OSU football: Cowboys find their man in Spencer Sanders
CORVALLIS, Oregon – Oregon State safety Omar Hicks-Onu lowered his shoulder to take out Spencer Sanders, but Sanders was having none of that in the second quarter. Not on this Friday night when he could do no wrong.
Sanders was feeling quite spry, both in deed and demeanor, having already carved up the Beavers, so when Hicks-Onu went down, Sanders went up. He hurdled the unsuspecting foe, and Edwin Moses would have been proud. Sanders cleared Hicks-Onu but didn’t stick the landing and tumbled out of bounds after a nine-yard gain.
No matter. Sanders had soared. So had the Cowboys. The message was delivered, both to the overmatched Beavers and to the Cowboy masses who have been trying to decipher the quarterback question that now seems quite quaint. OSU has its man.
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Sanders was sensational in a 52-36 victory over the Beavers that was a bigger blowout than that. Sanders threw precisely. Ran dynamically. Shades of Zac Robinson, back when the Cowboys preferred dual-threat quarterbacks.
It’s too early to say a star was born – stars are not born against Oregon State – but it’s not too early to say that Sanders is the real deal. That he’s what GundyWorld was hoping Sanders would be when recruited out of Denton, Texas, two years ago. That the Sanders/Dru Brown quarterback derby was as much myth as the Kyler Murray/Austin Kendall cotillion last year in Norman.
Mike Gundy kept telling everyone who asked that the quarterback competition was too close. That it would have to be decided on the game field. That both Sanders and Brown would play against Oregon State.
Some day, we’re going to learn to stop believing coaches. Sure, Brown played – the final 1:19 of the game, after Sanders completed 19 of 24 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 109 yards on 13 carries.
Who knows if Sanders knew he had won the job? Maybe Gundy kept the quarterbacks as confused as he kept us. Gundy said the staff made the decision “three or four days ago” to start Sanders and that the plan indeed was to play both quarterbacks.
“We felt he gave us the best chance to win this game,” Gundy said. “That’s what it came down to … Spencer was playing so good, we couldn’t take him out.”
No fooling. If Gundy had gone to a platoon Friday night, there would have been rioting in the Stillwater streets.
New offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson said the coaches “labored” over the decision but didn’t have Sanders on a short string. “We were going to kind of watch it. But we got rolling there in the beginning.”
Sanders had help. Tailback Chuba Hubbard and flanker Tylan Wallace both were home-run hitters. Hubbard had gains of 33, 26 and 53 yards. Wallace, mostly forgotten while the Cowboys pounded the ball in the first quarter, had catches that went for 23, 36 and 21 yards, showing a new acumen for broken-field dashes. The offensive line dominated the Beavers, though again, that’s not saying much.
And to Sanders’ credit, he praised his teammates incessantly. The idea that the youthful Sanders might not yet have the leadership gene was discarded in the Oregon countryside.
“I thought he handled the game really well,” Gundy said. “Being a good quarterback in our offense and probably for most teams at this level is being able to handle the game and not get flustered.”
Wallace said amen to that. “I thought he was going to be a little edgy, a little jumpy, but he went out there and handled it pretty well,” Wallace said.
Whether he was scrambling for a big play or completing a third-down pass or reading the defense on the option play with Hubbard, Sanders did not play like he was looking over his shoulder. And heck, maybe he knew the job was his.
But either way, Sanders said, “This is a game of football. It’s about competitiveness. You just gotta play the game how you know how to play.”
Sanders admitted he was nervous, but after the first hit he took, everything seemed fine.
“I was like, all right, I’m good,” Sanders said. “This isn’t more than what I expected. After that first hit, I felt like we were in the flow and I kind of calmed down a little bit.”
Calmed down and rose up. Soared over Oregon State and into the atmosphere of high hopes for all who follow Oklahoma State football.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.