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Five Things We’ve Learned about OSU Football through Two Games

Boone spills the beans on what he’s learned from the first two weeks of football.



As we prepare for Week 3 of the football season, it’s hard to make any definitive judgements about the state of Oklahoma State football for two reasons.

The first: Oklahoma State hasn’t yet played anyone. With apologies to Missouri State, an FCS foe projected to be a cellar-dweller in 2018, and to South Alabama, a mediocre Sun Belt opponent, the Cowboys haven’t been hit in the mouth by a heavyweight. They’ve been bullying up the welterweight division.

The second? Making a sweeping judgement based off a two-week sample — one that’s undoubtedly included vanilla’d up offensive and defensive schemes to prevent from showing too much on tape — might be borderline irresponsible.

Nonetheless, through two weeks, it’s fair to draw some takeaways based off early discovered tendencies, on-field results, and some buzz about what’s real and what’s not.

So here I am to pontificate with five takeaways through two games.

1. The offensive line needs some work

Oklahoma State players and coaches have touted this offensive line unit to be one of the strengths of the Cowboy offense. The chatter of the offseason, in fact, was that this unit would be better than last season’s unit. That has, unfortunately, not been the case. At least not yet.

Through only two games, OSU ranks T-99 (out of 128) in total sacks allowed with six. Only 17 teams have allowed more. And to say both games have come against less-than-impressive competition would be putting it lightly.

That stat is an obvious concern, if only because the Cowboys are still breaking in a new QB. But chief among my worries is how that impacts the run game, which was projected to be a saving grace for a green QB.

“Our run-blocking is very below average,” Gundy told the Tulsa World this week. “It’s got to improve.”

I agree.

2. OSU’s defense might be really good!


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With the massive caveat that, yes, OSU has in fact played no team of substance, the Pokes currently rank 10th nationally in total defense, allowing 237.0 yards per contest. That’s ahead of Georgia, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Alabama and others.

Can we get a comment, Nick?

It’s too soon to say the defense is great, because, frankly, we don’t know its ceiling yet. But the defensive line is stellar, cornerback depth is looking more promising by the week, concern about youth at safety has been quelled by the emergence of Malcolm Rodriguez, and thus far it hasn’t been severely gashed.

Most impressive to me: OSU ranks 16th nationally in third down percentage, allowing only a 24.2 percent conversion rate. Getting off the field on third down was a huge issue under Glenn Spencer, but under Knowles, so far, it has netted positive results.

The defense could be a strength of the team as conference play rolls around, health willing.

3. Return game is better, but special teams is work-in-progress

Oklahoma State’s special team efficiencies ratings by ESPN currently sit at 103 nationally (out of 130). That is … surprisingly an improvement from last year, when OSU finished 126th. But it’s hard to be too fired up about that number, considering the competition.

Nonetheless, there are electric options at the return spots that are keeping hope afloat — namely Chuba Hubbard, who ranks top-20 nationally in kickoff return yard average, and Dillon Stoner, who ranks top-35 in punt return yard average.

OSU punter Jake McClure is third nationally in punting yard average at 53 yards per boot (on two attempts), but current punter Matt Hockett ranks 59th in the same category at 42.5 on four attempts. All that said, incumbent starter Zach Sinor is likely going to boost those numbers. Gundy said he returned to practice and kicked last week, indicating he may return to action as early as this week.

The big area to watch is discipline, which Gundy harped on this past weekend. A more clean game all-around — reducing penalties, playing smart, etc. — will give the Pokes a bump if they clean up those areas. But right now, special teams as a whole has been underwhelming.

4. The video board is elite

An aside from football-related thoughts, OSU’s new 110-foot video board is absolutely incredible. One of the best stadium amenities the program could have added this offseason.

“It’s just really the final touch,” Gundy said of it recently. “It’s a heck of a place to play a game. The journey we’ve had for 15 years to get to this point has been pretty amazing.”

It’s easily ten times more distracting than my phone during live-game play from the press box. It’s mesmerizing how clear the quality is and how well OSU has integrated it into gameday festivities. I’m sure OSU is pleased with the reaction it has received from fans, and most importantly, I think it will score some points with visiting recruits, who, from the west end zone, will have a perfect view of the new addition all game long.

5. Confidence in Taylor Cornelius remains high

After a season-opening game in which he threw for 300 yards, 5 touchdowns and a costly interception, there was some skepticism about OSU QB Taylor Cornelius. He missed a few throws, pulled the ball down when he had options at times, and looked as uncomfortable in the pocket as Gundy is at the barber shop.

But after the game, Gundy and Yurcich talked up Cornelius and remained optimistic it was Game 1 jitters. He improved in Game 2 overall, throwing for 428, but he again had a red zone INT and another INT to his name to go along with one TD toss. It was more up than down compared to his debut, but he didn’t instill confidence you might expect to feel when your team is playing the Missouri States or the South Bamas of the world.

Still yet, there remains a high confidence level that Cornelius can get the job done by players and coaches alike.

“I feel like he did pretty good,” Tylan Wallace said of Cornelius. “I feel like last week, we didn’t get to throw it as much and we had to run it, and I feel like this game, he just showed everybody what he could do.”

Cornelius has taken a step forward in each game in the early going, but he’ll need to take one giant leap for mankind against Boise in Week 3 to avoid quarterbacking his first loss as the OSU starter. The good news is that he’s got a vote of confidence from Gundy and Yurcich, and the staff appears ready to ride him into the sunset if needed. That should ease his nerves as he prepares to play in the biggest game of his college career on Saturday.

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