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A Look at Oklahoma State’s Performance Under Mike Yurcich After Poor Offensive Showings

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Saturday’s 11 a.m. tilt in Morgantown between Oklahoma State and West Virginia will be the 60th game for which Mike Yurcich has been the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys.

In 42 of the previous 59, Oklahoma State has scored 30 points or more. In 48 of the previous 59, Oklahoma State has gained 5 yards a play or more.

Neither of those things happened last Saturday in Austin, which means there is (rightfully) much angst heading into a West Virginia game in which its defense plays a similar style and has a history of being able to limit the Pokes.

I think we can pretty much all agree that Yurcich often struggles with halftime adjustments in big games. Exhibit A this year is not TCU, but rather Texas. OSU actually adjusted well against TCU, it just turned the ball over repeatedly in the third and fourth quarters. But in addition to Texas in 2017 you can go back to OU in 2016, Central Michigan in 2016, Ole Miss in 2015 and so on to see that Yurcich isn’t the best at adjusting on the fly.

But what about game-to-game adjustments when you have some time to sit back, watch the film and see what the issues are? Adam Lunt recently noted that he thinks Yurcich is actually really good when it comes to making mid-week adjustments. So let’s look at how his offenses have bounced back in subpar games over his five years in Stillwater.

Obviously there is no perfect way to determine how good Yurcich and Oklahoma State are at this, but I thought the best would be to look at the game immediately following the game in which OSU’s offense was stopped. Once a team provides a blueprint, it should be fairly replicable for other teams. So it’s fair to look at the next game and see how OSU fared against that team vs. how that team performed the rest of the season.

This chart is a look at games following bad games for Yurcich. I defined a bad game as a game in which Oklahoma State’s offense scored less than 30 and gained less than 5 yards per play. I think these are pretty reasonable benchmarks for what we’ve come to expect from the Oklahoma State team. Again, there are better and deeper ways to evaluate this, but we also don’t want to be here for three weeks.

There have been nine games in the Yurcich era in which Oklahoma State failed to notch 30 points and failed to reach 5 yards per play, and here’s how he followed them up. Note: I’m not going to count the Ole Miss game because the game that followed that up came eight months later.

The game after the bad game
Opponent Year Points Scored YPP Better/Worse
Kansas State 2013 33 5.1 0%
TCU 2014 9 4.0 -15%
West Virginia 2014 10 5.5 2%
Texas 2014 7 3.7 -21%
Baylor 2014 28 5.8 9%
Pitt 2016 45 8.2 37%
Texas 2016 49 7.8 37%
West Virginia 2017 ? ? ?

The better/worse column is how OSU fared in yards per play measured against how that opponent’s defense did in YPP on the season. For example, after the Baylor game last year, Oklahoma State went for 7.8 YPP the following week against Texas. That was 37 percent better than what Texas gave up overall on the season.

This is kind of a mixed bag, though. That 2014 season was such an outlier that I’m not totally sure it’s fair to bring it into play here. I think it probably is fair to say that while Yurcich hasn’t always been good at mid-week improvements, he’s getting better.

The Pitt game last year followed what was a pretty mediocre offensive performance against CMU that got buried by the Hail Mary at the end. The Texas game followed that stink bomb OSU laid in Waco against Baylor (although you could argue that game was marred more by turnovers just like the TCU game this year). So those two showings are encouraging if you’re expecting much of the same this week, although you could argue OSU wasn’t nearly as bad against CMU and Baylor as it was against Texas last week.

I honestly don’t know what to expect. I think Yurcich is fairly innovative offensively, but Oklahoma State seems so insistent on running its base stuff that I’m not sure how much they’ll reach outside their own box to simulate runs with short passes and get their playmakers in space. I certainly think Yurcich is capable of this, but I’m just not as confident it’s going to happen as I would like to be. Also, I’m not totally sure it’s going to matter.

“They have a three-down front and handle you pretty good in the running game,” said Yurcich earlier this week. “… They have a multitude of coverages, disguise them well and they get after the ball. They mix things up and they’ll pressure you in timely fashion. That’s the big thing — they don’t always show their coverage, especially their blitz. They’ll hold it and they have a nice technique of holding it until the last second and then bringing the blitz. Some teams show it, but I think they do a good job of disguising in.

“They do a good job in coverage too. They roll to you, strong and weak. They play two deep, drop eight. Their guys have a lot of heart and passion. It’s the same thing we’ve seen from them the past few years. It’s a hell of a challenge that we have in front of us.”

It certainly is, especially considering what took place last week in Austin, which, it could be argued, was the worse offensive performance in the Holgorsen/Monken/Yurcich era under Gundy. For the first time in a while, the “best offense in the country” has something to prove when the whistle blows on Saturday in CFB world.

“Had a great start to this week of practice and looking forward to tomorrow and really almost paying back [our defense] for what they did for us,” said Mason Rudolph. “It’s just getting to that time of year where it’s crunch time. We are excited.”

We are, too.

I think.

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