2017 Grades: Mason Rudolph Was as Good as He’s Ever Been

Written by Kyle Porter

Coming into 2017, the strength of Oklahoma State’s football team was obviously its passing game. The wide receivers, yes, but also the guy tossing the rock to them. A lot was expected of fourth-year starter Mason Rudolph because of his trajectory over the first three seasons. To whom much is given …

And he mostly met those expectations in 2017, with a few exceptions. His overall numbers were there, even if we still left a few games shaking our heads. Let’s take a deep dive into the season that was with QB1 and wrap with a few notes about the future of the position.

Production

It sure doesn’t feel like it sitting here in December with the Camping World Bowl on deck, but Rudolph put up (by far) the best numbers he’s ever posted as a Cowboy. He led the country in yards per game (by 32 yards!) and was third in QB rating and fourth in passing TDs. His numbers in 2017 would certainly lead you to believe that Oklahoma State had a better season in 2017 than it did in 2016 or 2015.

Year Games Pct. Yds/Gm TD INT Rating
2014 3 57 284.3 6 4 154
2015 13 62.3 290 21 9 149.1
2016 13 63.4 314.7 28 4 158.9
2017 12 65 379.4 35 9 170

Rudolph threw as many interceptions this season as he has in any other season — his 2.0 percent INT percentage is still decent but is over twice his historic mark from last year — but he did show an increase in completion rate. While at times it didn’t feel like he was as accurate or as on point as he should have been, the numbers say he’s never been more so.

Our offensive expectations at Oklahoma State are outrageous (see: Comments on any post even remotely referencing Mike Yurcich), but Rudolph captained an offense that, to this point, has slightly out-paced the 2011 offense, according to BCF Toys (3.5 PPD in 2017 | 3.42 PPD in 2011).

We get caught up in the overthrows and inopportune picks (which matter, and we’ll get to shortly), but in terms of pure numbers, Rudolph was as good as it gets in college football (and as good or better than Weeden’s 2011 numbers of 72 percent | 363 YPG | 37 TD | 13 INT)

Grade: A+

Big Plays

However, throughout the season he lacked a knack for making the biggest play in the biggest moment. Twice, he had the season in his hands (OU and Kansas State), and twice he couldn’t get it done.

He did lead some thrilling victories (Texas Tech, Iowa State) just as he’s done his entire career, but it’s difficult to reconcile the numbers above with the fact that Rudolph and his offense were twice given 60 yards to score for a shot at the Big 12 title and potentially the playoff … and twice he (and they) did not get it done.

Also, what was the signature play of Rudolph’s season (or career, for that matter)? What was the moment in a monster game that you’ll remember for the next 20 years? Maybe it’s unfair to him that none stand out, but it seems like a four-year starter and the school leader in victories should have at least stamped one Big Daddy™ game over his career. Maybe it was 2014 at OU or 2015 against TCU, but neither led to a title of any kind.

Grade: B-

Rushing

I love how OSU used Rudolph in the rushing game. I love that he had twice as many rushing TDs as The Baker did. I love that, of players with 10 or more rushing TDs, nobody did it on fewer yards than Rudolph. Just look at these numbers! Rudolph had 29 rushing yards and 10 TDs. Nobody else is even close.

Rank Player Team Yds/TD
1 Mason Rudolph Okla St 2.9
2 A.J. Erdely UAB 22.7
3 Zach Green Arizona 28.2
4 Jaylen Samuels NC State 34.8
5 Trace McSorley Penn State 39.2
6 Nathan Rourke Ohio 42.0
7 Caleb Evans La-Monroe 44.5
8 Keith Ford Texas A&M 44.8
9 Ke’Mon Freeman SMU 47.9
10 Brandon Wimbush Notre Dame 54.6

The QB run (especially in the red zone) has become a staple of Mike Yurcich’s offenses, and I’m glad they opened it up his senior year (even if I held my breath every time he put his head down).

 

Overall

I supposed we should at some point discuss Keondre Wudtee’s debut and Taylor Cornelius’ trajectory since they both got playing time as well (Jalen McCleskey threw a pass, too, that we shall never discuss again). I thought Wudtee was unimpressive and Cornelius was solid.

Add their 1 percent production to what Rudolph did all year and I think you get a well above average but slightly below expectation finish. That’s probably unfair to this unit (because which QB in America wouldn’t trade their season for Rudolph’s?). But when a Big 12 title is expected, and you are twice (!) given the opportunity to shut it down but fail both times, this is what we’re left with.

Also, because they got compared so often this year, we have to talk about Baker Mayfield. The one thing I’ve been thinking about between these two is how one of the primary arguments for Rudolph is “… but the defense” while Mayfield had a (MUCH) worse unit (as well as lesser receivers) that he’s about to drag to the national championship. I hate that. Hate it. But that’s the reality of this situation.

Grade: A-

The Future

This will be storyline No. 1 come December 29. There is much chatter both in front of the scenes and behind them in Stillwater, OK about the future of the QB position. Most people I’ve talked to believe that Spencer Sanders is dynamic enough to become the starter at some point in 2018. Whether that’s Day 1, nobody knows.

But Mike Gundy hasn’t been scared to start true freshmen. Wes Lunt started Day 1. Rudolph started, like, Day 87. The future at QB is a little murkier than it is at the other offensive positions, though.

And as one of our PFB writers pointed out: If we’re going to continually praise Yurcich for pulling Rudolph out of South Carolina, we might need to start criticizing him for not having a continuation plan in place behind him (depending on how good Sanders becomes). There is no natural passing of the torch, however, and there hasn’t been in a long time at Oklahoma State. Maybe we eventually get to that spot with Sanders, but you can bet the ride to that position will be a bumpy one.

Grade: B-