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Grades: The Exam Was Here, and Oklahoma State Wasn’t Prepared

On QB preparation, Ollie Gordon’s ability and Brennan Presley’s usage



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Test prep was over for the Cowboys, but they still didn’t seem prepared.

Oklahoma State finished its nonconference schedule 2-1 with a horrendous loss to South Alabama before starting Big 12 play with a 34-27 loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Mike Gundy seemed to have handled that nonconference slate like a preseason, rotating players like Shawarma, including at quarterback. On Saturday, Gundy stuck with one guy at quarterback, Alan Bowman, and even let Ollie Gordon have control of the backfield.

But with Big 12 play here and offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn even saying after last week’s loss that OSU was still competing for a conference title, the Cowboys seemed to be in need for more review and extra tutoring.

And if the entire class struggles with an exam, that falls on the teacher in charge, not the students.

Here are OSU’s grades after a second straight loss.

Nonconference QB Handling: F

Mike Gundy essentially used the nonconference schedule as a study guide for Big 12 play, but that guide didn’t have enough reps for his playmakers, especially at the most important position in all of sports.

Many of us assumed Gundy would end the three-quarterback rotation and stick with one guy by conference play. That happened Saturday with Big 12 play here, but the effects of missed reps the last three weeks, and beyond, were evident.

Bowman looked as if he had only 12 series under his belt in the past three weeks. There were miscommunications and overthrown balls all day in the passing game. The timing just wasn’t there. And I want to be clear that’s not me ragging on Bowman in his first full outing since 2020. He was underprepared.

Bowman finished 23-of-48 (48%) for 278 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. Across from Bowman was a redshirt freshman in Rocco Becht, who was expected to be the backup entering this season before gambling allegations took down the guy in front of him.

Becht was 27-of-38 for 348 yards and three TDs in his first Big 12 start. Becht might be a frosh, but he entered Saturday’s contest more equipped with 81 pass attempts this season. Bowman had 52. That’s basically a game’s worth of difference.

Age and experience out the window, we witnessed the difference between a player prepared and unprepared for conference play. And both teams suffered their growing pains the first three weeks, just one experienced only pain with no growth.

If Bowman was brought in to be “the guy,” (and why else would he come to Stillwater?) then he needed reps on reps on reps after basically no playing time the last two seasons at Michigan. If it was Garrett Rangel or Gunnar Gundy getting the reigns as young pups Saturday, they too would have been ill-prepared because of lack of reps. So don’t think this has anything to do with who “the guy” was.

The Cowboys’ Big 12 opener — four weeks into the season — was essentially Week 1. And after the game Gundy still didn’t close the door on a potential quarterback battle again, so all of 2023 could be a preseason for the Cowboys as Gundy experiments on how to handle the transfer portal and modern-day college football.

Ollie Gordon: B+

The only knock on Gordon so far has been lack of reps (sound familiar?).

Gordon finally got control of the backfield Saturday with 18 carries and turned that opportunity into 121 rushing yards, averaging 6.7 yards a carry. He also caught four passes for 14 yards. Gordon displayed his explosiveness with a 71-yard run around the corner and up the sideline to set up OSU’s first touchdown.

Unfortunately, Gordon still can’t block for himself, though, or else he’d earn an A here. No matter his ability, Gordon will still be tackled in the backfield plenty with a lackluster offensive line. His stats without that 71-yard run will show that, but that type of run is also what Gordon has shown he can achieve consistently if given the chances, whether those touches are in the running or passing game.

Brennan Presley Usage: F

Brennan Presley is a senior wide receiver from Bixby with massive playmaking ability and plethora versatility. I figured I should re-introduce Presley in case you’ve forgotten his existence.

Presley found the end zone in both of OSU’s first two games this season but has essentially disappeared since.

Outside of returns, Presley has touched the ball five times total in OSU’s last two games, both of which were losses and might not be a coincidence. Saturday, Presley had two catches for nine yards. Last week against South Alabama he had three catches for 11 yards. He handled return duties but hasn’t had a carry since Week 1.

Presley is the best playmaker OSU has on its roster. He’s also the most versatile player so there are options to get the ball in his hands.

Presley was targeted six times Saturday, but if timing is off because of lack of reps with his QB1, Presley’s ability gives the option for short and easy passes to still be exceptionally successful. He’s also had a rushing touchdown every season so far.

There are plenty of options to get the ball in Presley’s hands, and with a stagnant offense and defense getting in a habit of giving up big plays, the Cowboys need the ball in Presley’s hands to have a chance to compete in Big 12 games.

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