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It’s a Fair Question to Ask Who’s in Charge of the OSU Offense

An important question.



This is not a post about who is or isn’t in charge when it comes to which plays are called for Oklahoma State. And it’s certainly not a post calling anybody’s job into question. It is a post, however, about who exactly has ultimate authority when it comes to the Oklahoma State offense.

It’s a complicated piece of information. Many chiefs. Many chefs. Many options with RPO involved. But when the chips are down, who gets the call?

One of our writers during the Tulsa game was hollering about how the plays being called were not representative of what offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson has called over the course of his career nor were they similar to the plays that were called at Oregon State.

It’s not unfair to wonder who gets final say on the headset when it comes to what Sanders barks at the line of scrimmage.

The truth is that we may never know. Many of you think you know, but you don’t. You have no idea. None of us do. Sometimes it seems like those on the field don’t even know. If you ask Gundy, he’ll hedge here and there and say he’s a fixer or an extinguisher of fires. But boy it sure seems sometimes like he’s the one creating some of the fires to begin with.

Oklahoma State should have realized early on Saturday that Texas was daring them to throw to anyone not named Tylan, and they should have let their freshman do just that. Heck, they did on the first drive and he made some jaw-dropping tosses to both Dillon Stoner and Landon Wolf.

Then they ran Chuba into a brick wall like a crash test dummy for most of the rest of the game. Even late in the fourth when the clock could be measured in seconds and they were down two scores, they handed it off. They pounded Chuba and pounded him some more. He had the 11th-most carries in a single game in Oklahoma State history.

And then a curious thing was said by offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson after the game when he was asked about that sequence after the second muffed Texas punt return and OSU got the ball back with 3:44 left.

“Coach Gundy was pretty clear over the headset that we could still run the ball,” Gleeson told the Oklahoman. “Chuba is one of our best players. He’s going to get the ball for us.”

There are a lot of different things this could mean. But it at least raises more questions than it gives answers, right?

Again, this is complex. How much of this might be on Sanders for making the wrong reads and trying to force it to Tylan in triple coverage? Or how much is on him for making an incorrect read at the line on a RPO and giving the rock to 30? We’ll never know those nuances. But the rhythm of the last two games has been a far cry from the beautiful one we saw in Corvallis. Some of that should be credited to better defenses at Tulsa and Texas.

“It’s a numbers game” said Gundy after the game about Tylan getting safety coverage over the top. “You put a guy on him and put a guy over the top, and you end up rushing the ball more than normal. We’ve seen this before.”

This is true. They saw it in 2017 and didn’t take advantage of the run then either. But that was poor offensive line play. This seemed more like an unwillingness to throw to the Stoners and McCrays and Jelanis and Wolfs than anything else. An unwillingness to snap the leash and let Sanders eat.

As Marshall Scott pointed out to me, OSU got into third and three or fewer seven times. Six of those were Chuba runs (he averaged 3.3 yards per carry on 37 carries so that clearly wasn’t working!), the other was the pass to Jelani that Wolf’s block nullified.

Again, it’s not unfair to wonder who’s pulling these triggers.

“We just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities to score,” added Gundy. “We kicked a bunch of field goals. We went for fourth and one and didn’t get it, and we tried to fake field goal and didn’t get it.”

Maybe that’s all it was. Or maybe it was something we’ve seen consistently over the course of the Gundy era: When OSU is hemmed in and out-gunned, they’ve often failed to take risks even though risks are begging to be taken. If you let 3 loose, maybe he throws five picks instead of two. Or maybe he sticks a Pete flag in the ground, and you get to continue calling yourself the Landlord of Austin. It’s unfortunate that we’ll never know.

This is all easy to say in retrospect of course. If you go away from Chuba and Tylan and still lose, then there are even more questions. Maybe that’s the entire point here. Still, it’s fair to ask who’s in charge when it comes to OSU’s offense, especially when at the very point of the season when it was time to open it up and let the whole thing hum, OSU did just the opposite.

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