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10 Thoughts on the 2016 Sugar Bowl




First things first. That I even get to write that headline is a good thing. Don’t forget that. Amid the defensive disaster on Friday night, dropped passes and Laquon Treadwell heroics, don’t forget that.

OK, now we can talk about the more frustrating stuff.

Oklahoma State got absolutely destroyed by Ole Miss 48-20 in a Sugar Bowl that didn’t feel nearly that close. Laquon Treadwell showed us all why we recruited the hell out of him a few years ago as he put up six catches for 71 and three disgustingly easy touchdowns. I have many thoughts. Let’s get to it.

1. OSU’s run game did not improve

There was talk from Mike & Mike that maybe the offensive line went back to some of the basics in the space between the OU game and the bowl game. They might have found something, we were told. What they found was an Ole Miss defensive line that looked like it couldn’t have cared less about missing its best player.

OSU hovered around 0 yards for the majority of the game until a couple of late J.W. Walsh runs bumped it up to 63 yards on 30 carries (not that that’s a lot better). The fact that Walsh sitting in the backfield for three seconds and picking a hole is by far our best option on the ground is telling. It’s a borderline miracle that OSU won 10 games this season without ever finding a groove on the ground (more on this in a minute).

2. Emmanuel Ogbah was good not great

Ogbah was going against a top five pick on Friday night, and it felt like he held his own. I wasn’t watching No. 38 on every single play, but he was disruptive enough that I at least noticed him on pretty much every Ole Miss drive. Ogbah only finished with three total tackles, but he had a number of near sacks on Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly. In a game like this, that counts as a win.

3. Mason Rudolph was great not good

One of my favorite Twitter follows is Chris Brown of @smartfootball. He’s, well, smart and insightful. That’s why I found it odd that he wondered aloud on Twitter on Friday whether Mason Rudolph was a good QB (a tweet he has since deleted).

If you look at the numbers, no, he wasn’t. But I’m pretty sure Rudolph just had the best 18/31 for 179 yards and 0 TDs game in the history of college football. He was pumping seeds all night (many of which his receivers dropped and some of which got called back because of penalty).

Any dissatisfaction I had with the loss was largely overwhelmed by the fact that it truly felt like I was watching a slightly more mobile version of Brandon Weeden dicing up an Ole Miss defense only rushing three (and at times two!) defensive linemen (because why would they rush more than that?)

Get that man any semblance of an offensive line and even 150 rush yards a game and he’s going to have an All-Big 12 year in 2016.

4. Did OSU watch film?

There’s arrogance. There’s Baker Mayfield. And then there’s “we watched Ole Miss’ defensive line on film for a month and we’re still going to try and run it down their throats inside the red zone with a broken offensive line and J.W. Walsh.”

The first few possessions (when this game was still, you know, a game) make me question OSU’s ability to put together a plan. What about anything Ole Miss and OSU have done all season made anyone on OSU’s sideline think that was going to work?

5. Have Mercy, Laquon

The biggest bummer on Friday was watching Mason Rudolph’s dimes roll all over the Superdome turf while Laquon Treadwell caught balls one-handed with ease and waltzed to and fro in OSU’s secondary while thinking about how No. 1 could have been catching passes from Rudolph.

He was unbelievable all night. Kevin Peterson has shut down a lot of dudes. Treadwell is not a lot of dudes.

Get that money, Quon. You deserve it.

6. Maybe fatigue wasn’t OSU’s issue on defense

#RealTalk time. Oklahoma State’s defense wasn’t that good this year. Glenn Spencer is a fun meme and OSU had a couple of studs, but this defense compared statistically to last year’s (yikes!) and wasn’t even on the same planet as that salty 2013 defense that was probably the best of the Mike Gundy era.

Here’s a look at Ole Miss’ drive chart on Friday:

Missed FG

To pile on, the Rebs averaged 7.69 yards per play and I’m not sure Chad Kelly could tell you what the Superdome roof looks like. So yeah, maybe OSU’s defense was just average to maybe slightly above average and its issue wasn’t that it played like 2,000 plays this season.

7. The Big 12 needs help

Carson and I have some podcasts to erase. Between Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, the last week has not been pretty.

The good news is …

8. This happened to Ole Miss 366 days ago

I believe this was mentioned on the telecast, but the solace here is that Ole Miss got beaten down in almost exactly the same manner by TCU in the 2014 Peach Bowl. It’s not like OSU has to revamp its entire program. You need a couple of offensive linemen and some help here and there on defense.

The best news is that you already have the thing that’s most difficult to obtain (a lights out QB1).

9. J.W. Walsh went out right

It was a big night for the Walsh truthers. Why wasn’t he out there the whole dang time? But the reality is that Walsh shouldn’t have been out there until Gundy put him out there.

And when he did, No. 4 went out the way he came in: ballin’ at a level he shouldn’t have been ballin’ at.

Remember the mini documentary ESPN made about that 2011 season when Brandon Weeden told everybody that Walsh couldn’t go in practice because his arm was sore? Walsh thought he could roll with the big boys then just like he does now. And he did it throughout his entire career.

Kyle Boone wrote nicely about this on Friday as Walsh touched off one of the more memorable careers in Oklahoma State football history.  He was never the best or the fastest or the most capable. But he always went the hardest. And that’s a hell of a thing to have said about you.

10. This year was still a good one

I was texting with my buddy Amilian during the game, and he made a really good point that I think I knew deep down but haven’t expressed publicly. This is similar to what I wrote about Michigan State on Thursday night after Nick Saban exposed them.

This is going to be a tough thing to swallow for some, but Oklahoma State was probably a 9-4 team that somehow managed to go 10-3. Ole Miss was a 11-2 team that somehow managed to go 10-3. That was clear on Friday night.

And that’s an OK thing. Heck, it’s a great thing. It’s an enjoyable thing. This season was a blast. But our expectations were skewed by the win-loss column. Like I said after the OU loss, Oklahoma State has to start crootin better if it wants to roll with teams in these big boy games. If that wasn’t clear after OU/Baylor, it was abundantly clear after the Landsharks had their way with anyone who got in their way in New Orleans.

In some ways, however, this makes me appreciate the season even more. OSU was the overachiever who landed a great job, talked the girl out of his league into marrying him and built something. Sounds like the entire career of somebody else I know. J.W. Walsh, in so many ways, was a microcosm of this season’s team.

So you can look back at the final three games with angst and say, “we suck, we got some work to do” and you would be right. Or you can look at the whole season and say, “how cool that we got to play those final three games with something on the table AND we got some work to do.”

Both are true. Both are probably correct ways of looking at it. It’s a matter of perspective.

Speaking of perspective, that’s something you’re going to need a lot of when Oklahoma State tips conference play tomorrow in GIA against TCU.

Until then …

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