'The future is bright': OSU optimistic about 2020 vision even awaiting decisions by Chuba Hubbard, Tylan Wallace
HOUSTON — Chuba Hubbard walked past Amen Ogbongbemiga in the hallway outside the Oklahoma State locker room.
“Go to the first bus,” Hubbard said.
The Cowboy running back wanted to be with his buddy and roommate on the ride from NRG Stadium to the team hotel. The Canadians had much to discuss after the Texas Bowl.
Sure, they would talk about OSU’s 24-21 loss to Texas A&M.
But there’s also the matter of the future.
Hubbard’s future, of course. Will he stay at OSU next season? Will he leave for the NFL? Those questions will be the focus of all Cowboys until he announces his decision sometime in the next couple weeks.
Thing is, the Cowboys’ future is worth discussing, too.
“The future is bright, man,” Ogbongbemiga said. “We can do some really big things this next season if all these guys come back.”
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I agree with that even if all of them don’t come back.
Even with the uncertainty of the offense — Tylan Wallace must make an NFL decision, too — the future of OSU football is bright because of the major strides made by Ogbongbemiga and his defensive brethren. While the Cowboys didn’t punctuate the end of this season the way they wanted, the OSU defense is on solid footing moving forward.
It took the Aggies digging deep into its playbook to best the Cowboys.
It took the option.
“They had done it a little bit,” OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “We knew they had it.
“But it’s not something they majored in.”
Still, Texas A&M went to it early in the second half. On its first possession, it drove deep into OSU territory, and on first down from the 26-yard line, Kellen Mond rolled to his left. He kept rolling. And rolling.
Just as OSU defenders reached the Texas A&M quarterback, he pitched the ball back to Ainias Smith, who streaked down the sideline for 19 yards.
The Aggies scored three plays later.
They didn’t really use the option again until the fourth quarter. This time, Mond kept it for 16 yards. Two plays later, he kept it again for lots more yards — 67 of them and the go-ahead touchdown.
“Sometimes, people got out of place,” Ogbongbemiga said. “They knew what we were in, and they ran the right play. We had numbers, and they had numbers, and if one person was out of place, kind of gave him a play.”
The next possession, after the A&M defense got a stop, the Aggie offense needed to eat some clock. Run the ball. Move the sticks. So, it went back to the option.
On first down from midfield, Mond kept the ball again on an option, scrambled 30 yards and put the Aggies in field-goal position. That allowed them to go conservative. Short runs that burned clock.
They kicked a field goal with less than 3 minutes remaining.
Even though the Cowboys scored and forced the Aggies to recover an onside kick, those option plays were the killer — and the kind of thing the Cowboy defense will be better prepared to handle next season.
“It’s just the speed of the adjustment,” Knowles said. “As we get more veteran and you develop that ability … you develop that ability to adjust faster.”
And OSU will be more veteran next season. The only seniors on the defense are cornerback A.J. Green and defensive end Mike Scott. Losing just two players who were in heavy rotation isn’t a killer.
Remember, too, the Cowboys could get back linebacker Calvin Bundage and see a much healthier Devin Harper.
An improved defense this season should be even better next year.
“The defense played great all year,” Hubbard said. “They obviously won us a couple games. I know a lot of people used to harp on our defense and stuff, but we owe them a lot.
“We didn’t end on the note we wanted, but the future’s bright.”
No one knows if that future will include Hubbard, but if not, the defense gives the Cowboys a great start.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.