Unfortunately, it is that time of year again. It felt like just yesterday the Big 12 football season was kicking off and within the blink of an eye it’s gone. Of course, some fans don’t mind when the season is flying by because when your team is bad, you are likely wanting it to be over as soon as possible. Today, we pick back up the series since bowl season is over. Next up, are the Oklahoma State Cowboys who finished the 2019 season at 8-5 under head coach Mike Gundy.
Against a weak non-conference, the Cowboys cruised to an easy 3-0 to start the year off with wins against Oregon State, McNeese State and Tulsa. But to kick off conference play, the Pokes had to travel to Austin to take on the Longhorns. Entering the game, Oklahoma State had a five-game winning streak in Austin, but it was snapped as they fell short 36-30 on the road.
The Cowboys had a chance to redeem themselves against a ranked Kansas State team at home and they didn’t disappoint with an impressive 26-13 win. Just as this team was getting back on their feet, they suffered back to back losses against Texas Tech and Baylor. Sitting at 4-3 and with three conference losses, the shot at a Big 12 title was likely gone. However, this team showed some fight and reeled off a four-game win streak against Iowa State, TCU, Kansas and West Virginia. Now with an 8-3 record, Oklahoma State hosted in state rival Oklahoma but with a backup quarterback, couldn’t get the job done. Unfortunately, they suffered the same fate against Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl to end their year at 8-5.
It’s the Kansas State game. Some may lean Iowa State but by then the Cowboys already had three Big 12 losses and were out of contention. After the loss to Texas on the road, Oklahoma State still showed some positives with new quarterback Spencer Sanders. The Kansas State game was going to be a tough test for the Pokes as the Wildcats came to Stillwater ranked as the twenty-fourth bets team in the country. While the ESPN Plus feed was terrible, Oklahoma State took care of business and running back Chuba Hubbard rushed for an absurd 296-yards on the day.
Who in the heck saw the Texas Tech game coming? Fresh off a big win against Kansas State, the Cowboys pull a no show in the first half. Between the turnovers and the 20-0 hole they dig themselves, it was going to be tough to comeback and they couldn’t pull it off. While the Pokes would fall by ten, they could have been neck and neck with the Red Raiders by late second half but Spencer Sanders five turnovers that day is what really did them in.
What Went Right
Offensively it all starts with Chuba Hubbard at running back. Chuba rushed for a nation leading 2,094 yards and added 21 total touchdowns for the year. When in doubt, Chuba delivered time and time again. With help or no help, Chuba was the man in Stillwater. Obviously wide out Tylan Wallace was absolutely crushing it as ended the season with 903 yards and 8 touchdowns despite missing the last month of the season after tearing his ACL in a practice. Of course, quarterback Spencer Sanders had some good moments too completing 62.8% of his passes which isn’t that bad for a true freshman and rushing for 628 yards on the year.
There wasn’t a lot to be thrilled about defensively under second year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles but linebackers Malcolm Rodriguez and Amen Ogbongbemiga each had 100 tackles or more. Not to mention, defensive back Kolby Harvell-Peel was a first team All-Big 12 selection. Again, it wasn’t a great year on defense, but I will say that the Cowboys were playing better towards the end of the season.
What Went Wrong
I can’t complain too much about the offense, but the passing game could have used some work. Spencer Sanders had a good freshman year, but he will need to continue to make strides in the passing game if this team wants a shot at a Big 12 title in 2020. That said, injuries hurt him some at the end of the season and speaking of injuries, losing Tylan Wallace hurt a lot. I think if Spencer and Tylan were healthy, I think they would have given the Sooners a better game and beaten A&M in the bowl game. Also, the Cowboys need to find more playmakers outside of the big trio. There was no clear cut second running back and while Dillon Stoner and Braydon Johnson were nice players at receiver, they weren’t always noticeable.
Like I mentioned earlier, this defense wasn’t where they wanted to be. They were average at stopping the run but really struggled against the pass finishing eight in the Big 12 in pass defense. It wasn’t a good defense, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad one either. It was a younger group and this group was still learning a bit.
There should be bright days ahead in Stillwater. The offense only loses two starters overall with two offensive linemen but bring in offensive guard Josh Sills from West Virginia who should nicely fit in. Other than that, the entire offense will be back including Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard and their top three receivers with Tylan Wallace, Dillon Stoner and Braydon Johnson. The weapons are there, and it will be up to Spencer Sanders to improve as a passer for the offense to take that next big step.
Much like the offense, the defense losses very little as the only person moving on is cornerback A.J. Green. Everyone else will be back and there is no excuse to be a middle of the pack defense in the Big 12. Combine this with what’s coming back on offense and there should be no reason that the Cowboys aren’t playing in Jerry World come December of this year. This team has the experience and talent to compete for a conference title. Unlike 2017, this team will have a better defense and will feel like those 2010-2011 teams who had the talent on both sides of the ball to compete at a high level.
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