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Five Things We Learned: Tyron is Electric and King Looks (and Plays) the Part

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Oklahoma State kicked off its season by giving the fans what it wanted: A bludgeoning of a lesser-talented team in a game it was favored by double digits.

The Cowboys won big, 59-24, despite two costly turnovers that frustrated both Mike Gundy and Mike Yurcich — one of which resulted in a touchdown for the Golden Hurricane. But on the whole it was a good opening win with no down-to-the-wire drama.

“I thought our guys played well,” Mike Gundy said. “We have to do a much better job of taking care of the football. Those things frustrate me. In order for us to have the season that we would like to have, we have to take care of the ball and we essentially gave them 10 points. Those things frustrate me.”

Here are five things we learned from OSU’s season-opening dub.

1. Tyron Johnson is as good as advertised

I’ve been ridiculously high on the LSU transfer since he arrived in Stillwater, and by golly, my Tyron Johnson stock skyrocketed ten-fold against Tulsa. And I’m still not selling.

Every single time he touched the ball it was a thrill—like Mason Rudolph’s first deep ball of the season that went to No. 13 for six points in the opening drive. He just straight outjumped his defender in man coverage, logging nearly one-third of the yards he accumulated during a year at LSU in one fell swoop.

Johnson’s a dynamic talent who can do a little bit of everything, and OSU adequately showcased that, albeit in a small sample, in his orange-and-black debut. And people took notice.

If Johnson is only going to get one reception per game like he did on Thursday though, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him featured on punt returns. But I think the plan, at least based on his efficiency in his lone catch, should be to find more ways to get No. 13 the ball.

2. J.D. King looks the part, and plays it, too

We knew true freshman running back J.D. King was going to back up Justice Hill, but even I was a little surprised at how well he did in his NCAA debut. The Georgia beast — listed at a stout 205 pounds on the OSU roster — was super in a small sample size, finishing with 6 carries for 95 yards and a TD.

Oh, and his 71-yard touchdown run? It was the longest rush since 2011 (until LD Brown upstaged him later in the game).

“I liked what I saw from J.D. King from a standpoint of thinking he ran physically and protected the ball really well,” Gundy said reflecting on King’s debut. “Early in your career, those things are really important to prove that you’re physical enough to compete at this level and take care of the ball. I thought he did a good job of that.”

At one point midway through the second quarter, King was averaging 36.5 yards per carry. But he only finished with 15.8 per carry.

King wasn’t the only back who impressed by nearly going over 100 yards in his first game, as redshirt freshman LD Brown also notched 95 yards on the ground. It was a sight to see OSU’s run-pass balance, and if the Pokes can maintain that balance against conference foes, they might have the formula to win the Big 12.

3. The OSU defense has a third down problem

Cringeworthy stat of the night: Tulsa converted 16 of its 26 plays on third down, and 1 of its 2 fourth down attempts.

“That’s something we’ve got to get better at,” said Gundy. “You’ve worked too hard to get to that point. Everybody is fired up for third and 15, and we’ve got to get off the field.”

If OSU is going to fight deep into November for a conference crown, it will need to maintain a healthy, well-rested defense. Getting off the field — and more importantly, finding a way to stop teams on third and long — will be a critical piece in making sure those factors fall in favor of the Pokes.

4. Punt return was a problem

Jalen McCleskey’s OSU career has seen plenty of peaks and valleys, and Thursday night was more of the latter than the former.

On the night, McCleskey finished with 1 reception for -2 yards. Not a terrible stat, given where he caught that pass. But his play on special teams left something to be desired after chasing a punt that was better left untouched and handing Tulsa its first points of the night.

“Jalen knows better than that,” Gundy said. “His ball security was absolutely terrible and that’s something we” continue to work on.”

McCleskey officially logged two returns for 3 yards, and his costly mistake is one that he’ll learn from. But given his experience not only as a player but in the return game, his gaffe is a bit concerning.

5. James Washington hasn’t lost a step

James Washington has made a habit of posting ridiculous average yards per catch numbers, and if he can keep the same pace he set in Game 1 for the rest of the year, the Biletnikoff Award might be named after him before we know it.

Washington made quick work of the Tulsa secondary, and while he didn’t get the volume other feature receivers might with only 6 receptions, he certainly got the production with 145 yards on 24.2 yards per catch. Against TU, that’s production you’d expect. But to do it with only 6 receptions is just phenomenal, although at this point it’s becoming routine.

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