Are we having fun yet?
Oklahoma State flipped the 2011 script almost exactly on its head and did to Iowa State what Iowa State did to it during the final sweet days of Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon four years ago. Don’t believe me? How about this stat?
— Kevin Klintworth (@KKlintworth) November 15, 2015
Oklahoma State opened the game on Saturday in Ames with an atrocious defensive attack and a plodding, grinding offense that it really needed to be explosive. Then it did what this Oklahoma State team seems to do every single week and closed like its season depended on it (which it did).
The Cowboys allowed just seven second-half points and got some big boy drives from Mason Rudolph and Co. capped by a couple of J.W. Walsh rushing TDs that made me want to run a few laps around the DFW metroplex. Mike Gundy went full Donald Trump at the end with two minutes left and gave Iowa State a last gasp effort, but the curse of 2011 was officially buried with a Jordan Sterns pick as the clock wound down on OSU’s 12th straight win.
What a night. What a team. What a season. Here are my 10 thoughts.
1. This team is relentlessly good
I believe it was Evan Epstein who tweeted that Mike Gundy-coached teams never quit earlier this season. This game epitomized it. They had chance after chance to throw in the towel against an ISU squad that was clearly having its once-every-three-seasons performance, and they never did. One of the main reasons is this dude (more on him in a little bit).
They just keep coming at you. They don’t play 54 minutes or 58 minutes or even 59 minutes. If you want to beat this year’s Oklahoma State team, you’re going to have to go lights out for all 60 until they have no pulse. Otherwise, they’ll bury you at the very end.
2. Marcell Ateman, the dude
Oklahoma State probably isn’t even in that game if it’s not for Ateman’s show in the first half. Rudolph went into “welp, guess I’m just throwing it up to No. 3 because nobody else is doing anything” mode early, and it worked. Ateman had eight catches for 132 yards and surpassed his previous best game of 130 yards against Texas Tech last season. He was straight man on a day OSU needed one on the offensive side.
3. New week, same story on defense
Iowa State’s first half: 32 plays for 307 yards
Iowa State’s second half: 28 plays for 104 yards
It’s pretty much the same thing every week. My question is why OSU has to wait until halftime to turn the thing on defensively. If Glenn Spencer is that good coming out of the locker room, he should be a consultant for the Patriots next season instead of coaching kids for $400K a year.
Also, it really felt like you could tell which team defended 110 plays last weekend against TCU. OSU was slower than Jermaine Gresham at a Scrabble competition in the first half on defense. The offense hung around, though, and Spencer cast his spell in the locker room for the 10th straight week. We might need to check his blood to see if there’s any Bill Snyder in there.
Also, what was Iowa State doing on its second-to-last drive? Throwing at Kevin Peterson on third and one after you’d basically just run it down OSU’s throat all game? That’s Mike Yurcich 2014 stuff!
4. J.W. Walsh has found his life’s calling
It’s pretty well-documented that I haven’t always loved J.W. Walsh. I thought he was a pretty mediocre starting QB and, although a great leader, not necessarily who you wanted steering the ship with all the chips down. I still think that, but boy has he found his life’s calling. I’m not saying OSU wouldn’t have won that game if he wasn’t involved, but it certainly would have been a lot dicier.
If you were to tell me all 85 guys plus the coaches just jumped on his back and he ran them back to Stillwater from Ames after the game, I would believe you. Mason Rudolph handed him the opportunity and he violently slammed the door on 2011 and all the emotions and memories that flowed.
He also had the sweetest moment of the game. When he went “shhhhhhhh” late, you knew it was only a matter of time. Long live The General.
The game tonight was pretty much the exact opposite of 2011. Brutal start, close like a boss. Shhhh! pic.twitter.com/st1lNAdv0Y
— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguys) November 15, 2015
5. Wait, was that a run game?
The stats will tell you that was OSU’s seventh-best rushing performance of the season from a yards per carry standpoint. That seems pretty low for how many times Mike & Mike fed its trio of backs (plus the QBs). Perhaps the stats got a little bogged down by those late-game victory formation kneel-downs, but the most telling thing was that OSU went to the run in some of its biggest moments of the game.
Case in point right here on 3rd and six late with OSU still trailing by 10. OSU desperately needed a first down and Mike & Mike went to their backup RB with the season pretty much hanging in the balance. The entire run game certainly had a different feel in this outing than it has over the rest of the Big 12 schedule. I presume that was by design, although the way this year is going, I’m not sure it’s wise to presume anything is “by design.”
6. Emmanuel Ogbah’s second half
There are worse players to turn the second half of games over to than Emmanuel Ogbah (like all of them). It seemed like OSU *finally* went away from the all-out blitz late in the third quarter (and into the fourth) and let Ogbah do what Ogbah does. He was immense all day and with a pair of sacks became the active NCAA leader in them.
Gundy said he screwed up with two minutes left by going into the victory formation while ISU still had three timeouts. He’s probably not wrong about that, but when you see how Zach Sinor has punted lately and think, “we can either try for a first down here and potentially turn it over or give ISU the ball inside its own 20 with a minute left and no timeouts and possibly the greatest defensive player we’ve ever had leading the charge,” I’m actually OK with the latter choice.
7. Mason Rudolph let ’em hang
The stay-at-home mom gets forgotten about with Walsh doing WWII stuff and Glenn Spencer leading the cavalry through the Iowa corn fields. That’s unfortunate because he put up another stellar performance going 24/36 for 327 yards and a touchdown and slid into the third slot for most prolific seasons by a QB in Oklahoma State history (Brandon Weeden has the top two).
Oklahoma State was 12/18 on third and fourth downs and Rudolph’s arm is a big reason why. He threw some grown man passes late on the road in a November game with the whole deal on the line. This season has aged him three years and I mean that in a good way.
He’s now 12-1 as the starter. That seems good. So does this.
Mason Rudolph has beaten every Big12 team except Baylor. He has a chance next week at Boone Pickens Stadium. (8-1 in conf games since '14)
— Southwell (@JustinSouthwell) November 15, 2015
8. Road game heart attacks
Mike Gundy said after the game in his on-field interview that winning road games is always tough. He’s right. OSU will get dinged by the CFP committee because it didn’t house a team it was favored over by two touchdowns. Consider this, though. In three of its four Big 12 road games, OSU has either trailed or been tied with under three minutes left in the game. It won them all.
That’s special and it goes back to OSU being relentlessly good and led by No. 4. This team just doesn’t get rattled and you (the CFP committee) can keep seeing that as a negative, but going undefeated on the road in a Power 5 conference is no joke. I thought Walsh summed it up best.
#okstate J.W. Walsh after being reminded that OSU trailed for 52 of the 60 minutes played: “That’s crazy. Our team is unbelievable."
— Bill Haisten ?? (@billhaisten) November 15, 2015
9. The 2011 curse has been shed
It’s finally over. There will always be a part of my fandom that will have ended with that 2011 Friday night in Ames, but on the whole, you can take that freaking cardboard sign upon which an Iowa State fan wrote “remember 2011” and ESPN felt compelled to show every other play and toss it in a bonfire.
That 2011 team was special in a way that no other OSU team has ever been special. It had clout. It had an attitude. It had more swagger than the previous 109 teams that played before it in OSU’s history combined. It knew it was going to win games.
I’m not sure this team knows it’s going to win games as much as it simply believes that if it plays all 60 minutes as hard as it can, it is going to be a hell of a thing to overcome. Two separate friends have suggested that this year’s team is like one of those classic Eddie Sutton overachieving squads that you’re not sure if you totally trust but is an absolute blast to watch. They exude overachievement. Who doesn’t love that?
2011 was performance art at the highest level. 2015 is like watching somebody walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. It’s not always very fun, but after it’s over, you’re glad it happened (you think).
10. All the breaks? All the breaks
All of them. Off the top of my head: The ISU TD in the first half that got overturned, the Marcell Ateman pass interference that wasn’t called (but could have been), multiple spots on third and fourth downs and the greatest false start in school history. In a vacuum, each break doesn’t feel like that big of a deal (other than the false start), but when you add them all up and look at what’s happened the rest of the season (the Texas game, the schedule etc.), everything is bending the Pokes’ direction.
It’s a pretty strange feeling, to be honest.
11. Two more to perfection
Can you imagine telling late-October 2014 you that OSU would be two games from perfection in the middle of November 2015? Heck, can you imagine telling late September 2015 you that OSU would be two games from perfection in the middle of November 2015? The road weariness is put away for good in 2015 and OSU now has Baylor and OU for its first 12-0 season in school history. Both in Boone’s house. Both will be monumental affairs.
I cannot wait.