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10 Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 27-15 Victory against Arizona State

On quarterbacks, opening up the defense and more.



[Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics]


TEMPE, Arizona — Week 2 was just as weird as Week 1, but the Cowboys are 2-0 nonetheless.

Oklahoma State beat Arizona State 27-15 on Saturday at Mountain America Stadium. Here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys’ win.

1. The Quarterback Situation Is Still Weird

It’s just odd.

The four series divide continued in the desert but in a different order. After going Garret Rangel-Alan Bowman-Gunnar Gundy in Week 1, OSU went Bowman-Gundy-Rangel in Week 2. (A betting man would probably lean Gundy-Rangel-Bowman next week against South Alabama.)

But it still felt odd when after three punts Bowman led a touchdown drive just to hit the pine for the rest of the evening. Meanwhile it looked as if Rangel had sat for about six quarters (including last week) when he entered in the fourth and promptly went three-and-out while OSU was holding onto a 2-point lead.

On the whole, the group combined to go 22-for-32 (69%), 191 passing yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. Here is how it broke down:

Bowman: 11-for-16 (69%), 113 passing yards, 7 points
Gundy: 5-for-7 (71%), 32 passing yards, one passing touchdown, 10 points
Rangel: 6-for-9 (67%), 46 passing yards, one passing touchdown, 10 points

So now with two games of evidence, here is what we have:

Bowman: 24-for-40 (60%), 193 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions
Gundy: 12-for-16 (75%), 138 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions
Rangel: 16-for-24 (67%), 164 yards, two touchdowns, one interception

I don’t know that the Cowboys are any closer to knowing a starter. Bowman had the least impressive day against Central Arkansas, but was probably the most impressive against Arizona State. With that being said, he has led OSU to 13 points in his drives, the lowest among the three.

I still don’t think this is the optimal way to college football and think that if OSU continues this much longer it is surely to bite the Cowboys, but through two games it has worked well enough for two wins.

2. Feed Ollie Gordon

For the second straight week, Ollie Gordon had two carries in the first half.

In that first half, OSU ran for zero (zilch, 0, nada) yards on 12 carries. For the mathematically deficient, that’s zero yards per carry.

Then in the first drive out of the second half, Gordon ran for 47 yards on four carries. Then he didn’t play the next series. In fact, his next carry didn’t come until there was about six minutes left in the game.

In fairness, Jaden Nixon and Elijah Collins also looked a lot better in the second half. Nixon finished with 43 yards, including a 34-yard carry that saw him make a few defenders miss in space and broke out a Walter Payton-esque high step; Collins had 30 yards, many of which were toughed out.

But Gordon going from two first-half carries to a 47-yard series to not having another carry for more than a quarter is perhaps the most maddening thing of all of this rotation considering OSU’s struggles moving the ball on the ground.

3. Is OSU Overcorrecting after Last Season’s Portal Exodus?

This is a take I’m not 100% on (hence the question mark), but OSU is rotating a lot of people. Maybe too many people.

The most glaring example of rotations is at quarterback, but it’s happening all over the field — except along the offensive line.

Gordon ran for 47 yards in OSU’s first series out of halftime. Then he didn’t play the next series. Korie Black blew a bubble route up in the backfield in the third quarter. Then he went to the sideline. There were times when the defensive line was filled with young, inexperienced players in a tight ballgame.

Wide receivers, running backs, linebackers, defensive linemen, corners — they’re all in and out. With the portal there, I understand the reasoning of wanting to give players chances to play, but the past two weeks have felt like the Cowboys are playing with fire and are lucky to have not gotten burned.

4. Field Positioning Matters

Say what you will about how Gundy has handled the quarterback battle and all the rotation elsewhere, but Gundy took new head coach Kenny Dillingham to the woodshed by taking advantage of his over-aggression on fourth-down calls.

Oklahoma State started in Arizona State territory four times Saturday — two of which came after failed fourth-down attempts. The Sun Devils were 1-for-5 on fourth down with two of those misses resulting in 14 OSU points.

When we’re all questioning when Gundy punts later this year on a fourth-and-short near midfield, let’s remember this day.

5. Defense Opens It Up a Little, Locks Down Sun Devils in Second Half

The Cowboys essentially stayed in their base defense for the entire Central Arkansas game, which made it hard to make any sweeping conclusions about how Bryan Nardo’s defense would look in Stillwater. But things got opened up a bit Saturday.

The Cowboys mixed three-down and four-down fronts. Nathan Latu, Collin Clay and Kody Walterscheid started along the D-line again, but in passing situations, the Cowboys would often move Collin Oliver back to the edge and go with a group of Oliver, Latu, Anthony Goodlow and DeSean Brown.

It gave a glimpse of how fun and flexible the defense can be. The Sun Devils started hot, scoring all 15 of their points in the first 20 minutes of the game. Tackling was still an issue early, but as things went on, the Cowboys tightened up and shut things down.

“You don’t want to show everything that first game — show teams what you’re about that first game,” Oliver said. “This was honestly scratching the surface of what we really have, which is crazy in my opinion. We barely did anything today, and it didn’t look like it. That’ll tell you everything you need to know right there. It just blows my mind. We did so much little stuff today. No big scheme changes, none of that. Just simple adjustments to what these guys do, and we went out there and balled. I’m so excited for what we got in store.”

6. Collin Oliver Unleashed

I didn’t notice Oliver much in his first game as a college linebacker last week. It wasn’t that he played poorly; he finished with three tackles. But I just didn’t notice him like I noticed the tough-to-block defensive end of previous seasons.

Well, with the playbook opening up Saturday, it was hard to not notice Oliver. He finished with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup. And when Arizona State needed to air it out late, Oliver was able to return to the edge, pin his ears back and go.

I was a little worried after Week 1 that the move to linebacker wasn’t going to work out, but after watching him chase Jaden Rashada from Tempe to Scottsdale, I feel a lot better about it.

“It’s a lot of fun being able to pin my ears back and go at these guys,” Oliver said. “I missed about four sacks today, but stats are neither here nor there. We got the win and that’s what matters.”

7. Stribling Continues to Look Like the Real Deal

Stribling had a good, but limited OSU debut against Central Arkansas. He got a healthier dose of targets in the desert and appears to be a dude no matter who is throwing him the ball.

On 10 targets, Stribling had seven catches for 65 yards and his first touchdown in an OSU uniform.

Being a transfer from Washington State, Stribling has garnered a lot of Tay Martin comparisons, but to me he is more like a Tylan Wallace-type. Martin was more slight of frame but made up for it with good footwork to get separation. At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Stribling is bigger than Wallace, but if you watched Wallace’s college career, you know he played much bigger than he was.

8. Arizona State is a Fun Addition, but the Crowd Needs a Little Work

Here was my view from the press box as Arizona State was set to run out of the tunnel:

That’s a lot of empty seats and many of the filled ones have orange on them. In fairness, it filled out a little more from there, and the student section in the end zone was almost entirely full. But then most of those students left at halftime in a game the Sun Devils were winning.

It’s a rebuild in Tempe, so I get it to an extent. But there wasn’t a ton of tailgating or general excitement on the way into the stadium (could be because it was 111 degrees).

But the campus and area are beautiful. It’s a lovely stadium and so long as the Sun Devils can get things on the right track, they look to be an outstanding addition to the league.

9. Alex Hale Hits from 52

This gets pushed down the list because he ended up missing from 49 later in the game, but OSU appears to be good at kicker — again.

Without a special teams coordinator, it feels sort of remarkable that OSU has had such a good run of kickers. The past three of Matt Ammendola, Tanner Brown and now Alex Hale all feel about as solid as college kickers can.

Through two games this season, Hale is 4-for-5, with one of those being his now career-high 52-yard make.

10. The Big 12 Might Stink

After another yikes of a day, the Big 12 is a combined 20-8.

The league went 10-4 in Week 2. Some of the losses were respectable — like Baylor falling to No. 12 Utah. And some were more questionable — like Houston losing to Rice.

After preaching parity all offseason, the league could end up being top heavy — like the Big Ten. The issue with the Big 12 being top heavy is that the heavy top might end up being Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Two of those schools are leaving after this year.

Texas Tech and Baylor being a combined 0-4 is probably the most disappointing part of the league right now, but many of the league’s games have been closer than anticipated through two weeks.

But give me all the Colorado hype as it prepares to make the jump next season.

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