MEMPHIS, Tenn. — I feel like I’ve typed this for 13 straight games, but I have no idea where to begin. I watched the entire thing, was on the field for the end of it, processed it all, read the box score … and I still have no clue what just happened.
Oklahoma State beat Missouri 38-33 in the 2018 AutoZone Liberty Bowl to top off a 7-6 season and put the perfect exclamation point on what has been maybe the most bizarre year of the entire 14-year Mike Gundy era. Corn threw for 336 yards, 4 TDs and 2 picks, Tyron did Tyron things, Chuba ran for 8.1 a pop and of course OSU’s wildly depleted defense put the clamps down on a potential top 10 pick in the NFL Draft with the whole thing on the line. Of course.
And as if that wasn’t enough, it appears that Mike Yurcich dropped the mic with another 500-yard showing (just the second 400-yard game Mizzou has given up this year).
We’ll get to all of that and more but first a deep breath … and a word from our sponsor all season, Thrive Landscape and Irrigation in Stillwater.
1. Why Did I Pick Mizzou?
Oklahoma State finished the season 3-5 as a favorite against unranked teams and 4-1 as the underdog against ranked teams. None of it makes sense. They lost to a bad Kansas State team and almost slayed the Heisman winner in his house. They got blown out by a Texas Tech team that missed a bowl and beat a Texas team that will play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. They beat the No. 1-ranked QB prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft and lost to this ⤵️.
This is an impossible stat line. I’m in awe pic.twitter.com/xXGdQIzADq
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) December 27, 2018
None of it makes sense, all of it is infuriating. It’s been this way the entire season, though. I’m not sure why I thought the last day of the year would go against it.
2. OSU Won Because of Corn (and Despite Him)
It was basically the full Corn Experience one final time. He made unbelievable throws and made unbelievably bad ones. Here’s an example of the former. This is a 55-yard dart off one foot while rolling out. 😳
When OSU got up 35-19 it seemed like Corn kind of forgot who he was a little bit and tried to make some hero throws that nearly gave Mizzou the game. The second one especially was him getting a couple universes outside his world. He was clearly searching for the dagger, and he nearly forced OSU to hand it to the other side of the field.
I thought early in the season that the biggest difference between Corndog and Mason Rudolph — among many differences — and also the biggest reason the OSU offense stalled at times this season was the deep ball. There’s no statistical evidence (that I could find) that shows how Corn fared on deep throws down the field (20 or 30 yards in the air), but Rudolph was one of the better QBs in CFB when it comes to this skill (Corn was great at slant routes, though).
But Corn got better with those throws as the year went on. The OU game, the West Virginia game and part of this game really stick out. When he could get that rolling (even a little bit) along with his sneaky wheels, he could ball. I have no idea what his legacy will be — I don’t know that 7-6 QBs even have legacies — but it was legit cool to see him enjoy a final W in the
orange and black all black.
3. Tyron 4Ever
We can argue about which player is the best, most efficient, most effective, strongest or least to prone to make mistakes. Or we can just all agree on which one is the most delightful. Tyron’s possibly unnecessary one-handed catch while falling backward into the end zone followed by a ludicrous TD celebration (mirrored by Chuba from across the field) capped a year of festivities from No. 13.
His 141 yards were a career high, his two TDs were back breakers for Missouri and his post-catch celebrations were un-chartable. Now three of the four most productive games of his career have come against OU, OU and Mizzou in a bowl game.
We were handed Player of the Game ballots at halftime, and I inked his name before the third quarter was over. Can’t wait for 2019.
4. Rush Defense
Oklahoma State overcame a poor rush defense and reversed a trend of losing games in which it gave up 4.5 or more yards on the ground throughout the year. Coming into Memphis the Cowboys were 0-5 when giving up more than 4.5 and 6-1 when giving up less than 4.5. They gave up 6.3 per rush to Missouri but won because of special teams, a turnover and a big stop late (you know, the stuff we’ve been discussing all season).
OSU came into this game just 1-8 under Gundy when giving up 8.0 yards per play or more. They’re now 2-8.
5. All the Depletion
It’s getting a little bit buried because OSU isn’t good enough for it to be a big deal, but how about all the starters missing for the Pokes in this game? This crystallized when OSU rolled out Dru and LD Brown, Britton Abbott and Sione Finefeuiaki in the same backfield (!) in the second quarter on Monday, but it’s actually a lot deeper (and a lot more debilitating) than that.
Players who started the opener who are out or not expected to start today for #OKState:
— Mark Cooper (@mark_cooperjr) December 31, 2018
Toss Rodarius Williams (who was tossed), Malcolm Rodriguez (who got hurt), Kemah Siverand (who also got tossed) in that group, and you’re playing with a lot of the wrong side of the two deep at a time of the year when it hurst the most.
Gundy joked that if another player in the secondary went out that he wasn’t sure who would go in. OSU was about to be facing the No. 8 pick in the NFL Draft with Gabe Lemons on one side and JayVeon Cardwell on the other!
All that to say, that last stop was impressive. A true freshman running down Lock from behind to seal it.
Which leads me to …
6. Secondary Could be Really Good
The upside of Rodarius getting ejected from an exhibition game is more playing time for Tanner McCalister. Between McCalister (Fr.), Kolby Peel (Fr.), Jarrick Bernard (Fr.), Malcolm Rodriguez (So.) and Tre Sterling (R-Fr.) to go along with A.J. Green (Jr.), Rodarius (So.) and Kemah Siverand (R-Jr.) — all of whom played on Monday — OSU’s secondary could be tasty next year (we won’t talk about the defensive line until, oh, maybe August or September).
Regardless, there’s a clear movement toward collecting a ton of secondary pieces to try and be competitive in a Big 12 only bent on more offense. Gundy has talked about it, he’s hired around it and he’s recruited toward it. Is it working? Well, it didn’t overall this season, but I do like some of the guys who got playing time on Monday and throughout the year. I would also like it if they could create more than 13 turnovers next season.
SEC Chuba Speed
Chuba touched the ball 21 times for 182 yards on Monday against a top 25 rush defense. Mizzou gives up about 3.6 a pop on the year, and Chuba hit ’em for 8. Here’s the thing about Chuba (and I was nearly booted out of our borderline Canadians-only Slack for saying this): I feel like he’s overrated as a runner but underrated as a back.
He hasn’t lived up to the speed I was told he had, but the flip side of that is that I’ve seen enough to truly believe OSU isn’t taking much of a step down from Justice in 2019. Two players put up 140+ on the ground in a game against Mizzou this year. Ke’Shawn Vaughn of Vanderbilt … and Chuba.
8. Senior Feels
It gets me every year. We all remember our last ___________. For all of us it came at different times. We’ve all been a part of something, though, that clicked. Something that resonated. Something that was bigger than us. Some of us still are. On Monday it was a senior on the losing team — OL Paul Adams — who said it perfectly.
“I think one fo the reasons why (I was so emotional) is not because we lost, as heartbreaking as that is, but I look over and I see guys I’ve been here with four or five years, and I see that clock hit triple zero and I realize that I’m never going to be in a Mizzou jersey with them ever again. It’s crazy because the things we do behind closed doors, all the work that is put in for this right here … and to not have the end result you wanted …”
I don’t know if it comes across in print, but in person it was eloquent and spectacular.
9. Insane Second Halves
In the last two second halves of OSU-Mizzou games, the teams have combined for 89 points. That was 48 in the 2014 Cotton Bowl (2013) season and 41 on Monday in Memphis. Lunacy. A reporter who covers Mizzou asked Mike Gundy in the presser if this is how all Big 12 games are, and Gundy told him that this one was pretty common. Heart medication not included.
OSU’s headsets didn’t work on Monday. Gundy said he was informed about 10 minutes before the game so he and Mizzou coach Barry Odom settled on a “gentlemen’s agreement” that neither side would use their headsets (Mizzou’s were working). That meant Yurcich was on the field, and OSU had a couple of guys atop the stadium with a telephone. Seriously.
All of it was perfect. A circus of a year culminating in a circus of a game with Gundy playing the part of a mulleted Houdini for his 13th straight winning season. He’s crazy — possibly like a fox — and a bittersweet year ends on New Year’s Eve with a toast.
To the future and The Franchise. To Tyron and Tylan. To possibly playing 10 DBs on the field at the same time in 2019. To a tailback in 30 who *whispers softly and possibly indecipherably* might be as good as the one before him.
I was surprised at the emotion that flowed on the field on Monday evening. Equal parts expectation and jubilation. It looked like a team proud of its 10-3 year and NY6 bowl win, not a team that lost to TCU and could have been 5-7 about 15 different ways.
I’m not sure what to make of that. I trust Gundy until I don’t, I guess, and while this year and his recent recruiting haven’t engendered the kind of enthusiasm I would want from this program, they just keep escaping. A sleight of hand here, a 4-star QB there. A rabbit in a hat here, a correction to the mean in turnovers there.
All of a sudden … poof.
Before you know it they’re sniffing 10 wins again and Gundy’s unhinged traveling sideshow is sold out because the main event is something worth beholding.
On to 2019.