OSU report card: Cowboys' grades OK; room for improvement
Oklahoma State never trailed South Alabama. Never really was in danger either. But even in a 55-13 victory, there was plenty of areas that needed improvement. The grades reflect the spots where the Cowboys must be better.
The Cowboys spread the ball around Saturday night. Lots of different runners and receivers. By halftime, five players had run the ball — not counting punter Matt Hockett’s rush on a fumbled punt — and six had caught a pass. Additionally, three running backs (Justice Hill, JD King and Chuba Hubbard) had five or more carries while three wide receivers (Tylan Wallace, Tyron Johnson and Dillon Stoner) had four or more catches. Spreading the ball around like that makes an offense difficult to predict — and defend.
Strangely, even though the Cowboys had lots of different players who touched the ball, the offense skewed heavily toward the passing game. At halftime, OSU had 281 yards receiving on 18 catches. That’s a stellar 15.6 yards a catch. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Cowboys managed only 38 yards rushing on 22 carries. Average per carry: 1.7 yards. Even if you take out Hockett’s punt-snap fumble, the Cowboys still only had 51 yards on 21 carries. That has to improve.
I’m not a big fan of OSU wearing anything gray, but gray pants paired with black helmets and black jerseys looked pretty darn sharp. Plus, the helmets predominantly featured the big sheriff’s badge star, which is the coolest new logo that has come out of the Cowboys’ move to the ever-changing uniforms. And hey, South Alabama looked sharp, too. Head to toe white. Icy, as the kids say.
A week after a Thursday game on one of the most humid, uncomfortable days of the summer, the Cowboys got a Saturday night game under cloudy skies and in, dare we say it, cool conditions. It was 72 degrees at kickoff with a north breeze at 8 mph. There were actually fans in the stands wearing long sleeves. Hard to beat.
Hard to beat a surprise homecoming by a soldier. OSU pulled one off in the first quarter when three unsuspecting family members were recognized in west end zone. Then as “Proud to Be an American” played, Oklahoma National Guardsman Blake Witten emerged from the crowd near the corner of the end zone. His dad, mom and step-dad turned and sprinted to him. There were hugs. There were tears. It was awesome.
South Alabama pales in comparison to the defensive fronts that OSU will see the rest of the season, but Saturday, the Cowboy offensive line struggled. Room for the running backs wasn’t always easy to come by, and time for Taylor Cornelius was often limited. Offensive line coach Josh Henson has been tinkering with lineups, so some difficulties are expected. But not this many. The Cowboys are going to need to get that offensive line shored up and quick. Boise State doesn’t mess around.
After a solid performance in the opener, the Cowboy special teams struggled Saturday. Instead of putting a vast majority of his kickoffs into the end zone, Jake McClure had several short and returnable kickoffs. LD Brown had an ill-advised kickoff return when he fielded the ball several yards deep in the end zone. Matt Hockett failed to corral a good snap on a punt, fumbled and gave South Alabama a short field. And that was just in the first half. Not a stellar night at all. A 45-yard field goal by Matt Ammendola saved special teams from a failing grade.
That new big screen is great for replays, but the Orange Power Studio folks are also having some fun with it. In the first half against South Alabama, they rolled out “Sweet Home Alabama” spliced with old-timey movie clip where a gal walks over to a record player, pulls off the needle and smashes the record. Funny stuff.