OSU’s Quick Starts Encouraging but Don’t Guarantee Future Success

[USATSI]
Written by Kyle Cox

Oklahoma State has enjoyed a fast start to the season, rolling over a couple of lesser opponents, and faces its biggest test this Saturday in a road trip to Pittsburgh.

What we can actually glean from those first two blowout wins is debatable. But if there was one concern I had about this team before the season, it was whether or not it would mess around in these non-conference games and make them more interesting than they needed to be. Entering Week 3, I’d have to give the Cowboys a passing grade in that department.

OSU flexed its offensive muscle early and often making both results seem more like foregone conclusions well before halftime. Let’s take a look these opening quarters and how Oklahoma State’s dominance set it up for the rest of the game.

2017 Numbers
2017 1st Quarter score 1st Quarter Yards Points per drive PPD Allowed
Tulsa 21-0 233-46 5.25 0.0
South Alabama 17-0 201-19 4.25 0.0
Total 38-0 434-65 4.75 0.0

Against Tulsa, the Cowboys scored on its first three possessions going up 21-0 before some people found their seats on that early Thursday night contest. It was a little bit of a slower start against South Alabama with the first two possessions resulting in a punt and a field goal but OSU’s defense was dominant throughout the evening and its offense caught up quickly.

For reference, let’s take a look at how the Cowboys fared last season — when they played five games that were decided by seven points or fewer.

2016 Numbers
2016 1st Quarter Score 1st Quarter Yards Points per drive PPD Allowed
 All games 136-69 1,927-1,606 3.09 1.47

OSU showed favorable returns for the season in first-quarter scoring, even winning Weeks 1 and 2 at a higher clip (42-0 in first quarters) than this season. But OSU was outscored in the opening period of three-straight games to start conference play — Baylor, Texas and Iowa State. OSU went 2-1 in those games.

Fast starts are important but don’t necessarily guarantee success. The Cowboys went up 14-zip against the Chippewas of middle Michigan last year but some mistakes and sloppy play let the MAC team back in.

The ability to put these non-conference foes away early has allowed for rest for the 1s and 2s and more in-game experience for the 3s and 4s. And it should give this team confidence moving forward. When OSU heads to Pittsburgh, a fast start will by important, especially on the road against a Power 5 team that’s already been tested much more than the Cowboys have this season.