Oklahoma State Cowboys

Mike Gundy’s Conservatism Cost Oklahoma State vs. TCU

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Texas Christian

Credit TCU, they fought hard and took advantage, but it’s simple: Oklahoma State lost the game.

It looked like smooth sailing out of the gate when OSU jumped out to a 14-point lead. I’m not sure if the Pokes do what a lot of teams do and script the first 20 or so plays, but after those two drives the offense seemed sluggish and unimaginative. 

 

Spencer Sanders reportedly didn’t practice all week with a banged up shoulder and while it didn’t show a lot it did show.  His usually beautiful deep balls just seemed to be a little off, forcing his receivers to play defender to keep it away from the Horned Frogs covering them.  He underthrew a wide-open touchdown in the fourth quarter that probably puts the game away, but instead it ended up being an interception. It didn’t seem like it was out of his range. Maybe he just misjudged it but I don’t think so. No, I think he threw it as hard as he could with that shoulder.

I’m not knocking Sanders. The kid is a warrior and he bleeds orange. Also, it’s not like he was a lame duck out there. The passing game wasn’t completely ineffective. He seemed fine on the shorter stuff, but drops plagued to receivers. He did do some damage with his legs scoring two touchdowns..

He ran very effectively. Until he didn’t. Which brings me to my actual complaint about the game: Oklahoma State got outcoached on both sides of the ball.

Pokes Outcoached

TCU had to make an adjustment to stop Sanders from rushing. That should’ve opened something else up. When an opponent adjusts, you adjust to the adjustment, right? It seems like the Pokes offense stayed the same the whole game after the first two touchdowns. Run, run, (off-the-mark) deep ball. Sometimes they got some yards, but the drives always stalled and they ended up kicking field goals when just one more touchdown in place of one of those would’ve won the game . Of course, Gundy’s conservative nature doesn’t help, but I’ll get into that later.

 

On defense, the Cowboys played as well as you could ask. They slowed down the Frogs as much as anyone has, but the inability to tackle is concerning. It seemed like nine out of 10 times the first defender to the ball couldn’t bring down the runner, be it a running back, a receiver, or Max Duggan. It’s easy to blame that on fatigue from defending over 100 plays against Texas Tech last week, but it’s been a problem all season. With players like Bijan Robinson, Deuce Vaughn, and Adrian Martinez still on the schedule, they’d better clean that up really fast. Note: Robinson and Texas come to town next week.  

Oh, and maybe pay extra attention to the other teams best receiver?

About Mike Gundy

Now, about Gundy.  I’m a Gundy fan and supporter. I’ve written pieces defending him many times over the years when the fans gets restless. I’ve even recently defended his evolution into who I call “Michael ‘Bill Synder’ Gundy”, where he eschews risk and always tries to make the safe play.  Synder made himself famous by always doing things the right way and taking a Kansas State program from literally one of the worst in college football to a more than respectable team. Do things the right way and they turn out right, right?

Most the time yes. Not all the time. 

Most of the time, Gundy’s conservatism pays off.  The guy wins a lot of games. Playing it safe and trusting the system worked on the road in Waco against the Bears and at home against the Red Raiders. Watching the Cowboys punt it away and call runs on third and long was infuriating when contrasted against Baylor and Texas Tech seemingly going for it on every field-position-be-damned fourth down and picking up most of them.

 

But then you look up at the end and it’s a double-digit win for the Pokes.

Having a system that works is great, but sometimes you have to break your own routine and Gundy missed a perfect chance to maybe save the game Saturday by letting the leash out just a little bit.

I’m not talking about a trick play. They did a couple during the game with uneven results. A flea flicker early on went for a big gain and then what looked like what was going to be a running back pass from Ollie Gordon that ended up being nothing because TCU played it beautifully. 

Go for Two in OT

No, I’m talking about after scoring a touchdown in the first overtime. That was the time for Mike Gundy to remember he used to have a mullet. That was the time we needed shirtless-at-a-pep-rally Gundy. Wrestling singlet Gundy. Playing a saxophone in Gallagher-Iba Arena Gundy.

After that touchdown Cowboy Nation needed Mike Gundy to pull out a Keystone Light tallboy from somewhere, chug it, crush the can on his forehead and hold up two fingers.

Going for two in that situation would’ve been the right call. You won’t change my mind. You’re team reeling. Your opponent just erased a 14 point lead you had nursed all game in the fourth quarter because your defense is tired and your offense has lost its footing. The crowd is in it. TCU scored in two plays in their star receive was left to run free AGAIN. 

 

The way that game was going if you manage to get a touchdown on your turn you go for two. Win or lose, one play. Round up your team and tell them you need them to dig deep for one play. “I know you’re tired but give it all NOW.  This is it. One play. Go get it.”  

You might think that’s easy for me to say after the fact, but I promise you I was screaming it at my TV. Dominic Richardson had a decent game. He runs hard and falls forward. Line it up and let him get two yards.  If it doesn’t work, fine. You lose by one. You threw a haymaker and got caught on the chin, but at least you didn’t turtle and drag it out 15 rounds and lose by decision. 

Before you argue with me, think about how you would have felt if Gundy rolls the dice and the offense gets stuffed. Would you feel better than you do now after watching a holding call and dropped passes make the Pokes kick a field goal and subsequently watching the defense get trucked for 25 yards and a TCU win?  

Admit it. After OSU kicked it in the second over time you HOPED for a TCU field goal, but really, deep down, you knew that field goal meant we lost. As you watched Max Duggan take a hard hit and pinwheel slightly you prayed for the ball to pop out because that was the only hope. 

When TCU got the ball for 1st and goal for the one-yard line it was inevitable and somewhat fitting that the game-winning play should’ve been stopped for a loss, but yet another whiff on a tackle let the Frogs in the end zone.

This isn’t the end of the season for the Cowboys. Mike Gundy talks about his team’s culture and how they don’t panic and honestly it always seems like in our best years we kind of luck our way through half the year before dropping one and then we refocus; think the Iowa State loss last year.

This team is good, but not great. They can beat every team left on the schedule, including a rematch with TCU in Arlington if they play just marginally better. And I have no doubt in my mind the team will following this loss.

With the Texas Longhorns and the Kanas State Wildcats coming up the next two weeks, they’d better.

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