The Oklahoma State offense got off to a rocking start on Friday against Oregon State behind the helm of freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders. Sanders earned the start, and despite what head coach Mike Gundy said heading into the game, there was no split time at the position.
Sanders finished the game completing 19 of 24 passes for 203 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also rushed for 109 yards on 13 attempts. Those are some solid numbers for a redshirt freshman, and while the Beaver defense was not exactly one of the stoutest the Cowboys will face all season, it was a solid test for Sanders to kick off what will hopefully be an illustrious career in Stillwater.
Looking ahead to the home opener against McNeese State on Saturday, there are a few key areas that the Cowboys need to focus on in order to not just win the game handily but to improve and prepare for the more difficult competition down the road.
Pound the Ground Game
Sophomore running back Chuba Hubbard ran wild for 221 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 26 attempts. His total yardage ranks him first in the country so far, and his 8.5 yards per carry is second for backs that had a minimum of 15 carries.
Hubbard is going to be the workhorse of the offense moving forward, and the more success that Oklahoma State finds on the ground, the more options Spencer Sanders will have when it comes to throwing the ball. McNeese State is an FCS school, and Oklahoma State is heavily favored, so Hubbard should be able to have another big day. I anticipate another 200-yard rushing outing for the sophomore.
Get Better in the Trenches
The offensive line was mostly good on Saturday against an inexperienced and questionable defensive line from Oregon State, and while everything worked out in Oklahoma State’s favor, the big boys up front need to improve moving forward.
Spencer Sanders was sacked just once and hurried once, but the Beavers managed 9 tackles for loss against the Cowboys. Sanders was also forced from the pocket plenty of times.
McNeese State is unlikely to do even as well as Oregon State when it comes to stopping the Oklahoma State ground game, but the offensive should line take every opportunity between now and conference play to work on the little things and get better at protecting not just Sanders but the running backs as well.
Take Care of the Ball
Last season, the Cowboys struggled to take care of the ball at times as they tallied 22 turnovers on the season, which tied them for 93rd worst in the country. Last week, Oklahoma State did not turn the ball over at all, something they accomplished in just 2 games a season ago.
McNeese State recovered 5 fumbles in their season opener last weekend, and with that level of success, you can bet that they will be hungry for more coming into Stillwater on Saturday.
Oklahoma State cannot afford to overlook a weaker opponent—even an FCS school—and get relaxed with the ball. Competition will only improve as the season goes on, and taking care of the little things against the smaller teams will pay off in the long run.
Simply put: take care of the ball, take care of business, and move on to the next one.