OSU football: Shuffled offensive line, solidifying linebackers get high marks
Oklahoma State dominated Kansas State 26-13 on Saturday night, and to have a result like that against a disciplined, hard-nosed team like the Wildcats, lots must go right. Lots did for the Cowboys. Here is the OSU report card:
Spencer Sanders: B
The Cowboy quarterback was good but not great. His biggest foibles were two interceptions, and neither looked like the fault of the intended receiver. Still, Sanders was 16 of 25 for 153 yards with one touchdown. He also ran for 52 yards. As much as anything, though, he managed the game well behind a heavily shuffled offensive line. Speaking of that bunch up front…
Offensive line: B
The Cowboys were without starting tackles Teven Jenkins and Dylan Galloway. Their injuries forced freshmen into their spots, Bryce Bray on the left side and Hunter Anthony on the right. Those moves prompted Charlie Dickey to move Johnny Wilson to right guard from center, which was manned by Ry Schneider. Only Marcus Keyes stayed in his normal spot at right guard. “Had me scared,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said of all the shuffling. “I don’t think I ate much all week.” But … “They did pretty good.” The offensive line had a couple costly penalties that negated touchdowns, but it opened great running lanes for Chuba Hubbard on his big night and kept Sanders largely clean, giving up only two sacks.
Quarterback rollouts: A
With the offensive line shuffle, OSU offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson added more rollouts to the pass game. He wanted to alleviate some pressure off the offensive line, but the rollouts play perfectly to Sanders’ strengths. Every rollout didn’t lead to a completion Saturday, but with Sanders’ ability to throw on the move and the danger he presents to break off a run in those situations, rollouts should be part of every game plan.
Third- and fourth-down defense: A
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The OSU defense did plenty of things well Saturday, but its ability to get off the field was superb. K-State converted only once on 13 third downs and once on two fourth downs. That’s a 13.3 percent conversion rate on those late downs. It helped the Cowboys have six three-and-outs and one turnover on downs. That is a formula for success.
What a great night by the OSU linebackers. This is a position group that looked dangerously thin during preseason camp, but Saturday night, they played their best game of the season. Amen Ogbongbemiga and Devin Harper both had a tackle for a loss and a quarterback hurry. Malcolm Rodriguez added a pass breakup. All told, those three had 15 tackles. “I’m pleased with ‘em,” Gundy said. “I think that they’re keeping it simple and not getting out of our box.”
In OSU’s first home game since mega booster Boone Pickens’ death, there were plenty of moments of recognition. The best was video from Pickens’ speech the day the renovated west end zone opened in 2009. Always cool to see and hear someone like Pickens after they’ve died. Similarly, it was cool to see highlights of OSU’s Gator Bowl victory when the 1984 Cowboys were honored during the first half. Included in the video package was running back Thurman Thomas throwing a touchdown pass to quarterback Rusty Hilger. Excellent stuff.
Stellar looks on both sides. OSU went with black jerseys and orange pants, always a strong combination. Then the Cowboys added a matte black helmet with a chrome orange OSU logo on it. And K-State came with their traditional silver helmets, white jerseys and silver pants. Bill Snyder brought in that look when he first arrived in Manhattan, but all these decades later, it still looks splendid.
Rain-delay entertainment: D
Things got off to a great start with the in-stadium PA system blasting out “Thunderstruck.” Made you wonder what else was coming on the rain-delay playlist. “The Thunder Rolls”? “Purple Rain”? “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”? But nothing came. Instead, we got silence. OSU students who remained in the stadium did some chants and cheers – though as a parent I would say, “Take cover when there’s lightning around!” – but that was all.