The Oklahoma State Cowboys opened up the 2021 season last Saturday with more of a “phew” than a “bang” as they narrowly survived the Missouri State Bears 23-16. Cowboy fans can make all the excuses they want, and trust me, there’s plenty to choose from, but the lackluster performance falls solely on the offense.
With that being said, there’s much progress to be made, and what better time than the present? This Saturday, the Cowboys host the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, and the status of Spencer Sanders is still up in the air. Still, the show must go on, which means Oklahoma State has to make adjustments, and there are a few keys areas the Cowboys need to improve if they want to find success on Saturday.
Where’s the Push?
Back in July, head coach Mike Gundy made clear his excitement about the depth the Cowboys have at running back. On paper, there’s plenty of truth to that, but Saturday’s output was not the evidence you’d want to build that case.
Averaging fewer than 2 yards per carry against an FCS school in your season opener is not the way to strike fear in the hearts of your opponents, and the problem wasn’t really with the way the backs run the ball but with the inability of the offensive line to establish any dominance, let alone a push, down in the trenches.
Last season, the Cowboys struggled up front because of carousel of offensive linemen due to departures and injuries, but this season was supposed to be different. If last week was any indication of how the rest of the year is going to go, it’s going to be a long and miserable grind, but there’s still plenty of time to make adjustments and ready up for conference play.
After such a poor team performance on the ground last week, it’s hard to get much worse, so hopefully offensive line coach Charlie Dickey can get after his guys this week and start the turnaround sooner than later.
Take Care of the Rock
A big part of the reason the Bears were able to keep the game so close on Saturday was their ability to force the Cowboys into mistakes. Oklahoma State coughed up the ball 3 times—1 interception by Shane Illingworth and 2 fumbles lost, 1 each by LD Brown and Dezmon Jackson.
It’s a pretty well-known adage in college football that if you win the turnover battle, you’ve got a good chance to win the game. If you give away the ball freely, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The Cowboys got away with that against Missouri State because the defense was able to force the Bears into 3 turnovers as well, but they can’t rely on that every week.
Tulsa comes into this matchup having turned the ball over 3 times in their opener against UC Davis, a team that was a 3-touchdown underdog against the Golden Hurricane before pulling out the 19-17 upset in Tulsa. If the Cowboys can simply take care of the ball, it’s not crazy to think that Tulsa will lose the turnover battle on their own, which will make a complete win all the easier to achieve.
Let’s See Some Pizzazz
The Cowboys got the job done on Saturday, and when it all comes down to it, a win is a win, but it wasn’t exactly a fun game to watch. There were some moments of flash early on when Shane Illingworth connected with Tay Martin early and often, but those moments dissipated by the second half. I want to see some more spice in the game this Saturday.
Tay Martin burst onto the scene with 6 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Those are his best numbers as a Cowboy, and it’s clear he has playmaking ability, so it just makes sense to try to get him the ball.
Brennan Presley is another guy that needs to see the ball come his way far more often. Presley had a dominant Cheez-It Bowl last December, hauling in 6 catches for 118 yards and 3 touchdowns. Against Missouri State, he did grab 4 passes for 68 yards, but he’s another guy that has the ability to go make something happen.
Regardless of who’s starting at quarterback this week, Oklahoma State needs some big plays to fire up the crowd, gain some momentum, and ultimately put some points on the board.
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