Carlson: Wonder how OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders is working through Texas turnovers? J'Mar Smith has a good idea
J’Mar Smith understands what Spencer Sanders has gone through this past week.
He once had a three-turnover game like Sanders did last Saturday against Texas. It was gut wrenching in the moment. It was painful for many days after. Those turnovers hung over the quarterback’s head like a storm cloud.
But while Smith has a sense of how the Oklahoma State quarterback has felt, he knows even better what Sanders has heard.
“You have to let that go. You have to reset.”
Those are words Smith heard after his three-turnover game from his quarterback coach at Louisiana Tech.
Now in his first season as quarterback coach at OSU, Rattay has spent the past week helping Sanders work through what happened a week ago. For all the good Sanders did — and there was lots of it — two fumbles and one interception were game changers. All three gave Texas the ball 20 yards or less from the end zone and ended in points.
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In a game OSU lost in overtime, those turnovers were the difference.
And this wasn't an aberration; in nine career games against Big 12 opponents, Sanders has 13 interceptions.
Now, as OSU heads to K-State and faces a program known for making few mistakes and pouncing on opponents’ miscues, no Cowboy must make a bigger turnaround than Sanders.
“Tim Rattay, I think, is a really good counselor for him,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “Spencer knows that I’m here — he knows how I feel about it — but he’s going to be closer to his position coach.
“Tim has done a really good job of understanding his personality.”
Smith believes Sanders has the best in the business helping him.
“That’s my guy,” Smith said of Rattay.
Smith, who finished up at Louisiana Tech last season, was with Rattay for three years in Ruston. Smith credits Rattay for much of his success, including being Conference USA offensive player of the year as a senior.
But Smith believes one of the best things Rattay did — and this should be music to Cowboy fans’ ears — was help him handle adversity.
Smith, like Sanders, is a self-proclaimed perfectionist.
“I always wanted to make every play the right play or make every throw the right throw,” he said. “I remember in practice, I used to get mad at myself when I’d miss a throw. Coach Rattay would be like, ‘You can’t do that.’”
Rattay even booted Smith out of practice a time or two after he let a poor play pollute everything else.
Rattay didn’t want one bad moment to turn into two or three or more bad ones.
“That was the gist of everything,” Smith said. “If you throw (an interception) and it gets into your mind, it’s going to trick you — ‘I have to do more.’ You don’t have to. You just have to reset your clock, reset that mental thought and just go play.
“Go do what you do. Go execute the next play.”
Those were mantras Rattay repeated often, but Smith heard them constantly in the days after his three-turnover game. It was the season opener his junior year, and he threw three interceptions. Even though Louisiana Tech went on to beat South Alabama that day, Smith remembers it for the interceptions thrown and the lessons learned.
He only threw seven interceptions the rest of that season.
And the next season, he threw five total.
It was a huge turnaround, and Smith believes Rattay can have the same effect on Sanders.
Smith has watched some of OSU’s games, and he is impressed by the talent, not only in Sanders but also in the players around him. Rattay, Smith said, is likely reminding Sanders of guys like Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace, LD Brown and Dillon Stoner.
Once upon a time, Rattay reminded Smith that he didn’t have to do everything on his own either.
“You have to trust your guys if we’re going to have the offense that we want,” Smith remembers Rattay saying.
That unlocked something in Smith.
“It was fireworks after that,” he said.
OSU would love seeing offensive fireworks, but right now, Spencer Sanders cutting down on turnovers would be a good start.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.