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OSU Football: Spencer Sanders May Be Ahead of the Curve

Spencer appears to be taking that next step.



It’s been a bumpy road for Spencer Sanders. After a hot preseason start, he suffered through a rough stretch to start his Big 12 career that had even the most loyal of us SSFC staffers contemplating next year’s membership dues. But, somewhat quietly, Sanders seems to have figured some things out during Oklahoma State’s recent three-game win streak.

Looking at this season as a whole, and where he is in his young career, Spencer Sanders might just be ahead of the curve when it comes to his progression as QB1.

Sanders survived that disastrous four-game stretch (Texas, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Baylor) in which he threw twice as many interceptions (8) as touchdowns (4) while completing just 59.5 percent of his passes. He also fumbled the ball six times, losing four of them. The Cowboys went 1-3 in that span, unsurprisingly.

But credit Mike Gundy for sticking with his guy and credit his guy for growing.

In the three games since that ghastly homecoming loss to Baylor, Sanders has not only tidied things up, he’s settled into his game — or at least what it needs to be right now. That involves spreading the ball around to your playmakers, beating teams with your legs and then taking the occasional shot downfield. It’s working out pretty well.

In wins over Iowa State, TCU and Kansas, Sanders has flipped the script in terms of turnovers and has been much more efficient.

Avg. Att./Comp. 19/32 12/19
Completion Pct. 59.5% 64.9%
Yards Per Game 217 192
TDs/INTs 4/8 5/2
Passer Rating 115.2 171.6
Fumbles (Lost) 6 (4) 0

That’s a pretty incredible turnaround and it was against a couple of actual defenses in Iowa State and TCU. That doesn’t mean he can’t lay an egg in Morgantown next Saturday against West Virginia, but these numbers speak for themselves.

What jumps out at me most is that he is doing less overall. Or, in other words, not doing too much. Sanders has thrown it significantly less since the Baylor game, as OSU leans on Chuba Hubbard and its run game. But he’s also not forcing the issue as much, through the air or on the ground.

While also rushing it fewer times per game in the last three than the previous four, Sanders is also rushing it for 4.4 yards against Iowa State, TCU and Kansas as opposed to 3.7 against Texas, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas Tech.

There are certainly other contributing factors like the loss of Tylan Wallace and the coaching staff reining in their rookie after some, frankly, reckless play. But you have to give a ton of credit to Sanders. The improved ball security and decision-making is all him.

The touted Texas passer hasn’t exactly set the world on fire — he’s still yet to reach 300 passing yards in a single game — but he hasn’t had to, and it appears that he’s finally realized that.

OSU’s offense runs through its best player (that’s Chuba Hubbard in case you live under a rock) and its defense is hitting its stride. That’s allowed for Sanders to grow and improve, and the entire team appears to be firing on all cylinders heading into this stretch run.

Spencer Sanders is never going to be a conservative game manager, and that’s better than okay. He’s going to take shots and risks, like the awkward hurdle that earned him a first down.

“Yeah, I’m not fired up about that,” said Gundy about his QB going airborne. “But I told you after (the Oregon State) game, remember I said I don’t want to take his stinger away. I don’t want to take his stinger away, but I kinda want to take his stinger away now.

“He’s gotta know better than that, but he’s very competitive, very emotional. That’s the way he is.”

That’s the way he is, and that’s the way you want him. OSU recruited Sanders because he’s a playmaker, because he’s a baller. It’s just a matter of tempering that gunslinger mentality with some experience and a continually growing football IQ. If all of that comes together, I can’t wait to see his ceiling.

For now, Sanders is not forcing the issue and it’s paying dividends. If we follow Mike Gundy’s quarterback philosophy that QBs figure things out by Game 15, then Sanders might just be ahead of the curve. And 2020 might just be a more fun year than we previously thought.

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