The Missouri State Bears proved to be a bigger problem than Oklahoma State fans had expected as the Cowboys had to hold on for a late defensive stop in order to survive the season opener. Trailing 23-16 MSU quarterback Jason Shelley was sacked, on fourth down, at the OSU 45 to seal the fate of both teams. The Bears had actually reached Oklahoma State’s 26 before the Cowboy defense dialed up the pressure and ended Missouri State’s night with back-to-back sacks on third and fourth downs.
Game Defining Moment
In the absence of Spencer Sanders (Covid protocols) Shane Illingworth completed 22-of-40 passes for 315 yards but Oklahoma State’s inability to run the ball kept Missouri State close enough to make things uncomfortable in the fourth quarter. A 20-3 lead at the break slowly dwindled to just seven points as the Cowboys were only able to muster a single field goal in the second half. Had it not been for a defensive performance that held the Bears to just 33% on third down, forced two turnovers, and allowed MSU an average of only 2.8 yards per carry this night could have ended much worse.
It’s fitting that the defense was the unit on the field to close the game out. After the Bears scored, with 3:06 remaining, to cut OSU’s lead to 23-16 they got the ball back two more times with the opportunity to either tie the game or take the lead. In those two possessions MSU only yielded 21 yards on 14 plays.
Rumors began to circulate on Friday that it would be Illingworth leading the Cowboy offense instead of Sanders and that was finally confirmed on Saturday. Needless to say, the offense could have possibly functioned better with Sanders at the helm but Illingworth was efficient and clearly there are bigger issues on the offensive side of the ball than quarterback.
The Running Game Was Non-Existent
Here’s the heart of the offensive issue. A 1.9 yards per carry average isn’t going to get you very far in Big 12 play. Speaking of average, that’s exactly what OSU’s running backs looked like. LD Brown managed 30 yards on 15 carries and Dezmon Jackson showed some burst but only got 3 carries for 14 yards. Be it the backs, the offensive line, or the absence of Spencer Sanders (I think it’s a combination of all three) this issue has to be fixed immediately.
The Problem Child
Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelly was just enough to give Oklahoma State’s defense the test that they needed. The Utah State transfer completed 23-of-44 pass attempts for 235 yards and a score while also grinding out 31 yards on the ground. The Cowboy defense held him in check for most of the night but the few big plays that he was able to make were enough to keep things extremely interesting.
Oklahoma State punted seven times on Saturday night! Never in my wildest imagination would I have expected that. Tom Hutton averaged 45.4 yards per punt and racked up 318 yards!
The Cowboy defense was the best unit to take the field and Malcolm Rodriguez was the best player the Cowboys had in the game. The senior linebacker racked up 15 total tackles, had three quarterback hurries, and a pass defended.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tay Martin caught six passes for 107 yards (17.8 YPC) and a touchdown to become Oklahoma State’s most potent weapon.
Oklahoma State will host Tulsa next Saturday.
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