out of the gates like world beaters and never let its foot off the gas. The Bears thumped Oklahoma State 45-35 in its own house on Saturday night to end the second-longest winning streak in the country at 12 games. And it seemed much worse than a 10-point win.
Here are 10 thoughts on tonight’s bummer of a loss.
1. House money always runs out
We need to start with this baseline — Mike Gundy has been dancing on top of the craps table, randomly pulling hundys out of his hoodie and throwing them at whoever will look at him since the Kansas State game. There is some law associated with teams coming back from this many deficits this many times with this few elite athletes that says that has to run out at some point. It’s unfortunate that night had to be tonight against Baylor, but the ride was always going to end at some point. From the moment James Washington caught this absurd pass to tie it at 14-all, Baylor never looked back.
On paper, that stinks because Baylor was riding its second-string (and then third-string!) QB (more on this in a minute), but when you consider the entire season as a whole, this was as much juice as OSU could possibly get out a team that was one of the youngest in the nation last season. I don’t mean for that to sound like an excuse (because OSU played like a couple of diapers I changed this morning) — it’s just the fact that it even got this far in the season was a minor miracle. I don’t know anyone outside of Walt Garrison (who is the orangest to the bone of all of us) who doesn’t think that.
2. You have to take advantage of turnovers
If I would have told you about six hours ago that OSU would win the turnover battle 3-0, you would have just headed for the palm trees at Murphy’s and started ordering frozen J&Cs, right? Oklahoma State only scored seven total points on three turnovers. You have to capitalize more than that, not only for the points but also because you have to control the momentum of the game with Baylor. They score so fast and so violently that if you can flip it on them and score the other way right after a pick or a fumble, it completely changes the structure of the game. OSU didn’t until the end and it cost them dearly.
3. You’re not going to punt 10x and beat Baylor
The person I wanted to see with 390 total yards tonight was certainly not Zach Sinor. You could put Art Briles at QB and you aren’t going to beat Baylor by punting 10 times. Here’s a look at OSU’s drive chart for the evening.
Gundy said it well after the game.
— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) November 22, 2015
Baylor ran it 73 times for 304 yards. Oklahoma State ran it 23 times for eight yards. You probably are struggling against Stillwater High if those are the rushing numbers. I think the thing that was frustrating offensively is that OSU seemed to have two plays for most of the night: bounce it to the outside and pray there wasn’t a fumble or throw it deep and hope for a flag. It was strange. Where were the short slants to Glidden, the deep slants to Ateman? The game felt a little panic-y on offense. On the other hand …
4. Baylor’s defense owned the game
Baylor’s defense might have been the least-talked about of the six units on the field (offense, defense, ST), but it was clearly the best. It was shocking how easily they controlled the game. Their lineman (on both sides) are just better than Oklahoma State’s. If you have a decent QB, you can win a whole bunch of games like that. That’s a huge reason Mike Gundy is the second-highest paid public employee in the state of Oklahoma, but the Pokes just got out-lineman’d on both sides tonight (to coin a phrase).
Mason Rudolph was scrambling like me at a high school dance and J.W. Walsh never had a chance to really tilt the game in our favor. That’s not an effort problem or a scheming problem. It’s just a “they are flat out more talented than we are” problem. You aren’t going to win those battles very often. [looks at all “Bama sucks” tweets from the last three years, considers deleting, doesn’t, simly doesn’t care]
5. Would we view this differently if we were 8-2?
I’m not saying OSU isn’t a magical team. I’m saying that we all know it could have pretty easily been 7-3 or 8-2. That’s the sort of talent it had. Keeping that in mind, doesn’t this loss make a little more sense? In a vacuum, Baylor is a better football team, right? I know it’s difficult to imagine telling mid-2000s you that Baylor is going to come to Stillwater and hammer OSU to get itself back into the Big 12 title race (with OSU) with a third-string QB, but that’s the reality we’re all living in right now.
OKC Dave said this very well on Twitter.
Baylor is just better. I can live with that. Great season. Beat OU.
— Dave Hudson (@okc_dave) November 22, 2015
That’s a difficult pill to swallow, I realize (especially considering the fact that Baylor is on the verge of its third straight Big 12 title), but there’s definitely a part of me tonight that’s saying, “at least it wasn’t Ames.”
6. J.W. is a gamer, but the other guy is too
Was Mason Rudolph great tonight? No. But did he throw for 430 yards (sixth-most in school history) and three TDs on a gimpy leg against a clearly-inspired defense that was already one of the Big 12’s best? Yes, he did. No. 4 is the soul of this 2015 squad. Nothing is ever changing that. But No. 2 is its lifeblood. Now … he can’t do it all, but to see him throwing missiles on one leg in an empty stadium trying to keep the Pokes in it when pretty much all hope was lost. Call me crazy, but I enjoyed that.
7. Third down defense
One issue for OSU’s defense (which was good, not great tonight) was that it couldn’t get off the field. More on that in my stats post (Baylor ran 104 plays), but for now, Baylor was 14/22 on third down and 2/3 on fourth. And it felt like every third down was gained by one or two yards. That’s almost more demoralizing as a defense than giving up a quick-strike TD.
Giving up 45 points to Baylor and causing three turnovers should probably be enough to get a W (especially at home), but there were certainly opportunities for that to be much better defensively.
8. This loss wasn’t as big of a shock as 2011
In 2011, I was in Los Angeles visiting my brother. I remember that day very clearly. I remember the vitriol that poured deep into that Friday night. I didn’t want to hear about Big 12 title scenarios. I didn’t want to think about football. I just wanted to sit in a dark room at a comedy club all night with my wife and brother and not laugh (which is exactly what I did!)
Tonight was much different. We knew the house money thing was true even if we pushed it all the way to the back of our minds where only the Brent Parker drop and Desmond Mason’s senior night exist. I was terrified all week because Vegas was just pounding Baylor, even making them a slight favorite with a backup QB (#VegasKnows).
That 2011 loss was like somebody taking a dump in the paint of the person working on the Mona Lisa. This one was far less jarring and far easier to understand. In some ways, losing like this to a Baylor team that clearly has immense talent makes you appreciate what OSU has done for the last 12 weeks even more.
9. QB depth is a real concern in the Big 12
In a league like the Big 12 where you run 1.5x as many plays as, say, the SEC and your QBs are put in much more vulnerable positions (because they aren’t handing it off to fullbacks who get two yards), having two or three QBs has become a real advantage. There were three guys hobbling all over the field all night and one couldn’t play at all. Over in Norman, OU had to go to Trevor Knight and TCU cycled through Foster Sawyer faster than you can say “I will bet $10 million his family is worth more than that.” QB depth in nationally is a big deal. In the Big 12? It’s paramount.
So you can bemoan the fact that a third string QB for Baylor took down OSU or you can realize that having at least two (if not three) really good QBs is part of the formula for winning conference championships. OSU has that. OU (sort of) has that. And it’s clear Baylor does too. If anything, the Bears went to Chris Johnson at the perfect time. Right after Glenn Spencer made his wizardly halftime adjustments for No. 3. Briles and Co. threw a wrinkle in things after Emmanuel Ogbah tried to eat Jarrett Stidham’s shoulder pads.
10. Big 12 title still on the table
Was tonight disappointing? Yes it was. Was the air let out of our playoff balloon? Yes it was. Am I disappointed that I can’t trash talk Iowa fans on Twitter for the next two weeks? You have no idea. But here’s the reality: Oklahoma State has a real chance to win another Big 12 title. Send a magic man down to Ft. Worth to heal up whatever is ailing Trevone Boykin and pull off a Bedlam surprise and Mike Gundy is bending his hips all the way to the floor about 168 hours from right now.
So who wins the Big 12? Here's the updated and much simpler chart. pic.twitter.com/o4TdzjPICH
— Max Olson (@max_olson) November 22, 2015