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Grades: Bryan Nardo Earned a Free Meal, Unexpected Playcalling and The Color Black

Grading OSU’s defense, playcalling, red zone offense and the color black



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Maybe the best educational plan is to take some time off and go back to school to take night classes. I did always prefer night classes over getting up in the morning. But maybe that’s because the only night class I ever had in college was wine tasting.

After back-to-back losses and on the verge of flunking, Oklahoma State got a week off and returned with a 29-21 upset over defending Big 12 champion Kansas State on Friday night at Boone Pickens Stadium.

The defense looked new, the playcalling was a surprise and there were struggles in the red zone– and everything was cloaked in black as the night unfolded. Here are grades for the Cowboys’ first win since Week 2.

Defense: A

Kasey Dunn owes Bryan Nardo a meal at The Ranchers Club.

Two weeks ago, faith was lost in this Cowboys defense after giving up 33 to South Alabama and 34 to Iowa State in back-to-back losses. Friday night, against the best offense it’s lined up against all season, OSU held Kansas State well under its average and forced three turnovers.

The Wildcats averaged 39.5 points a game before their trip to Stillwater. The Pokes held them 18.5 under that. Every time K-State looked to be getting back into it near the end, the Cowboys had a stop or turnover– even when the offense couldn’t get a first down and gave the ball right back. The defense even helped the offense put points on the board itself with a pick-6 and another interception that resulted in a field goal.

There’s no question the offense looked more fluid with one quarterback and better playcalling, but OSU lets this upset slip away if not for Nardo’s defense.

Playcalling: B

This is the best playcalling I remember since Dunn took over.

It would be an A here if not for numerous tries in a row at running it up the middle near the goal line against one of the best run defenses in the country. OSU had to settle for a field goal six times, and playcalling played a crucial role in that result. No part of an offense deserves an A if there was only one touchdown scored.

Further away from the end zone, though, it didn’t even look like the same staff was making the decisions (* insert Gundy calling plays conspiracy*). In the first quarter alone, OSU called a reverse, a reverse pass and a throwback pass from Brennan Presley to Alan Bowman.

Speaking of Presley, he was basically an untapped resource to start the season. Friday night, though, he threw a pass, caught three passes, carried the ball twice and had a 31-yard kick return. Even when Presley didn’t get the ball, he was often in and out of motion as eye-candy or setting up another option.

Oh, yeah, there was even a fake punt called during the second quarter. It was so unexpected from what OSU fans are used to seeing that there were boos echoing in the stadium as the play was executed.

Red Zone Offense: C+

I had to add a plus here, because OSU at least got points on the board in five of its six red zone attempts, resulting in 19 points. That lone zero was actually the first time this season the Cowboys left the red zone empty-handed.

The issue, though, is that only one of those trips ended in the end zone. Field goals usually don’t win Big 12 games, but it did Friday night thanks to the defense.

The Color Black: A+

A blacked out Boone Pickens Stadium, all black uniforms from helmet to cleats and the night sky over Stillwater– maybe it’s anti-traditionalist, but I’m starting to prefer the color black over orange.

Friday night started with the unveiling of new-look all-black threads for the first time this season. And they were gorgeous. You can take a look of those unis here.

I was already going to give the black uniforms an A here, but then the night proceeded. The Cowboys became 11-4 in all black with the win, and I think the color black deserves just as much credit for the upset as the creative playcalling.

I’m not sure if OSU wins this game if it’s at 2:30 p.m. on a Saturday. Boone Pickens Stadium was sold out, filled in black to the neon orange letters. Night games in Stillwater– home to the darkest sky in America– are just special. That atmosphere had the ingredients for something special to happen– like a 2-2 left-for-dead team upsetting the defending Big 12 champion. And the color black seemed to be the secret sauce.

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