OSU report card: Trouble with special teams leads to Cowboys' downfall in Texas Bowl loss to A&M
Oklahoma State got out to an early two-score lead in the Texas Bowl, but when Texas A&M got on track, the Cowboys didn’t have enough answers. The grades reflect the small but telling things that led to a 24-21 loss.
Feeding Hubbard: C
Maybe I just wanted Chuba Hubbard to get the ball so badly my judgment is clouded — this could’ve been his final college game, after all — but why not give the ball to the Cowboy running back more than seven times in the first half? Dru Brown isn’t a great downfield threat, and every time Hubbard touched the ball, he seemed to make a little magic Friday night. I’m all for varying the way he got the ball. Flare passes. Screens, too. But when the Cowboys needed 1 yard late in the second half and chose to kick a field goal (that was missed) instead of giving the ball to Hubbard? Boo. He averaged 11.1 yards every time he ran the ball in the first half. Give him the ball. Even though he finished with 19 carries for 158 yards, it still didn’t seem like enough.
Special teams: D
Woof. A near total disaster for the Cowboys. Matt Ammendola missed two field goals in the first half, and while both were long (53 and 46 yards), why kick them if they’re out of his range? Almost worse for OSU was punter Tom Hutton. The Australian import has had his struggles this season, but his 17-yard shanked punt in the second half was a low point. It gave Texas A&M the ball on the OSU 22-yard line, and the short field set up the Aggies’ only first-half touchdown. Then when the momentum swung to Aggies in the fourth quarter, the kickoff-return team compounded matters. Brayden Johnson was indecisive about coming out of the end zone, froze, then had to go because his foot was outside the end zone. A short return was made shorter with a block-in-the-back penalty.
Reserve safeties: A
The Cowboy secondary relied on some little-used players Friday night. With Kolby Harvell-Peel out with injury and Tre Sterling serving a first-half suspension for a targeting penalty in Bedlam, Tanner McCalister and Jason Taylor II filled in. Filled in quite well, too. No big busts in coverage. No major missed tackles on runs. Solid all-around play.
Third-down defense: C
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Not great. Texas A&M converted 5 of 10 third-down attempts.. Worse, three of those conversions came on touchdown-scoring drives. One of those was a short-yardage conversion, but the other two were long-yardage situations that came in the red zone. Late in the first half, the Cowboys had the Aggies third-and-6 in the red zone, but Texas A&M converted on a quarterback keeper. Two plays later, it was in the end zone. Then on Texas A&M’s first possession of the second half, it had a third-and-goal from the 10-yard line. OSU allowed a 10-yard touchdown pass. Get in those longer-yardage situations in the red zone, and you’d best get off the field.
As good as it was to see the Texas A&M maroon again, OSU didn’t exactly wow in its all-white ensemble. It was a clean, crisp look, but in a bowl, making a splash is fun. Flash some color. Be bold. Instead, America hardly got to see “America’s Brightest Orange.” Pairing orange helmets and orange pants with the white jerseys would’ve been a great choice.
Lots of Texas A&M fans in the stands as you might expect. College Station is only a couple hours away. But the OSU faithful came out strong, too. The Cowboy fans weren’t outnumbered as badly as some fan bases might’ve been. Kudos, too, to the students in the bands and cheer squads for giving up part of their winter break to be in Houston. I’m sure you all were great — but I have to admit my eyes and ears were locked mostly on the Texas A&M band. The Aggies move to the SEC was a downer for lots of reasons, but not being able to see the marching band a couple times a football season might top of the list. It is more drill team than marching band, more precision than pageantry, and it is simply splendid.