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10 Thoughts on Oklahoma State-Kansas State

Mason Rudolph is the Truth and the Ice Pirate is cold-blooded.

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This is every OSU-Kansas State game in Stillwater and will be until Mike Gundy and/or Bill Snyder retire, I presume. Every year you think, “well we definitely know what’s going to happen this year because Kansas State has no offense and OSU can’t run it and …” yeah, we never have any idea.

This time around it was a 5th-string JUCO walk-on WR-turned QB for KSU who torched the Cowboys in the first half and gave the Cats a 28-20 lead going into the break. Then it was a kicker who can’t make an extra point but calmly sinks 40-yard game-winning FGs like they’re layups when the gym is empty.

We have much to discuss.

1. Second half defense

Glenn Spencer ate a graduate assistant at halftime, yes? There’s no other explanation to Oklahoma State holding Kansas State to 121 yards in the second half (one in the third quarter) with 72 of them coming on a single play.

Gundy mentioned it after the game, but those halftime adjustments were what won OSU the game. Mason Rudolph was great, Ben Grogan was money (sort of) and the crowd was immense, but without Spencer infusing his D with whatever Bill Snyder uses to perform his wizardry, Oklahoma State is 4-1 instead of 5-0.

They followed up their 7-sack week against Texas with six more on Saturday led by Emmanuel Ogbah’s two and a half TFLs, two QB hurries and one sack. It should also be mentioned that a backup LB (Chad Whitener) had nine tackles, three TFLs and two sacks (including the funniest one I’ve seen in a while).

2. OSU abandoned the run … and it worked

Give Mike & Mike credit — by the way, do we need to talk now or later about who was calling plays given that Gundy talked into his headset more than a Stillwater Whataburger drive-thru waiter at 2:15 a.m.? — they basically said “we are not going to run the ball and our QB is so good, it doesn’t matter.”

It took them losing their first two RBs to be forced into it so don’t give them too much credit, but give them a little bit. OSU ran it 27 times for 49 yards which is the equivalent of running it just so you’re making sure Rudolph’s arm doesn’t get too tired.

They ran more reverses, it felt like, than they did between the tackles. Six different players ran it. None of them well.

The crazy, beautiful thing about all of this is that this is probably as good as OSU’s offense has looked all season (outside of the first quarter at Texas when they also didn’t run it).

I’m not saying you should never run it — you aren’t going to be very good if you never run it — but when you have a QB you can lean on and monsters at wide receiver (who were finally used, gasp, appropriately!) then it’s OK to go a little pass heavy when it’s not there on the ground.

Plus, Rudolph showed a clear ability to hit Austin Hays and Co. in the flats which was effectively used as a run and it worked just as well.

Maybe Mike & Mike read PFB. Who knows.

3. Penalties should have lost game for OSU

The ones in the first half were obvious, but the real killer should have come right before the 72-yard toss from Joe Huebner to Charles Jones. Kansas State was pinned inside its own 10 right after an OSU score and begging to be put away.

Then Michael Hunter was flagged for defensive holding (it was) and Snyder did his normal Saturday Houdini thing. Combine that with another loss in the turnover battle and suddenly it looked as if OSU would lose a game in which both teams scored five touchdowns (think about that for a second).

But then…

4. Mason Rudolph, still the truth, guys

Two quarterbacks in OSU history have had multiple 400-yard passing games. Brandon Weeden has seven. Mason Rudolph now has two … eight games into his college career.

Mike & Mike handed him the keys and he put it into 5th gear early and often at BPS on Saturday. Final line: 34/55 for 437 yards, 3 TDs and a pick (a flukey pick, at that).

He threw outs, he threw into the flats, he threw fades to his freaks, he threw flea flickers and he threw over the middle like a QB with nothing to lose (which he most definitely was not after last week in Austin).

The 4th and 8 ball to Ateman with 150 seconds left in the game was a ball I would have thrown about 19 feet short, but he stepped into it and tossed it before Ateman was even open. Big ones on this kid.

Gundy finally (sort of) gave him some credit.

And he did it all with a below average offensive line (we’ll get to that) and with Kansas State pretty much knowing what he was going to do every time. Remember when there were “wait, maybe J.W. should start” rumblings seven days ago? Never again.

5. We need to talk about Kody Cook

He was like 2008 Sam Bradford reincarnate in the first half. I mean, what was that? Dimes on deep slants, correctly reading every run play and absolutely zero mistakes. Then pretty much the exact opposite in the second half. It’s almost like he realized in the locker room, “holy crap, I’m the 5th string QB playing in a conference game on the road where the teams are a combined 7-0 … what am I doing?!” (this is exactly what all of us were thinking).

Also, this is probably true.

While we’re here — Kansas State’s offense operates like pretty much every offense in the country should operate. They never get in a hurry, rarely turn the ball and are so patient with the run game you could go run to your kitchen, make a sandwich, eat the sandwich and grab a beer between the time the ball is snapped and their runners pick a lane (in which an 18-wheeler could be driven) to run through.

It’s really remarkable. And all with 50 former walk-ons and 50 one and two-star players.

Bill Snyder really might be a spirit.

6. All the receivers

Nine Cowboy receivers split up 35 Mason Rudolph passes and gained 437 yards. The most impressive thing to me is that every single guys has a specific trait that he’s the best on the team at.

You know how in video games sometimes you get digital attributes — one guy will get a picture of a pair of hands, one will get a brain and one will get a cutout of Vince Carter jumping over Fred Weis. Every OSU receiver has a different one.

And Rudolph uses them all perfectly.

Contrary to something I wrote early in the year, David Glidden has sort of become the closer in the fourth quarter. Rudolph goes to him until he can’t go to him anymore, then he goes to somebody else. Washington is his four verts weapon, Hays his safety net and Ateman his “I HAVE to get nine yards for a first down right here” guy. And we haven’t even gotten to 4X hands Sheper or Jhajuan Seales.

It’s quite a group. And I hope they’re utilized this much over the next eight games.

7. The Ice Pirate is cold

Hey, we might not be able to kick extra points, but those game-winners are straight cash, homie. The Ice Pirate buried another game-winner from deeper than I’m comfortable with my kicker being 59+ minutes into a game.

On the extra point: I’m not totally sure that was Grogan’s fault. KSU came right up the middle and pushed OSU’s line over like they were tipping cows. Grogan basically has to kick the ball out of a silo when that happens to make the extra point.

Still, he’s missed three extra points in the last three weeks, and this one almost cost OSU a game it should have at the very least gone to overtime on. Quinn Sharp and Dan Bailey missed three combined over the course of their entire careers.

My buddy Matt Amilian texted me after the game and said, “is there a number of game winning field goals Grogan could make to get you to trust him?” I don’t think there is, but I’ll take two straight.

8. You can’t hide a bad OL

Saturday was smoke and mirrors and a lot of Jalen McCleskey reverses, but that’s not going to play when Baylor and TCU come to town. Heck, it’s not going to play next week in Morgantown.

OSU made a subtle change in the second half on the line. I’m not sure if it showed, partly because I’m not specifically sure when it was made. And 1.8 yards per carry is 1.8 yards per carry.

You can be better on offense by abandoning the run (like we discussed), but you can’t win the Big 12. OSU’s chances at the top of the league essentially hinge on whether or not this can be solved (or patched up better than the Apollo 13) over the next two months.

9. OSU has proven it can win a variety of ways

Mike Gundy still prefers to engage teams in slugfests, but if you want to have a (homeless man’s) shootout, then OSU has proven it can win a shootout. You’re bringing an AK-47 (Rudolph) to a knife fight (Cook), but they don’t show Vegas lines in the win/loss columns.

Momentum is a real thing in college football and this squad is growing up faster than its actual schedule would have you believe. Folks will say “you beat a crappy Texas team and a 5th string QB for Kansas State” which is absolutely true.

It’s also true that parity rules college football this season. Is OSU the worst 5-0 team in the country? It probably is. But there are only ~15 of them in existence. I’d much rather be trying to figure out how in the world we’re 5-0 than be sitting at 3-2 and wondering if we can get to eight wins.

Plus …

10. That’s seven straight

And two straight I could be talked into us not deserving to win.

Here’s the thing, though. You can count on one hand the number of O-State teams in my lifetime that have a defense good enough to crawl back from a had-won-49-straight-when-leading-at-half Snyder squad and an offense that was willful enough to get up off the mat over and over.

I’m not saying this isn’t a flawed football team. It is. It is very, very flawed. But like most imperfect things, it’s incredibly calloused and can be overwhelmingly likable. It’s also 5-0 and tied for first place in the Big 12 for yet another week.

On to West Virginia.

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