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Five Things That Went Wrong In OSU’s 36-30 Loss to Texas

Let’s get this out of the way.



The Cowboys started off their Big 12 slate 0-1 for the fourth straight year. Mike Gundy is now 7-8 all-time in conference openers and 7-8 all-time against Texas.

It was a back-and-forth affair, and the Cowboys were never really out of it until they were. OSU fought back to score a touchdown and pull within 6 with less than two minutes remaining, but couldn’t make that final stop to give themselves a chance.

That was just one of several things that went wrong on Saturday night in Austin, here are the others that stuck out to me, followed by why I came away from this game strangely optimistic.

1. Turnovers and Miscues

The Cowboys actually came out ahead (3-2) in the turnover battle on Saturday, but that wasn’t enough. When you’re on the road, against a good team and an offense like Texas’ that can control the clock, you need to win that battle by at least two or win it 1-0 or 2-0, without giving away drives and putting your defense behind the eight ball.

OSU’s first fumble, by Chuba Hubbard at the goal line, was actually recovered by Spencer Sanders, but it ultimately led to OSU settling for 3 points on its opening drive instead of taking a 7-0 lead. That kinda set the tone for the game moving forward.

Also important, is the Points of Turnovers battle. OSU gave up 7 on two giveaways and earned 14 on three from Texas. As far as other miscues go, OSU also committed all nine of its penalties in the second half, and mostly in untimely situations. That’s not exactly a winning strategy when you’re “climbing uphill” as Mike Gundy put it.

2. Red Zone Misfires

If you look at conventional stats, Oklahoma State’s red zone percentage doesn’t look half bad. Six trips, five scores. That’s over 83 percent. But no one watching that game would laud the Pokes’ proficiency in the score zone. That is why I’ve been banging my little drum about PPR, the amount of points scored per red zone trip.

This summer, I updated the numbers for OSU over the years, and the 2018 team actually scored at a decent clip, 5.4 PPR, over the course of the season. Through four games including McNeese, Oregon State and Tulsa, OSU is currently at 5.4 after its 4.5-PPR night against Texas. That number trends downward as you move through conference play virtually every year, meaning OSU’s offense, at least to this point, looks worse in the red zone than it was last year.

“We had our chances. We just didn’t capitalize,” said Gundy after the game. “We kicked too many field goals and/or set up to kick too many field goals. We’ve got to punch it in. The game now is played — so much of the game now is played inside the 15 yard line, so we need to be able to — we need to be more productive and scoring touchdowns and not kicking field goals, and obviously it changes the outcome.”

Some of that was playcalling, and some of it was due to penalties and miscues as mentioned previously, but it all comes down to being able to punch it in when you’re that close.

3. Fake It Till You Make It

I’ll briefly say that I don’t hate a fake field goal at that point in the game, IF it’s one you are confident you can execute successfully. I don’t know what went wrong here but it looked like they drew that up with sticks and rocks in the dirt on the sideline at the last timeout. Who needs a special teams coordinator?

4. Running QB Woes

I get tired of the “OSU has trouble with running quarterbacks” shtick, because everyone has trouble with running quarterbacks, that’s why coaches are okay with their franchise guys dodging 240-pound linebackers in the open field.

That being said, the play that iced the game, Sam Ehlinger didn’t have to do much to find real estate, and Gundy said afterward that someone was supposed to be on him. From a wider view, it’s more about limiting those big plays at the right time. That was the biggest play of the game at that point and, apparently, someone was not where they were supposed to be.

5. Blueprint for Stopping OSU (Apparently)

Todd Orlando laid out a decent blueprint for stopping OSU’s offense, or at least limiting it. According to Gundy, if you move a safety over to help defend ARGUABLY THE BEST WIDE RECEIVER IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL (which I imagine we might see again), then OSU is forced to run the ball.

He pointed back to the red zone misfires and the inability to make the plays needed and lack of efficiency, (all valid points ?) but we can’t let OSU’s offense off the hook that easily. I understand that it’s a numbers game, but with all the talent at receiver and Spencer’s wheels — and Jelani Woods — you’ve got to find a way to force the defense to make adjustments to you and not just bang your head, or your prized running back, against a wall.

To avoid ending things on a doom-and-gloom note, there were actually plenty of encouraging things that came out of Saturday night like Man, OSU has a dude in Spencer Sanders and the realization that, unlike OSU’s last franchise QB, he’ll get the benefit off all four years of eligibility if he decides to stick around.

In a fog of constantly-changing Instant Recap ledes and the roller-coaster finish, I somehow came out of the Texas game feeling better about this 2019 team than I ever really did all of last season’s. This team didn’t quit. It went on the road and went toe-to-toe with a Top 15 opponent — and missed a few opportunities — but it also went down swinging.

The pressure is off, if it ever existed. OSU is not going 15-0 through the CFP in 2019 and there likely won’t be a three-way tie in Heisman voting between Spencer Sanders, Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard this year. All jokes aside, OSU has a pretty damned fun and dangerous team with plenty left to fight for — enough fight in it to do so. They’ve just got to clean up a few things along the way.

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