By Michael Doutey
It wasn’t always pretty for Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys leave non-conference play 3-0 after a 40-21 win over Tulsa Saturday afternoon. The Pokes had some great moments and also had some learning moments. But the Pokes get the win and now look to next week and a trip to Austin to take on the talented Texas Longhorns.
Here are today’s five observations.
Sanders Growing Pains
Panic was flowing from OSU twitter at halftime of the game. OSU once lead 17-0, trailed 21-20 at the half. Fans were calling for Dru Brown at halftime. Spencer Sanders had the toughest half of his young career and the fans who clamored for him at halftime of games a season ago were now asking for him to be replaced. Sure Sanders struggled today. He was 12-22 for just 169 yards with one touchdown and two turnovers. It wasn’t pretty. But games like today are learning experiences for Sanders. For people who would argue with me last season, this is why it was important for him to gain a year of studying the offense. He’s shown his ability. He’s shown his talent. But putting it together consistently week in and week out is an attribute a player can only gain through success and failure on the field. No doubt he was rocky. No doubt it wasn’t pretty. But he gutted it out and found ways to make plays. As a fan, you can live with that. He’s going to have growing pains. All great players do. But he didn’t let it keep him down and he kept grinding. There is no doubt about it, Sanders improved today by experiencing real adversity.
Chuba Hubbard Does It Again
While the passing game didn’t have a huge day, the running game had a dominant day. It all started on the first play of the game where Chuba Hubbard ran through a hole 75 yards for a score. For the most part, outside the second quarter, OSU dominated the line of scrimmage. As a team, OSU rushed for 337 yards. Hubbard rushed for 256 yards, a career-high, and three touchdowns. The Golden Hurricane defense had been propped up all week. But the Pokes offensive line was dominant. Hubbard was equally as dominant. His speed and acceleration are truly next level. Hubbard has now rushed for over 200 yards twice in this young season. He is truly the most underrated player in the entire country. He’s rushed for 521 yards and seven touchdowns through three games this season. If he can keep this up he could be in for a special season in 2019.
Defense Shuts Out Tulsa in Second Half
OSU fans were out with their pitchforks and searching for Jim Knowles after a brutal second quarter. Most of what happened in the second quarter weren’t the fault of the defense. Some things stacked up against them. But after a brutal second quarter, the defense was locked down. The defense gave up nothing in the second half. OSU only allowed 30 yards in the third quarter, six of which were rushing. The defense also forced two turnovers on downs late in the game. The defense had their issues. Calvin Bundage, Brendan Evers, Isreal Antwine, and Sione Asi all missed today’s game. The depth was down and a lot of young players had to play a ton. Guys like Tyler Lacy, Sam Tuihalamaka, Trace Ford and Jayden Jernigan all made plays in big spots. All of these guys are either a redshirt freshman or true freshman. You have to like the way the defense played with grit and determination. Jim Knowles also made some great halftime adjustments and the players executed them to perfection. If you are an OSU fan today, you have to be very happy with the defensive effort today, especially in the second half.
One Thing I Liked
The thing that stood out most today was the fact that OSU turned the ball over twice today and the defense didn’t allow any points off them. In years past it was almost guaranteed a score by the other team. Today, the OSU defense didn’t allow any. It was huge and something to be recognized and celebrated. The fumble in the second half with OSU up just 33-21 was big. Tulsa was driving and had 4th and goal at the five. The Pokes bowed up and forced a sack, a brilliant delayed blitz by Kolby Harvell-Peel.
One Thing I Didn’t Like
One thing that I didn’t like was the way the offense came out of halftime. On the first drive of the second half, OSU had a hold by Dillon Stoner, a false start on the next play and then capping it off with 12 men on the field ON OFFENSE. How does that even happen? But the lack of focus on the offense entering the second half while trailing was very concerning, especially after a very slow and sloppy start the week before. Hopefully, they’ll be more locked in next week in Austin.
OSU is in action next week to take on the Texas Longhorns in Austin. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. next Saturday on ABC.