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Grades: Defense Still Solid in Win Over Arizona State, but Offense Still Lagging

On Nardo’s defense, offensive rotations and more.



[Bruce Waterfiel/OSU Athletics]

A 9:30 p.m. kickoff has me feeling like those all-nighters at Edmon Low Library during finals week, but at least I’m the one handing out the grades now instead of having to earn them.

A performance like Oklahoma State had Week 2 actually reminded me of my college career in more than just my sleepless state of mind. This report card won’t be fridge-worthy. You wouldn’t proudly send these grades back home. But, just like I did in still getting just the grades to at least earn that OSU degree, the Cowboys did just enough to get the 27-15 win against Arizona State on Saturday night and improve to 2-0.

Here are OSU’s Week 2 grades.

Defense: B+

I’ve bought into Bryan Nardo’s defense.

I understand it was an FCS opponent last week and ASU isn’t a premier Power 5 program, but giving up 14 points a game after two weeks is impressive no matter the opponent in today’s college football.

There was a drive Saturday night during which it was like Nardo’s defense was broken and every player forgot the fundamentals of tackling. The Sun Devils took advantage of the lapse and drove 11 plays for a touchdown and the first points of the game. Two drives later, there was a busted coverage over the top and OSU gave up a 65-yard touchdown pass up the middle.

Take away those drives, and it would be a shutout and A+ night for the defense. The Sun Devils never scored after the 10:07 mark in the second quarter. That’s nearly three full quarters the Pokes pitched a shutout.

The style of this 3-3-5 defense will give up big plays, while also making huge plays, as well. There was the 65-yard touchdown, and outside of that, ASU had only two passing plays of more than 15 yards — 34- and 28-yard completions. The impressive parts of those last two big pass plays — both were in the fourth quarter when ASU was chunking it deep and neither resulted in points.

The Cowboys tallied an interception, two sacks, two QB hurries and eight tackles for loss Saturday night.

It’s impossible to overlook that horrendous tackling effort early in the game, or else it’d be an easy A+ for the Cowboys defense Week 2 against a Power Five foe.

Offensive line: D

The second half once again saved the offensive line from completely failing.

OSU had 0, zero, no rushing yards on 12 carries in the first half. The line also gave up two sacks. If we went by half here, the O-line deserved an F for the first half.

The Cowboys finished the night with 113 rushing yards, averaging 3.6 a carry, though. The line also protected its quarterbacks better in the second half, not giving up another sack.

OSU was without starting right tackle Jake Springfield, who was injured last week, but the Cowboys did return starting right guard Preston Wilson, who missed Week 1 because of a non-football issue. But those absences are not enough to warrant the O-line’s performances the first two weeks of this season.

It will be nearly impossible for this OSU offense to thrive until this problem is fixed.

Offensive Rotations: C

Marshall wrote about this in his 10 thoughts, but the offensive rotations — and not just at quarterback — that OSU has going on right now is maddening. These rotations have every position looking just average with no stars or standouts emerging, earning a very average C grade.

The obvious rotation is the quarterback carousel of the three quarterbacks splitting reps no matter the situation. I don’t want to mimic Marshall too much, but watching Alan Bowman get going and lead a touchdown drive, then get benched before the next drive just doesn’t seem natural. Just something about it gets under your skin. I understand Gundy’s dilemma because I don’t know which guy I’d go with right now either, but after two weeks of watching this QB merry-go-round, I’m at least confident that’s not the way.

But these odd rotations are happening everywhere except for offensive line. The running back rotation is the most sickening to me, though. I picked Ollie Gordon to be OSU’s MVP this season and said he could be the best running back in the Big 12 if he got the opportunities.

Gordon did not touch the ball until the second quarter. When he was finally given the ball twice, Gordon punctuated that drive with OSU’s first touchdown of the game. Gordon finished the first half with only two carries for the second straight week.

Gordon finally returned to the backfield in the first drive of the second. He carried the ball four times for 47 yards, and once again, the drive ended with a touchdown for the Cowboys. Gordon then didn’t get a carry the rest of the quarter and beyond until OSU’s second-to-last drive of the game. Gordon wasn’t real effective on that drive, but for the third time, the Cowboys’ drive ended in the end zone.

Maybe it’s coincidence, but every drive that Gordon had a carry Saturday night, OSU scored a touchdown. Gordon finished the game with nine carries for 53 yards, averaging 5.9 yards a carry, and a TD. He also added two catches for nine yards.

Uniforms: A+

I wish look good, play good was a real thing because if the Cowboys played as good as they looked in the desert, it’d be Pokes by 100.

OSU transformed a classic white-white-orange look Saturday night. For the first time, we saw the new-favorite Cursive Cowboys in orange lettering with an orange facemask. The Cursive Cowboy might be my favorite logo, and somehow that subtle touch made it even better when I thought it was already perfect.

There was also the debut of the new white jerseys. OSU now has two white road jerseys — one with orange lettering and one with black. Those that make those decisions went with orange lettering for the first road game, and that extra pop of America’s Brightest Orange with the pants and Cursive Cowboy lettering was perfection.

Here’s a full look at Week 2’s masterpiece:

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