Cowboy quarterback Spencer Sanders’ status heading into the Pokes’ match up against the Kansas Jayhawks is trending upward every day. Sanders suffered a high ankle sprain early in OSU’s season opener vs Tulsa and suited up for but missed the following game. Coach Mike Gundy cited that he was good to go in case of an emergency situation only against West Virginia. Luckily, no emergency alarms were sounded and OSU took down the Mountaineers by two touchdowns.
The question is; even if Sanders is completely recovered, 100% ready to go by Saturday, does Mike Gundy play him?
Many fans want to see the stud sophomore back in action so the OSU offense can get back on track, but playing Sanders against the nearly 15-time defending worst team in the Big 12 can only do more harm than good.
Sanders sustained a season-ending injury last season against the Jayhawks, a game Oklahoma State dominated. This came back to bite them later on in the season when they barely squeaked by West Virginia and lost to both Oklahoma in Bedlam and Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl. Had Sanders been benched early on, he might have played in those games and perhaps helped change the outcome.
Alas, the Pokes lost to the Texas Longhorns of the SEC and ended the season on a sour note. Let’s try not to repeat that mistake a second time. Plus, Sanders will have an extra full week to recover and prep for the next game, and I think Cowboy fans would rather be safe than sorry.
True freshman Shane Illingworth did what he needed to in the Cowboys 27-13 win over WVU, although he did show some signs of inexperience, and has yet to throw a touchdown pass in the two games he has played thus far. The Jayhawks are a perfect opponent for a young quarterback looking to gain experience, while not having the pressure of a big game thrust upon him. OSU’s next foe is Baylor, and based on how the Bears handled this Kansas team a week ago, Sanders will serve the Cowboy offense much better than the young Illingworth.
Don’t get me wrong, Illingworth is doing fantastic for a true freshman who didn’t practice for two weeks leading up to the season, but the offense just has a different mojo with Sanders at the helm. His run threat forces defenders to prioritize him, which opens up opportunities for the running backs. He can scramble out of the pocket and hit his receivers on the run, unlike the primarily pocket passing Illingworth.
Mike Gundy should sit Sanders one more game. He’ll spare himself the risk of further injury, and Illingworth will gain valuable experience that will help OSU later down the road.
Gundy must also make sure not to be too transparent with Sanders’ injury status in the days leading up to the game. Keep Les Miles in the dark about who he’ll be facing up against so he does not know which QB to gameplan for. Although, gameplan or not, it is still Kansas we’re talking about. I don’t think it will make much difference.
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