It’s not often, you see a 2,000-yard rusher with 20 touchdowns in the Big 12 Conference, yet here in NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas we saw one for the first time since 1998 when Ricky Williams was racing his way into the record books for the Texas Longhorns. However, this time around the color orange wasn’t the burnt kind, since it was Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard who had one of the quietest 2,000-yard rushing seasons in the history of college football.
Yet, despite his greatness tonight there were bigger issues that his team had against former Big 12 foe Texas A&M. For one, the injuries were completely jaw dropping for Oklahoma State in this game. Not only was superstar wide receiver Tylan Wallace still sidelined with an ACL injury, but you had first team All-Big 12 defensive back Kolby Harvell-Peel out with a knee injury, and not to mention, starting quarterback Spencer Sanders still recovering from thumb surgery a month ago. Although Sanders participated in a few plays, it was up to backup quarterback Dru Brown to get the job done.
Surprisingly, the Cowboys got off to a good start. On the second play of A&M’s first drive, the Cowboys forced a turnover as freshman defensive end Trace Ford sacked Kellen Mond and Mond coughed up the football to give the Cowboys the football deep in Aggie territory. Unfortunately, the Cowboys went backwards on their first offensive possession and it resulted in a missed 53-yard field goal by Matt Ammendola.
After the missed kick, the offense appeared to find some life with the help of wide receiver Braydon Johnson who caught a 42-yard pass for a score and then helped set up the 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Dru Brown to give the Cowboys an early 14-0 lead over the Aggies. Just as things were looking up, they came crashing right back down for the Pokes. Through the last three quarters, A&M would outscore Oklahoma State 24-7 and went on a 24-0 run before Oklahoma State snapped the streak with around a minute left when Dru Brown hit Braydon Johnson for his second touchdown pass of the game. By then, it was too little, too late as the Cowboys fell 24-21 and snapped their three-game bowl winning streak dating back to 2015.
“They really wore us down on both side of the ball in the second half,” said Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy after the loss. Gundy was spot on as the Aggies ran wild for a whopping 248 yards, with most of them coming from quarterback Kellen Mond in the second half. Even with that, Gundy still felt like his defense played well enough to win saying, “Outside of one long run, I thought we played great on defense tonight.”
While his defense played well enough to win, it was the offense that really struggled for most of the ball game. As running back Chuba Hubbard was tearing up the Aggie defense, he finished the game with less than 20 carries yet rushed for 158 yards. Loaded box or not, he was making things happen with the football in his hands and for some reason, his number wasn’t called nearly enough tonight. Now obviously, Oklahoma State was down quite a few key players, but at times it felt like the coaching just let the offense down.
Look, I understand that there were some dropped passes and that Dru Brown isn’t Spencer Sanders, but it was just a game of errors for the Cowboys. Between the lack of Chuba usage, the atrocious special teams and penalties, there are plenty of coachable corrections that we saw on Friday night. Now, whether or not those things get fixed next season remains to be seen, but if there is one thing that I took away from the shortest post-game press conference I have ever been in, it is that Gundy is, “Excited for the future.” I just wasn’t sure if he was talking about getting this bowl game over with or legitimately being excited to coach his team in 2020 where he thinks, “There is a good chance Chuba Hubbard comes back next year.”
However, if this program is to make that run at another Big 12 title, some things need to change and the Texas Bowl was a prime example of that.
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