A decent amount of Cowboy fans are now a little more nervous about the Pokes’ upcoming matchup with Tulsa than they were a week ago after a less-than-stellar performance by the Oklahoma State offense against Missouri State on Saturday.
It should be a given that Missouri State is not a team that should be forcing seven punts and three turnovers against a solid Power 5 program like Oklahoma State. Yet, that is what we witnessed from Mike Gundy’s and offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn’s offense as I got vibes of last season while watching the game.
It’s pretty easy to say that a performance like last weekend against any other team on Oklahoma State’s remaining schedule likely would have resulted in an OSU loss, which is why a lot of things must be fixed on the offensive side of the ball before the Cowboys welcome Tulsa to Stillwater this Saturday. Primarily, the Pokes’ abysmal rushing game.
The Cowboys’ offense looked fluid and confident in the passing game in the early stages of game one. The same cannot be said for the running game, however, as OSU rushed for 54 total yards while averaging just 1.9 yards per carry.
The reason for this is a bit of a mystery to me. Quarterback Shane Illingworth had no trouble slinging the ball down the field and he always had time to sit in the pocket to make his reads, so the Missouri State defense couldn’t have been that dominant up front. Illingworth was only hurried four times all game and sacked just once, yet the OSU running backs had trouble just picking up two yards each rush.
Wide receiver Braydon Johnson had the longest run of the day, a 13-yard jet sweep. LD Brown had the longest among the backs with his 11-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Brown, the team’s “featured” running back Saturday, carried the ball 15 times for just 30 yards.
But with the Big 12 season just a couple of weeks away, Oklahoma State’s offense can’t become one dimensional in a league that continues to improve its defensive performance. Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Texas are all stout defensive teams. West Virginia had one of the best defenses in the country last season, and while they may not be able to duplicate that, the team will still be solid. Texas Tech looks like it might be capable of play its best defense in years. The holes for the running game won’t magically open up for Mike Gundy’s team come Big 12 play.
Could it be a fairly new offensive line group that needs to gel and build chemistry together? Or maybe a restricted playbook so that Gundy doesn’t show his hand early in the season? Whatever it is, it needs to improve from this weekend’s game on, or Cowboy fans will be in store for a very long season.