OSU football: Cowboys deal with injuries on both sides of the ball
Cowboys deal with injuries on both sides of the ball
Wearing sweatpants and a jersey with no shoulder pads, defensive back Kolby Harvell-Peel watched from the sideline as his Oklahoma State football teammates recorded their first loss of the season.
Texas defeated the Cowboys 41-34 in an overtime thriller on Saturday night in Stillwater, and injuries complicated OSU’s unsuccessful quest to keep its undefeated record intact.
Harvell-Peel, a junior starter, is typically flying all over the field, but he didn’t have much of a chance to make an impact for the No. 6 Cowboys. He left the game in the first half with a leg injury, according to the TV broadcast. Sophomore Thomas Harper replaced him and finished with five tackles, including four solo stops.
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said he has faith in the backup players, though he acknowledged the absence of Harvell-Peel’s experience and familiarity with the game.
“It’s my job to make sure they’re ready to play, and I thought those guys stepped in,” Knowles said.
By the end of the game, starting defensive back Tre Sterling, who leads OSU with 37 tackles, was also sidelined. He said he would need to consult with the team trainer to figure out what happened to his ankle.
“My knee kind of tweaked, but it should be good,” Sterling said. “But my ankle is pretty, I guess, sore right now, swollen. … It was tough just watching and not being able to contribute, not being able to do anything in overtime.”
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The offensive line also had to shuffle its lineup because of injuries. Jake Springfield, a redshirt freshman who started at left tackle, exited the game late in the second quarter.
After a chaotic play when Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai sacked Spencer Sanders and forced a fumble, trainers had to assist Springfield off the field. He gingerly walked toward the sideline, limping as he kept weight off his right leg. Springfield didn’t return, so Josh Sills shifted to left tackle, and Preston Wilson took Sills’ spot at left guard.
“(The injuries) had an impact, on just, what can we do throwing the football, and how are we gonna protect it and all that stuff,” offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said. “But at the end of the day, I think we could have protected it well enough to push the ball down the field and give those guys more shots. I’ll take that responsibility.”
Right tackle Teven Jenkins was shaken up in the first half, but he was able to walk off the field with no help and reentered the game a few plays later.
The Cowboys (4-1 overall, 3-1 Big 12) went into their matchup against the Longhorns without Tyren Irby, a junior backup defensive end who had a big scoop-and-score play against West Virginia. Irby had an undisclosed injury during OSU’s victory against Iowa State, so he did not dress in pads and a uniform for the Texas game.
First-year kicker sends game into overtime
With five seconds left, pressure weighed on OSU’s first-year kicker.
The Cowboys were depending on Alex Hale, a redshirt sophomore from Australia, to determine if they would lose in regulation or go into overtime against Texas (4-2, 3-2). Hale came in clutch to give the Cowboys one final chance, but after he created an opportunity, OSU couldn’t score in overtime.
From 34 yards out, Hale stepped up and launched the football between the goalposts, tying Texas at 34. Despite Hale’s limited experience with the Cowboys, he has already settled into a position as a reliable kicker in place of Matt Ammendola. Hale is 11-of-12 on the season, and his longest field goal was a 44-yarder against West Virginia.
Third-down defense helps Cowboys early, can’t prevent loss
After Sanders threw an interception in the second quarter, Tanner McCalister refused to let the Longhorns use their sudden momentum for a touchdown.
On a third-and-goal play with the game tied at 14, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger faked a pass to his left and then spun around to connect with Cade Brewer. Although Brewer was close to reaching the end zone, defensive back McCalister zeroed in on him and hurried toward him for a tackle, forcing the Longhorns to settle for a field goal instead. Texas then led 17-14, but McCalister’s big play had minimized the damage.
Despite the Longhorns’ victory, the Cowboy defense continued its trend of challenging opponents on third downs.
OSU held Texas to a 13.3 third-down conversion percentage, allowing the Longhorns to convert on only two of 15 third-down plays. Texas’ Ryan Bujcevski had to punt nine times, including three punts in the first quarter.
“I thought our guys fought hard against a tough opponent,” Knowles said. “We’re starting to get into these games that matter on a national scene. You’re never gonna be perfect, but you gotta fight to be damn near perfect.”
Although OSU’s defense contained the Longhorns early, the Cowboys’ offensive mishaps led to difficult scenarios for the defensive unit. Ossai sacked Sanders one last time to seal the Cowboys’ fate, as they had no answer for Ehlinger’s overtime touchdown pass to Joshua Moore.
“We put (the defense) in terrible positions time after time,” coach Mike Gundy said. “And they rallied a few times and held them to field goals. I'm going to say they played well; we just can't put them in that position that many times, particularly against a quarterback like Sam Ehlinger.”
Hallie Hart, For The Oklahoman