Can I explain how Oklahoma State nearly scored more points in the first half of a game against maybe the best defense in the Big 12 than it did in two entire combined games against defenses in Kansas State and Texas Tech that are decidedly not as good as Texas’? No I cannot.
Can I explain how Tylan Wallace, in the first half, became just the 10th receiver since 2005 to put up 160+ yards in a game against Texas and in the second half became just the third player this century to surpass 200 against the Horns? No I cannot.
Can I explain how Oklahoma State, for the first time since 2015, took down a top-ranked team at home, two weeks after looking like they needed to erect the bumpers at the bowling alley in Manhattan?
No, no I cannot do any of that.
All I know is that Boone Pickens Stadium had an irrational pregame buzz in the air that I presumed would fade with OSU’s postseason hopes on national television on Saturday. Instead? The opposite happened, and OSU narrowly beat the Horns and set their year back onto level ground with a possible season (and trajectory?) changing performance in Stillwater.
We’re going to jump into the thoughts (all of them), but first, a big thanks to our sponsor Thrive.
1. Putting Players in Position
We could talk about a million different things from tonight’s game, but one big thing that seemingly changed — and who knows how much of this is perception and how much is reality — is that Mike Yurcich and Co. put their players in position to succeed. The most obvious recipient was obviously Taylor Cornelius, but he wasn’t the only one.
You and I (and literally everyone who watches OSU games) have been calling for The Fastest Man in Canada to run outside the tackles ever since that first kick against Missouri State, and OSU did more of that on Saturday against Texas. Plays like this one.
Some of what we see is OSU’s players simply performing better than they have been and Texas’ not performing as well, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that, at least offensively, this was one of the better string-pulling performances of the season (and maybe the last few).
2. Corndog Was ?
Of course a week after I rode the Spencer Sanders train so hard there are no more tracks left for it to travel on and 30 minutes after I said on live television that Dru Brown would play in a real football game on Saturday night, Corndaddy submitted probably his best performance of the season.
Part of his 23/34 for 321 yards and 5 total TDs line was undoubtedly because 1. He was either put in a better position to make the throws he can actually make or 2. He simply chose to make those throws. Whatever the case he was terrific.
Nobody is under the illusion that Corn is going to come out and go full Sammy Bradford with 25-yard outs from the opposite hash, but he was everything Gundy has been raving about and more against UT. I thought it was a very Clint Chelfian showing, and I mean that in the best way possible. Chelf never bowled you over with arm strength or flair, he simply strung together five good plays and then 15 good plays and then 25 good plays in a row. That’s what Corn did on Saturday.
Even better than his throwing, though, was the way he put the game away with his legs. With OSU on UT’s 16 and desperately searching its knapsack for the dagger, Cornelius provided 25 yards of rushing offense (following a botched toss play from the 1-yard-line to Chuba) and a clincher in the corner of the west end zone.
He even got a little fired up when he scored the winner. Yeah, get fired up Corn! You just downed No. 6 Texas with Fowler and Herb in the house and the season hanging in the balance!
Then they put the entire night in his hands, and he iced it on third down with a minute left and Texas desperate for one more possession. Gundy joked after the game that he’d seen some chatter on Twitter about how those of us watching games think Corn should be running more and he took notice.
Even if this season hasn’t gone as many of us would have preferred, no matter what happens from here on out, Corn gets to walk away with an all-timer under his belt. One to tell the grandkids about someday (with that hairline, it may be sooner rather than later).
3. What is the Energy Source?
I don’t know whether to be excited about how juiced up Oklahoma State was on Saturday night or frustrated that they can’t seem to summon that against the Iowa States and Kansas States of the world.
I think it actually says something meaningful that OSU is now 2-2 against unranked teams at home and 2-0 against ranked ones this year. Is that coaching? Is it program complacency? Is it a lack of preparation?
Gundy pointed to the crowd and the fact that OSU scored 17 points on their first three drives and got everything going downhill early. I would agree, but games like this make you ? games like we’ve seen so far this year. I get it — college kids gonna college kids — but it still begs a lot of questions.
4. All the throwbacks
Some throwback notes. First, the uniforms were transcendent! Somewhat humorously they looked very 2000-2005ish from the press box. But on the field? I mean this is unfair!
— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) October 27, 2018
Second, we almost got a throwback to every Texas-OSU game when I was in college. Do you member being on the wrong end of a 38-35 OSU-Texas game in Stillwater a decade ago? I member.
It really would be a throwback if #okstate loses a big lead against Texas.
— Carson Cunningham (@KOCOCarson) October 28, 2018
#okstate In eight of the last 15 Texas-OSU games (including tonight), the Cowboys had a lead of at least 17 points. OSU has prevailed in four consecutive such games.
— Bill Haisten ?? (@billhaisten) October 28, 2018
Had Texas touched off the comeback — and boy did Sam Ehlinger seem to think they were going to touch off the comeback — it would have been in their top six all time with four (!!!) of those coming against Oklahoma State.
Sam Ehlinger mouthing what appears to be “we’re winning” as we head to the fourth quarter. pic.twitter.com/NaMJmW14ji
— Kyle Boone (@PFBoone) October 28, 2018
Thankfully Corndog turned into Corndozer late and put away Tom Herman (unfortunately not in a straitjacket) and his squad just when things started getting tense. Here’s a look, by the way at Texas’ biggest comebacks ever (if you can stomach it).
5. Homecoming Crowd ROCKED
As I sat in the press box before the game, OSU and Texas sat in the respective locker rooms. The runway between when OSU started its pregame playlist and when the teams hit the field was longer than expected. I think they may have actually restarted the playlist.
But in the interim, BPS was thumping. I made a mental note, There’s no way this can continue at this level all night. I was wrong. It did. Very few people left even though that, uh, often happens at Homecoming game, and a chippy second half only ignited a crowd bent on blood.
It was every bit the crowd Bedlam 2017 was, and that may have been the best crowd I’ve ever seen at BPS. I was blown away. For a 4-3 team coming off a stinker against KSU!
It’s Saturday night in Stillwater! Time to light it up ? pic.twitter.com/tP0IYsNA8v
— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) October 28, 2018
WHAT A NIGHT ‼️‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/joL63XpSSJ
— Boone Pickens State (@BP_State) October 28, 2018
While we’re here, can somebody explain to me how OSU’s three home Big 12 wins in the last two years are over two 1-11 teams and the No. 6 team in the country? Arguably the two worst teams they’ve played (2017 Baylor, 2017 Kansas) and the highest-ranked (Texas). There have been no wins in between those.
6. Early Defense Crushed
I trust Sam Ehlinger to beat me through the air about as much as I trust myself to not go to Chick-fil-A-free during a weekend with the kids when Mrs. Pistols is away so it’s usually good when you get him to toss it 42 times a game.
OSU’s hot start offensively combined with an eight-drive stretch in the middle of the game (that included four three-and-outs) when the Pokes gave up just seven points forced Texas’ hand late, and they didn’t have enough to complete the comeback. The fact that Lil’J and Collin Johnson only had 134 combined yards on 21 (!) targets is a testament to the game A.J. Green and Rodarius Williams played. It was a stellar night for a crew that is not having the greatest year.
7. OL improvement + Short passing
Oklahoma State’s offensive line wasn’t perfect, but considering the opponent and how OSU has looked at times this year I’d say they were pretty solid. Gundy said after the game that they were maybe even dominant in the first half, which is not a thing I thought I’d hear after the OSU-Texas game.
The other part of having more rhythm on offense is that it seemed like OSU was fine with taking these short pops over the middle and getting the ball out of Corn’s hand quicker than in previous games. That one-two combo limited Texas’ defensive pressure and allowed OSU to have nine drives of six or more plays.
8. Gundy (kinda!) let it hang
While it’s kind of funny to me that running a fake formation on a punt qualifies as Gundy coaching with his mullet out in front of him, I do have to give him props for both that and going for it on fourth down twice (!) for touchdowns. I’ve been preaching it like Billy Graham at a big tent revival, but THIS IS HOW YOU BEAT TEAMS THAT ARE BETTER THAN YOU ARE. You go for it on fourth down (twice!). You line up in the I-formation! You run pseudo-fake punts!
I don’t expect to see it much the rest of the way, but I’m glad we finally saw it at all.
9. Chuba + Tylan = Freeeeeaks
There was some outrageous “wait is 30 better than 5” slander in our Slack chat that I took a hatchet to in a hurry, but Chuba was fabulous on Saturday night. He doesn’t have to be the bell cow that Justice does, and sometimes it’s easier to rack up numbers as second fiddle, but there were multiple times on Saturday night when I nearly ejected from my seat as he loped into the open field. Easiest runner in the country.
Chuba combined with Tylan for 303 yards on 20 touches. I repeat, a true sophomore and redshirt freshman combined for 300+ against the University of Texas, which averages giving up 360 a game to entire teams. Much has been (and will be) said about Tylan’s efforts, but his 222 yards on Saturday is eighth all-time for a single game. The only names ahead of him need no introduction: Adarius Dez, James (x2) and Rashaun (x3).
10. Dat Ending!
How lit was the end of the game?! I was standing underneath the jumbotron and couldn’t see what was happening, but Herman going full “hold me back!” guy with Gundy pulling off an “are you not entertained!” move was the perfect drama-comedy 1-2 combo to end this one. Herman, who is one of the strangest people I’ve ever covered, was on the brink all night, and Corn may have broken him at the end. The entire sequence was fabulous.
ABSOLUTE MAYHEM ?
Tom Herman & Mike Gundy get into fiery exchange on the field at the end of Texas vs Oklahoma State. pic.twitter.com/OgDdqUSvL5
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 28, 2018
Following that kerfuffle, I found myself on the field dodging students jumping the eight feet down to the turf (lots of split ankles and legs!) while trying to video Friends in Low Places and the alma mater. It was absolute chaos. Wristwatches and eyeglasses all over the turf, mosh pits surrounding walk-ons, Justice crowd surfing and one girl, who will likely regret this in a few years (or a few days) flashing everyone within range.
I don’t know what I expected this evening, but I certainly did not expect to have to be editing out that from a video of a field storm after a 5-TD performance from Corndog against the No. 6 team in the country.
(Bonus!) 11. Believe
Mike Gundy — his mullet flapping outside of a legit honest-to-goodness hoodie ? — was the last one out of the tunnel before the game. With his beleaguered squad ambling out in front of him, losers of three of four and their season tilting the wrong direction, he needed something special to happen on Saturday evening.
Right before his feet touched a turf upon which he’s seen so many different players and teams and games, he paused for a beat and lifted his hand to touch a sign near the end of the tunnel where everyone walks out. The sign — at least the part of it he touched — says “BELIEVE.” It was a fleeting moment, one I filed away. I don’t know that I’d ever seen him touch it. Maybe he does it every game, I don’t know, but six and a half hours later, it means a little more than it did then.
I don’t know what OSU will eventually end up being in 2018. I think everything is still on the table, but the one thing it hasn’t lost is its program’s north star. For all the mind-numbing decision-making we may think Gundy makes regarding QBs and more, and for all the (true) chatter about how poor he is in recruiting and for all the flirting with other schools, OSU still goes as he goes.
If he loses belief, if he loses hope, the whole thing crumbles.
It became clear over the past few weeks that he hadn’t lost belief. Whether you believe that was rational or not is up for debate. But the peaceful presence he portrayed after the Kansas State game, as infuriating as it was at the time, looks a little different now than it did then. Such is life in college football, where one game can change a season (or a career).
Gundy has his warts. Everyone does. His are just more publicly visible. But on a picturesque night in a place that bears so many of his fingerprints, OSU believed it could and would beat Texas because Gundy believed in them. And then he asked if you were delighted by that reality deep in the evening as a full moon hovered and Tom Herman melted into a pool of profanity and rage. It was quite a night for a coach who hasn’t had many of them in Stillwater over the past few years. It was quite a night for a program that desperately needed it.