Post Bedlam Thoughts | Sanders Isn’t the Problem, Illingworth Isn’t the Answer, and Should Gundy Just Go?

It hasn’t been quite 24 hours since the abomination that was the 2020 Bedlam game came to an end, and while I’ve had some time to think over Oklahoma State’s 41-13 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners, my opinion hasn’t really changed much, so just let’s just jump into a few quick thoughts that came about somewhere near the end of the third quarter.

Spencer Sanders Isn’t the Problem

A good chunk of Oklahoma State fans have been all over Spencer Sanders’s case for a while now. He’s had a rough year between getting injured in the season opener and turning the ball over far too often. Still, he’s shown plenty of bright spots, and for whatever reason, some people just can’t seem to give him any credit.

While I understand that he’s not looked like some of the Cowboy quarterback greats of the past, the facts remain that Sanders is only a sophomore AND the offensive line has been absolutely atrocious all season long.

I don’t expect Sanders to magically turn into a Heisman contender any more than I expect the offensive line to be up for the Joe Moore Award (given the to the nation’s top offensive line as a unit). Still, I do expect to see him continue to develop as the season draws to a close, and by the time he enters next season as a junior, I anticipate he will be in a much better place to lead the team.

Shane Illingworth is NOT the Answer

Spencer Sanders took a hard hit late in the first quarter against the Sooners, and true freshman quarterback Shane Illingworth entered as the replacement, just like earlier this season. Similar to those early performances, Illingworth was able to move the offense down the field, and he looked alright. Unlike those early performances, it didn’t last for long, and he ended up having an absolutely abysmal night.

Illingworth finished Bedlam completing just 5-of-21 (23.8%) passes. He did have a touchdown and no turnovers, but his output was one of the worst in recent memory. Spencer Sanders completed 10-of-19 (52.6%) of his passes, but he finished with 0 touchdowns, an interception, and he was sacked 3 times. Overall, it was a rough night for Cowboy quarterbacks.

The real issue here isn’t the quarterback position, though. The offensive line was embarrassed time and time again in Norman, and it didn’t matter who was in the backfield, nobody was going to be very successful with no protection and no time to make anything happen. Moving forward, Spencer Sanders should stay the starting quarterback, and anyone who thinks Shane Illingworth should be replace him, at least at this point in the season, is misguided and hoping for results that simply do not exist.

It’s Time For Gundy to Move On

I have NEVER been one to join the “Fire Gundy!” cries of the masses that seem to pop up after each and every Bedlam loss. I’m still not part of that crowd, but my tune concerning Oklahoma State’s head coach has begun to change.

Mike Gundy has played a key role in transforming the Oklahoma State football program into what it is today. He made winning the norm in Stillwater, and because of it, Cowboy fans can appreciate and enjoy football season in a much different way than we did just 15 years ago.

Unfortunately, Gundy appears to have peaked. His ability to recruit just isn’t that great, and his inability to win Bedlam with any consistency is an issue. Bigger than all of those things, though, is the apparent fact that he has seemingly grown comfortable. Good coaches win games, and great coaches win championships, but they typically do not get there by being conservative, and that’s exactly how Gundy has coached over the last few seasons.

After the game, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley made the comment, “You can’t play a game against a big-time opponent and be conservative,” and while I don’t think he was directing that at Mike Gundy, I think it absolutely puts a spotlight on Gundy’s issue: he’s afraid to gamble.

With 34 seconds left in the first half, the Cowboys had the ball on their own 16 yard line, and LD Brown ran the ball for a one-yard gain, sending the game to halftime. It’s not the smartest move to go for a big play at that point, and it would definitely be a gamble, but Oklahoma State was already trailing 27-13.

In the second half, with just 12 minutes left in the game, the Cowboys trailed the Sooners 34-13. Oklahoma State was on the Oklahoma 39-yard line looking at 4th & 8, but instead of going for it, the Cowboys took a delay of game penalty. Again, it would’ve been a challenge to get the 8 yards and the first down, but at that point in the game, you’re essentially giving up by not going for it.

If Mike Gundy were to have made the decision to gamble at any number of moments, and he were to fail, he would have received plenty of heat. Still, I would respect him a lot more if he didn’t coach so scared so often, but that appears to be his M.O. at this point in his career, and that’s exactly why he should do everyone a favor and just move on as Oklahoma State’s head football coach.

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