I hear it all the time, “Who has the best conference in college football?” SEC? Big 10? ACC? What about the Pac-12? Very rarely are you going to hear the words “Big 12” coming out of someone’s mouth in that conversation. Whether you do it or not, there are plenty of folks out there who love to bash the Big 12 conference (cough, Paul Finebaum, cough). It was a lonely weekend in the Big 12. The Oklahoma State/Tulsa game was the only Big 12 game this weekend and having an 11 a.m. kickoff made things feel even worse because I had to find other games to watch throughout the day. In case you missed it, Oklahoma State beat Tulsa 16-7.
Oklahoma State fans should be thankful for this defense on Saturday because if not for this defensive effort, today would have been a lot worse than what it is. This defense forced Tulsa to go 0 for 11 on third down and held them to 278 yards on the day. Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez had a superb game with ten tackles and two of them were in the backfield. The Cowboys return ten starters on defense from a year ago and it showed on Saturday. Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles has a solid unit and his defense carried the team to victory.
It is rare that I talk about special teams unless someone is giving up scores like Iowa State did against ULL last week but give credit to kicker Alex Hale. Alex went 3 for 3 with a long of 40-yards against Tulsa and his team needed every point they could get with the offense struggling.
Look, I understand starting quarterback Spencer Sanders left the game early with a high ankle sprain and even before he went out, the offense was struggling a bit. The Cowboys could not run the ball because of backup quarterback Ethan Bullock’s lack of ability to throw the football. Bullock played a little over two full quarters yet attempted just 13 passes and threw for just 41 yards. All Tulsa did was load up the box and dared the Pokes to throw the ball and with Ethan Bullock in, the Cowboys could not.
Of course, the offensive line did not help much either as they gave up six sacks and the ground game averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on 50 carries. Oklahoma State rolled out with Teven Jenkins at left tackle, Josh Sills at left guard, Ry Schneider at center, Cole Birmingham at right guard and Hunter Anthony at right tackle. But as the game went on, the Cowboys offensive line looked a bit different as Teven Jenkins slid over to right tackle (to balance out the right side), Hunter Woodard replaced Cole Birmingham at right guard and replacing Jenkins was Jake Springfield at left tackle who is a redshirt freshman and former walk-on. It was obvious that Oklahoma State was having some problems up front and it will be something to watch as the season goes on because before the season started, I truly believed that this team was a good offensive line away from me writing them in the Big 12 title game with a sharpie.
Luckily for the fans and this team, Ethan Bullock was replaced by freshman Shane Illingworth who provided a nice spark for the offense. Offensive Coordinator Kasey Dunn let Shane throw the ball around some and when he did, he found superstar wide out Tylan Wallace who caught four passes for 94 yards.
My bottom line for the offense is simple. The offensive line was below average and when Ethan Bullock was in, Tulsa loaded up the box and dared the Cowboys to throw the ball and Ethan Bullock never even tried. Yes, Tylan Wallace was getting held some but when Tulsa decides to guard him using man to man coverage, I have no idea why they did not try to take advantage of that and it took this offense until the fourth quarter to score a touchdown. Fortunately, Shane Illingworth helped saved the day or else it could have been yet again another embarrassing weekend for the Big 12.
Outside of the vanilla game plan on offense when Ethan Bullock was in, I had a much bigger issue. How in the world was Shane Illingworth on the bench for two quarters when Ethan Bullock was out on the field? It was obvious that after two or three pass attempts that Shane Illingworth was the superior quarterback who had much better command of the offense and opened things up a bit. I mean, did this offensive staff and Mike Gundy zone out on Saturday or what?
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