The Oklahoma State Cowboys moved to 2-0 on Saturday with the narrow defeat of Tulsa, and despite moving up to no. 22 in the Coaches Poll, the Cowboys have yet to really impress anyone with their offense. The Golden Hurricane was a step up from Missouri State in the opener, and now this weekend, the Cowboys will see their first true test when they head to Idaho to take on the Boise State Broncos.
The Cowboys are a 4-point underdog, the first time this season they haven’t been a heavy favorite, and now could not a better time for the offense to get something going. On a positive note, Oklahoma State managed to score 3 touchdowns in fourth quarter against Tulsa on Saturday after scoring just 10 total points in the 5 previous quarters combined.
Issues abound for the Cowboy offense, but perhaps they can reposition a bit this weekend and get on the right path to success moving forward. In order to do so, there are a few key areas where I think Oklahoma State needs to find success if they want to beat the Broncos on the road.
This seems like a weekly focus, and if it isn’t, then it absolutely should be. Oklahoma State has really struggled to take care of the ball through the first two weeks, and it has put them in too close for comfort situations. Against Missouri State, the Cowboys turned the ball over 3 times, but thankfully the defense was able to come up with 3 turnovers of their own. Last week, Oklahoma State just had 1 turnover, an interception by Spencer Sanders, but they fumbled 3 other times before recovering them.
A big chunk of the blame falls on Spencer Sanders. I still believe he’s the better quarterback than Shane Illingworth, and he proved time and time again that he’s a much more dynamic athlete, but his greatest flaw has been his proneness to giving the ball away too easily. The interception that he had was inexcusable, and one of his fumbles was because he had the ball in the hand nearest to the defender, and despite the fact that he broke off a long run, he nearly had it erased by a boneheaded mistake.
Still, not all the blame falls on Sanders. Last season, the offensive line was an absolute mess, and I truly expected to see vast improvements this season, but that has not been the case at all so far. The run game did see some level of success at times against Tulsa, but it’s still nowhere near where it should be. The big guys up front have to do a better job of making lanes for runners and protecting the pocket, otherwise ball security is going to be that much harder to come by.
No More Run Committee
This summer, Mike Gundy made it clear that the Cowboys had 4 solid running backs, and that this season would likely feature all of them at some point or another. It’s cool to be able to tout that much athleticism in the backfield, but history shows that some guys need the ball more than a few times a game to get something going, and after 2 games, I think it’s obvious who the best back is.
Jaylen Warren is a redshirt senior in his first season in Stillwater after transferring in from Utah State, and he’s already shown some flashes of brilliance. Through two games, Warren has just 20 carries for 46 yards, a measly 2.3 yard per carry average, but he’s found the end zone twice, and his touchdown on Saturday was one of the more impressive runs I’ve seen from an Oklahoma State back.
Truth be told, I think Jaylen Warren and LD Brown should be splitting the carries fairly evenly, but if not, then Warren needs at least 20 per game. He’s a shorter running back at 5-foot-8-inches, but at 215 pounds, he’s a quick powerhouse of a runner, and he needs to see his number called more this weekend.
Find the End Zone Early
The Cowboys put up 20 points in the first half against Missouri State a couple of weekends ago, and that ultimately saved their bacon when they struggled in the second half against the Bears. Last week, Oklahoma State trailed 14-7 headed into the fourth quarter against Tulsa, and then the offense finally turned it on to rally a comeback. The Cowboys aren’t likely to be able to do that against a much more talented Boise State team.
The Broncos are 1-1 after dropping a 36-31 decision in their opener to the University of Central Florida (UCF), but a 54-13 shellacking of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) got them back on track. Boise State is a pass-heavy team, which means they can move the ball quickly if need be.
Through two games, all but one of Boise State’s touchdown-scoring drives has taken place in under 4 minutes, and that one was just barely over that mark. Oklahoma State has to score early and often because while the Cowboy defense has been great through two games, the burden can not rely entirely on keeping the Broncos out of the end zone. Hopefully offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn figured out that letting Spencer Sanders do some things is the key to getting the offense moving because I think that’s going to make the difference in putting up more points.
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