Well, I didn’t erase all my preseason posts and predictions yet. And we’re also 1-0. I thought the okstate.com summary headline said it best. OSU isn’t long on conservative headlines but on Thursday it said “Cowboys control Central Michigan 24-13” which is the equivalent of saying “we sucked but we’re 1-0 and only have four road games left the rest of the season.”
Here are my 10 thoughts on OSU’s season-opening win on Thursday in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
1. I’m not disheartened by the win
OK, let’s all take a deep breath. On paper, a 24-13 win over Central Michigan doesn’t look great. Nobody is arguing that. But all of a sudden you have four road games left before opening weekend for college football and will get to the Texas game assured of a 3-0 record with Central Arkansas and UTSA at home in the next few weeks.
OSU’s defense was pretty average and its offense a little below it. Sure, it’s not the 30-point thrashing I was hoping for, but I have a couple of reasons I’m not that concerned.
The main one is that I’ve watched this team — I mean this very team, this QB, these receivers and a worse version of this defense — beat OU in Norman (never a joke) and win a bowl game. You can say, “well, those were almost a year ago” and you aren’t wrong. But the reality is they’ve been there before. They’ve done it in the heat of big moments.
We aren’t wishing upon some hypothetical like we have so many times in the past. You can let this game project what this team is going to be or you can take an ugly punch in the opener and say, “I know what this team is. It didn’t play to its potential in game one on Thursday, but I’d rather it happen then and not against TCU or Baylor or, even worse, at West Virginia.”
There are (several) kinks to be worked out, but this isn’t a “jump off the bandwagon and try to land on your feet while you still can” game, either.
2. Ugly mashup of 2014 and 2007
The most discouraging thing about this game was that it was like we took the worst parts of the 2014 team (bad offensive line and egregious run game) and mashed them up with the worst parts of those mid-2000s teams (allowing what seemed like every third and long to be picked up with ease and throwing bubble screens to our Playstation’s delight).
The defense was good but not dominant and the offense wasn’t even that good (outside of flashes from Carson and Rudolph) for most of the night. OSU with the sideline bubble screen is like the 6th-grade kid who just learned a new cuss word and uses it to the point that you’re like, “OK, we get it, we’re fully aware that you know what this is.” And this is despite the fact that we have like 29 receivers who can stretch the field! I’m not a football savant (my wife would argue that I don’t really excel intellectually in many areas), but this doesn’t seem like a super difficult concept. I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t get it.
As a bit of positivity, it seems like a good spot to mention that we have two running QBs, you guys.
3. J.W. Walsh is being used perfectly
I’m not normally a fan of the platoon QB play, but I thought OSU used it brilliantly on Thursday night. The problem is that if you never throw with Walsh, that’s not going to work for that long, but Walsh out of the diamond is absolute perfection. He ran it multiple times on Thursday and it worked to the tune of a TD and one other huge run.
I’m in on spot cameos from No. 4 as long as Gundy doesn’t get carried away with it.
4. OSU’s kicking game is not chill
Ben Grogan missed two of three and one of them was under 30 yards. Not ideal! For a team that has had such elite offenses in the last decade, Gundy is really big on executing on special teams. Grogan has to be better than that (and I believe he is). I’m choosing to believe he’s emptying the misses in the first quarter of the season.
Speaking of Grogan, does anyone else think he could be Mike Yurcich’s son??
5. Open field tackling, where is it?
I’m really hoping Ramon Richards isn’t the next Jacob Lacey/Marcell Ateman where I’m continually told about how good he’s going to be and it never materializes. No. 18 looked atrocious on Thursday and he played a lot as Kevin Peterson was held out to, apparently, a still-recovering knee.
And he wasn’t the only one. Pretty much everyone beyond the defensive line got caught trying to strip and punch the ball out while being dragged for a half dozen yards by Central Michigan’s 105-lb. receivers. That’s embarrassing against CMU. It will lose you games against TCU and Texas.
6. Marcell Ateman stepped up
Tonight’s performance from Ateman (4 rec. for 75 yards and a TD) was less about Ateman having a coming out party and more about what this receiving corps. is going to be all season. OSU had 11 players catch a pass on Thursday and that doesn’t feel like an anomaly. You’re going to have one guy stand out most games (Ateman, Sheperd and Washington are the leading candidates) and a lineup deeper than Gundy’s savings account.
While we’re here … despite the fact that he’s not likely to ever lead the Pokes in receptions, yards or TDs, I think David Glidden might be OSU’s most important receiver. Rudolph went to him late when he needed him (namely, on the drive after OSU went down 13-10) and Glidden rarely lets him down.
7. Defensive tackles were a bright spot
My dude, Darrion Daniels. He was all over the place on Thursday. In fact, Oklahoma State’s defensive tackles in general were one of the bright spots. Daniels, Eric Davis and Vincent Taylor all had moments in Mount Pleasant. Taylor and Daniels combined for three TFLs and 1.5 sacks.
— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) September 3, 2015
Daniels was especially encouraging. He’s built like [Googles highest mountains in Oklahoma] Sugar Loaf Mountain (can we call him that?) and was OSU’s most effective freshman (by far). It’s pretty clear that he’s going to be vital to Oklahoma State’s success this season (one of the minuscule preseason predictions I got correct).
8. Mason Rudolph is the truth
Let’s talk about No. 2 for a minute. He went 22/32 for 266 and a TD along with 5 rushes for 20 yards on the ground and a TD. That’s not great on paper. But the best thing about Rudolph for me is that I never doubted for a second that he would usher in the lead for good after CMU went up 13-10 in the third. Chris Carson for three yards, Rudolph to Glidden for 20, Rudolph to Seales for four, Rudolph to Glidden again for 26 (see above note on Glidden) and Rudolph runs it in for 21 yards. OSU wouldn’t trail again.
It was a fourth-year drive, not a fourth-game drive. Sure, he missed some throws and took some sacks and wasn’t as sharp as you would have liked, but I have full confidence that he’s going to complete the job that needs to be completed. It always feels like he’s in complete control. Chelf with a bigger arm and more talent. He checked down like a pro (something Daxx never did), made monster throws in tough spots and didn’t make a mistake.
This sounds weird after such a “meh” game, but I am all in.
9. Chris Carson isn’t a thrill, but he’s really good
No. 32 is deceiving. One look at him in that body with that uniform and that uniform and thoughts immediately rush to places they should not rush. The expectations on Carson are completely unfair, but he was terrific in the second half on Thursday night.
In the first 30 minutes, he looked mildly overwhelmed, but I’m not sure he was taken down on a single first hit in the entire second half. I thought David Ubben nailed it with Carson here.
Chris Carson looks as good as advertised by Gundy. I don't know how often he's going to wow you, but that's a solid 1K guy.
— David Ubben (@davidubben) September 3, 2015
10. In retrospect … let’s avoid #MACtion
This was not a great game for OSU in retrospect. On the road on a Thursday at a team that plays in a league which lives for upsetting Power Five squads.
“Coach (Mike) Holder and I had several discussions about what day to play,” Gundy said in the spring. “When we looked at all the options, at some point, it really didn’t matter to me. There is an advantage in maybe playing a couple days earlier and he wanted to play it on that Thursday night, for a variety of reasons. One, the market and coverage … I think it’s better for Central Michigan and Oklahoma State.”
Yeah, let’s not do that again. Either play a big boy like Florida State (please) or roll over and hire Baylor’s scheduler. There’s no advantage to scheduling teams like Central Michigan whatsoever.
Next game: Central Arkansas at home next week (this Central squad should be much less of a challenge).