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Breaking Down Taylor Cornelius’ First Start for the Cowboys

An all-encompassing film review of Cornelius’ first start of the season.



Heading into the 2018 season, there were a lot of questions and concerns around the Oklahoma State quarterback position. We hoped this would get resolved, or as much as it could against a FCS opponent, in the Cowboys home opener this past Thursday. But the game has come and gone, and those questions still remain … and there may even be a few more added to the list.

Fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius finished with an impressive state line, going 24 of 34 (70.6 percent) for 295 yards and five touchdowns along with one interception. These numbers result in a quarterback rating of 186.1, which is outstanding regardless of your opponent. However, even though Cornelius’ stats may indicate it was all rainbows and sunshine for the Bushland, Texas product, he did show some flaws and made poor decisions at times in his first career start for OSU.

On the other hand, there were a lot of positives we can take away from his performance as well and things I hope he can build upon throughout the season.

I wanted to take a look at the positives and negatives from Cornelius’ game film from a couple of days ago. So, here we go.


Throwing on the move

There was a fair amount of talk about Cornelius’ athleticism coming into the season. He showed a glimpse of it last season with his 40-yard touchdown run against Baylor.

We saw this athleticism on display Thursday through his ability to throw on the move. This is an added element Cornelius brings to the table when compared to his predecessor Mason Rudolph.

In this first clip, you see Cornelius get pressure from the inside before he’s able to set up in the pocket. He moves to his right and fires the ball to Tylan Wallace on the sideline. He could’ve thrown it away, and the Cowboys would have then been facing third and 17, but instead he used his mobility to get outside and gain some yardage for a much more manageable third down situation.  His ability to extend plays with his legs will be a huge advantage for the Pokes this season.

Next, we see Cornelius hit Chuba Hubbard on the roll out to his right. The throw from Cornelius allowed Chuba to continue his stride and turn up field after the catch.

This time, Cornelius moves to his left and is able to square his body back around and hit a wide open Jalen McCleskey in the end zone. Throwing back across your body to the other side of the field isn’t always the smartest decision, but considering how open McCleskey was, it was a good throw in this situation.

In this last video, we again see Cornelius on the move to his right as he puts the ball where only his receiver can make the play.

Accuracy on Most Short to Intermediate Throws

Mason Rudolph had issues with short to intermediate throws at times during his tenure at Oklahoma State. Cornelius showed good accuracy on nearly all of his short throws (screens and throws to the running back out of the backfield) and on a good chunk of his intermediate throws, primarily hitches, curls and comebacks.

Let’s start by looking at some of the curl routes I just mentioned. Here you see Cornelius recognize the soft coverage from the Missouri State defensive backs, pull the ball back from Justice Hill and quickly hit McCleskey on the curl route to his left. The throw hits McCleskey right in the numbers, allowing him to quickly turn and head up field.

Again we see another solid throw on the curl route to Tyron Johnson. Cornelius again hits receiver in the numbers and Johnson holds on to make the catch.

In addition, Cornelius got the ball out of his hands very quickly on wide receiver screens and had good ball placement on his throws. The video below shows Landon Wolf on the receiving end of the screen pass.

This time Cornelius goes to Stoner, putting the ball away from the defender for another solid completion.

And he also did a pretty good job of hitting his running backs in stride on the swing pass.

Finally, throwing the ball to Justice on the check down is always a good decision if nothing is open deep.

Threat on the Ground

I discussed Cornelius’ athleticism already once above, but his ability to make plays with his feet is something the Cowboys didn’t have with Rudolph. Now, I’m going to come back to this plays in my negative takeaways, but for now I just wanted to highlight Cornelius’ ability to make a play on the ground. His size, along with his mobility, makes him even more dangerous in the open field because he’s a tough guy to bring down. Hopefully he will use this to his advantage throughout the season and make smart decisions when it comes to keeping the football himself.


Missed Throws

In Mike Gundy’s postgame press conference, he stated that Cornelius missed too many throws he normally makes. I tend to agree with Gundy after rewatching the game again last night. There were too many times where Cornelius missed throws he’s not going to be able to miss against better competition.

After hitting on his first several passes, Cornelius drastically underthrew the curl route to his right side. I know, I know, I said these throws were his strength above, but he did hit many more of these than he missed. That being said, he should never miss this badly on this throw.

Additionally, he had Tyron Johnson on a similar route to his left, which would have been a much easier and shorter throw.


Along with missing low, he also missed high. Yes, I know… another curl/hitch route.

Both of the clips below show misses on what should have been easy throws for Cornelius.

In this next clip Cornelius misses high again, this time on a throw which was one of Rudolph’s specialties… the deep out. With a 20+ point lead, it wasn’t a huge issue the Cowboys didn’t convert this third down. However, Cornelius need to be comfortable making this throw as it was a huge weapon for OSU on third downs a season ago, and against better competition every third down conversion will matter.

The Deep Ball

These clips could’ve been added to the section above, but I wanted to highlight the deep ball separately as this has been a huge key to Oklahoma State’s success in recent years. In Thursday’s game, Cornelius could just not get it going on the deep routes. He missed several big play opportunities and, again, it didn’t matter much against Missouri State, but it will against teams like Boise State.

Here we see him miss McCleskey down the middle as he has about three steps on the nearest defender. If Cornelius hits him in stride, this would have easily gone for six.

In this video Cornelius under throws the deep pass to Dillon Stoner, who also had his man beat.

This last one should have been intercepted as it was not only a poor throw (off his back foot), but was also into double coverage.

Hesitation and Decision Making

For the final negative takeaway section I wanted to cover something else Gundy mentioned in his presser. Gundy said Cornelius played tentative and just needed to “cut it loose”. This was something I also noticed which led to questionable decisions and below average throws.

I first want to bring back up the video from above showing Cornelius’ big run. It turned out to be a great play, and I know I shouldn’t complain, but this is what he had in front of him before he decided to run with the football.


There are three open receivers he could have thrown to instead of keeping the football. I already showed above that he can throw pretty well on the move, and I think it’s a much better idea to get the ball to one of his playmakers than to keep it himself.

Something else I noticed was there were times when he had a matchup he could take advantage of and he didn’t. In the screenshot below, you see the Cowboys set and ready to snap the ball. Missouri State is experiencing some confusion on defense, and has no one covering the slot receiver to Cornelius’ right. Cornelius was looking in that direction and had to have noticed this, although the receiver could’ve also helped by throwing a hand up. It would’ve been a smart move to snap the ball and quickly get it to the slot.


As I mentioned above, hesitation and not just letting it rip, led to a few bad plays for the Cowboy offense. In the video below you see Cornelius has his running back J.D. King open out of the backfield. He hesitates on the throw which allows the defender to make a break on King. Not to mention he also had McCleskey open on the crossing route.

Finally, Cornelius’ decision making and overall mechanics were off at times. He threw off his back foot on a few occasions, looked like he was aiming the ball which resulted in a different throwing motion from his normal motion and had a tendency to lock on to his primary receiver at times. We see a culmination of all of this in his interception throw.


In conclusion, I don’t think this one game is enough to bench Cornelius. As I noted above, there were a lot of positive takeaways from his season debut. There are going to be jitters which lead to mistakes for any first time starter, and I expect Cornelius to make some corrections this next week as the team prepares to take on South Alabama. That being said, I do think the South Alabama game is big for Cornelius as he is going to need show some improvement as the team gets ready to face Boise State in a few weeks.

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