It might be time to add a mullet to this meme. (Shout outs to Marshall Scott.)
You know things are bad when Mrs. Pistols thinks they’re bad. “The announcer,” she laughed on Saturday, “said, ‘People were thinking this was one of the worst Kansas State teams in recent memory and now they’re in the win column!’ That seems bad.”
Oklahoma State got bowled over in Manhattan on Saturday 31-12, and I don’t even know where to begin. The offense was bankrupt. The defense laid down late. And the special teams were the special teams. Oklahoma State looked broken on Saturday, and I’m not sure anyone knows how to fix them.
10 Thoughts coming, but first a shout out to our sponsor, Thrive Landscape and Irrigation in Stillwater.
1. OSU Has Gotten … Boring
As hard as the announcing crew tries to convince me that days like today are going to be thrilling games because, you know, High Octane Big Scoring Oklahoma State is involved, it’s just not happening this year. Maybe even worse than being bad from an entertainment standpoint, OSU has gotten … boring.
I’m not going to pretend to know what makes a football team tick. There are a million things we aren’t privy to. A million more that the coaches aren’t either. But from an outsider looking in, I don’t see a lot of people who love playing football right now. I see Tylan loving it. I see Bundage loving it. I see Justice wanting to love it.
That’s not to say they don’t care — nobody thinks that — but the looks on everyone’s faces say, We know that we don’t have the goods right now so why are we just trying the same thing over and over again and pretending like it’s going to work?
Two notes on that:
- Try literally anything. A fake punt. An onside kick. A flea flicker. Gundy has gotten more conservative than a George Bush endorsement of Ted Cruz, but my gosh. What do you have to lose?
- I hate to harp on the QB thing, but man. I’m watching somebody who seems like a good dude (great kid) play somewhere between below average and above average football (depending on the game) but doesn’t get in anybody’s dish. Doesn’t rally the troops. Doesn’t look like he cares. Again, I think he does care, but optics matter. Galvanizing 135 people matters.
Remember when Gundy led his December press conference last year lauding Spencer Sanders for sending his LOI in first because he wanted to be the leader. He was dying to be the guy. Corndog seems like he just likes being there. Again, no issues with that, but I’m not sure it’s the greatest attribute for somebody trying to navigate a team through a season in a Power 5 conference.
I don’t need you to run all over the field like Baker after every play, but I do need something from you. I go back to Brandon Weeden in College Station in 2011. OSU was down. Their title hopes were in a coma. He led them back before a defensive interception sealed the deal. I’ll never forget his reaction.
“[EXPLETIVE] YEAH!” he screamed while jumping off the bench and fist pumping his helmet toward the field. Weeden wasn’t a lunatic, but he was in. Like in in. I’m probably crazy for thinking this matters as much as I do, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be convinced otherwise.
2. Yurcich Faded (Literally and Figuratively)
I thought Mike Yurcich and Co. did a great job early on of getting all of their running backs involved in the passing game as well as a handful of receivers on passes that were more or less extensions of the run game.
I understand that a lot of what OSU wants to do offensively is predicated on at least a threat of being able to go deep, but I wish they would stay shallow more often with all these weapons and a QB capable of delivering it to them at that distance.
Then they went away from it late. Why?! It was there all game. Sometimes it seems like OSU’s offense becomes too dependent on what the deep passing game offers them instead of just taking the 6- and 8-yard passes that Kansas State was essentially giving them on every play.
Yurcich has been below average for most of the Big 12 season, and this game along with the second half against Texas Tech were the worst performances of the year. I get that the OL isn’t great and that Cornelius isn’t a Heisman contender (or maybe he is! — more on that in a second), but it seems like OSU could dial back what they’re trying to do in the passing game and get better flow throughout.
3. No Justice
This tweet made me laugh.
Is #OKState saving Justice Hill for the Texas game?
— Curtis Fitzpatrick (@cfitzfox) October 13, 2018
I thought Justice looked … not 100 percent when he got the ball in the first half. He didn’t look hurt by any means, but he wasn’t as explosive as he’s been throughout the season, and maybe that contributed to him getting fewer touches.
I actually didn’t have that big of a problem with it early. The offensive line was playing much better, and J.D. and Corn ran it well in the first half. OSU isn’t so one-dimensional that it has to ride Justice 35 times a game, and I’m fine with them using him sparingly for short stretches.
But when it continued in the second, and Corn ended with as many carries as him, I just don’t feel like that should happen. Again, I’m not an Xs and Os savant, but when your fifth-year former walk-on QB is getting the same number of carries as your All-American tailback, it seems like you either need to put the tailback in a better position to succeed or just start giving him the ball more often.
4. Fewest Points Since … 2014
The numbers are ?, and it’s fitting that OSU’s 12 points are the fewest it has scored in a game since that Texas debacle in 2014 (Daxx’s last stand, by the way). Here’s a sampling.
- KSU passing yardage: 130 yards
- OSU points per drive: 1.2 PPD
- OSU total first downs: 15 (fewest since they had 9 against UT in 2014)
Kansas State came in the with 92nd-ranked defense in the country in terms of points per drive. Ninety-second! UTSA and South Dakota State both scored more points than Oklahoma State did on Saturday.
Which leads us to …
5. Fewer Possessions, Fewer Points
Gundy was talking last week about scoring 42 points against Iowa State. Well yeah, you had 16 (!) possessions to do it. The problem when you play a slow, plodding team like Kansas State is that if you’re not supremely confident (even cocky!) in who you are offensively then you can start to get a little panicky when you score three points in five drives or 10 in seven drives or whatever.
I don’t know if that’s what happened in Saturday’s game, but it did seem like they went away from what was working early on with the shorter passing stuff. A more confident offense wouldn’t have done that.
It’s paramount to score early against a team like KSU because the possessions start ticking down in a hurry. They had the ball for over 37 minutes (!) on Saturday, which is an anomaly, but it’s also what they’re trying to do. You go four punts, a pick and two FGs in your first seven drives and the palms start sweating and you probably get out of your box a little. That’s why this outrageous call on Tylan in the first half was such a big deal.
6. Defensively Soft
Kansas State had five drives in the second half. The last one was the end of the game. The other four were all 7+ play 60+ yard marches right down Jim Knowles’ throat for six. Kansas State stole its concepts from the second world war, and they’ve been using them ever since then so it’s not like you don’t know what they’re going to do!
In the screenshot below, OSU had nine (!) guys between the running back and the end zone, and they barely touched the running back. Nine on eight, and it wasn’t even close.
KSU ran it 29 times for about six yards a pop in the last 30 minutes. It didn’t seem like Oklahoma State’s schemes were bad or they were terribly out of position. It kind of just seemed like they rolled over and let KSU do what they wanted.
I knew it was over when Skylar Thompson took off for the 39th time toward the corner of the end zone, and Kyle Cox cheekily said, “Skylar Thompson going for the throat.”
7. All the TC Love
I thought Andre Ware was going to give Taylor Cornelius his Heisman trophy by the end of Saturday’s game. My gosh! Look, TC has been better than most of us give him credit for, but Ware was talking about how heroic it is that he stayed in Stillwater and how he’ll probably “get a look at the next level.” Also: he went 17-35 with a pair of picks and no TDs (though he did run it pretty well).
He was again pretty good at and around the line of scrimmage in a way that Mason Rudolph wasn’t a lot of times. But he continues to struggle going deep and in all non-Tylan jump ball situations. I think these numbers are pretty telling.
- RBs: 8 catches | 8 targets
- Tylan: 5 catches | 7 targets
- Everyone else: 4 catches | 18 targets
It’s short throws, Tylan playing Superman … and not a lot else.
8. It Might Be Time
I … think we’re almost there. I also think Gundy is stubborn enough to not do it. The #narrative lover in me wants OSU to wait until a November game at Baylor following a home loss against Texas, but Southwell’s idea might be too good.
Spencer Sanders needs to play the final four games. It’s non-negotiable.
— Carson Cunningham (@KOCOCarson) October 13, 2018
I think the spark we need is Sanders in a 1988 throwback against Texas.
— Southwell (@JustinSouthwell) October 13, 2018
Look, is Oklahoma State’s offensive line great? No. Were they much better on Saturday? Yes. Did Corndog still go 17-35 with a pair of picks? Yes. Does it matter what happens this year? No. Does it matter what happens next year? Yes.
So yeah … it might be time.
9. Favored In All Seven
Oklahoma State is 4-3 on the season … and they were the favorite in all seven of those games. I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but it got me thinking. Maybe Vegas stinks. Maybe OSU has underperformed. Or maybe, what has been true all along is still true. Maybe Oklahoma State isn’t as talented as their historic W-L record says they are.
They don’t have the talent …
— Kegan Reneau (@KeganReneau) October 13, 2018
This season has again (like it did in 2014) shined a light on what happens when your QB isn’t a rising tide that lifts all
3-stars boats. Gundy has (earned) a reputation of somebody who pumps out 10-win team after 10-win team, but he’s had NFL QBs at the helm of five of those six teams, and he doesn’t this time around (unless Andre Ware is doing the drafting).
10. When the Season Ended
A question: Is this the worst 4-3 team in the country? For at least two more weeks Oklahoma State will (somehow) have a winning record. And then they probably won’t barring a complete overhaul during next week’s bye week.
Here is a list of games when the season “ended” over the past few years (based on a completely arbitrary definition I made up just now).
- 2010: Game 12 (OU)
- 2011: N/A
- 2012: Game 8 (KSU) or Game 11 (OU)
- 2013: Game 12 (OU)
- 2014: Game 8 (WVU)
- 2015: Game 12 (OU)
- 2016: Game 12 (OU)
- 2017: Game 11 (KSU)
- 2018: Game 7 (KSU)
Of course I have the benefit of looking backwards at all these other seasons while still in the middle of this one. Maybe they pull off a miracle and eke out a few more Ws. Maybe something changes and they get a spark. Maybe the season isn’t over, but it sure feels that way. Maybe everybody snaps out of it and saves what is trending in the wrong direction.
But if what we watched on Saturday continues for the rest of the year then we are in fact headed for Oklahoma State’s worst season since Gundy’s first in Stillwater. All the way back in 2005. They went 4-7. They almost lost to Montana State.