Well that was disappointing, albeit not totally unexpected. Oklahoma State Cowboys looked very much like the team that was picked to shake up the conference hierarchy, while we looked every bit the squad that was projected to win 6-7 games. We had our chances Saturday, but if we're being honest, we never really looked like winning. Let's get to it.
Lets talk about missed opportunities
This was the story of the game. We turned the ball over five times, and Oklahoma State scored touchdowns following four of them, with the only failure coming on a missed FG midway through the 3rd quarter. The lengths of those scoring drives? 61, 51, 20, 17, and 12 (missed FG). Child’s play for one of the country’s best offenses.
Conversely, they turned the ball over four times, and we were only able to manage points when our defense and special teams did the work for us. Here are some of those sequences.
Our first takeaway came on State’s second play from scrimmage:
1st and 10 good guys, ball on the WVU 33. Not a bad spot. Unfortunately that drive ended with a punt after just five plays, and probably would’ve ended sooner without a lucky horse-collar call. Not ideal.
The next happened just a few plays later. J.D. King replaced the shaken up Hill, but Al Benton let him know that no one is safe:
Them #DAWGS were HITTIN’ early. Could not have drawn up a better start for our defense. Unfortunately, just one play later:
I’m not really sure what happened here, but this should’ve been an easy pitch and catch and we just missed it. We’ve made that play all year without thinking twice. We should’ve realized at this point that Saturday just might not have been our day.
And if we didn’t realize it then, we definitely should’ve realized in here:
Was Mason Rudolph just begging us to run away with this one or what? This was the fourth or fifth play of their next drive. On another day, we snag this and are in business with State already in a 7 point hole. But alas, we dropped it, and they scored a few plays later.
Fast forwarding a bit. The lead is cut to 30-24, and the place is absolutely rocking. There’s been a small crowd exodus due to weather and performance, but the 35,000 that are left are the exact 35,000 you’d want, and we were all the way in. To quote Mike Gundy, “Mountaineer Field got louder than any place I’ve ever heard.” And what do we do? We kick it short.
Now I understand that there a couple of different reasons to do this - it eliminates the chance of a momentum-killing big return and puts the ball in the hands of someone who's not totally comfortable with it. However, I don’t like it ever for one simple reason: field position. I don’t like it because our defense can come out and force a 3-and-out (which we did) and Oklahoma State can still flip the field with a good punt (which they did), leaving us pinned inside our own 5 instead somewhere around the 20.
Fast forwarding again to later in that drive. We’ve maneuvered out of the shadow of our own endzone but find ourselves in a 3rd and 7 to open the 4th quarter. So what do we do? Snap it when Will’s not looking, of course. Just when it felt like we were getting somewhere, and we do something like that. A microcosm of the whole game.
Fast forwarding one more time. 3rd and a short 4 for State on our 5 yard line. 30-24, 10 minutes left. They run a simple outside zone to the right, which we read and react to perfectly, only we forgot to make the tackle:
This was the back-breaker. It’s a two score game even with a field goal there, but letting Hill weasel his way out of a 2-yard loss into a 5-yard score was a real bummer for player and fan alike. It broke the MO that we’d been building over the previous five minutes and put them back in control.
The lesson here? You can't let teams like Oklahoma State off the hook, and you certainly can't give them second (and third, and fourth) chances. It’s hard to win football games against good teams, but it’s even harder to win football games against good teams when you hand them 28 points.
I hate that we make all the running backs look awesome
No reason to mince words here - I’m sick of everyone having career days against us. Justice Hill is obviously good and J.D. King apparently is, but come on. The only FBS team that we’ve held to less than their season average this year is TCU, and they still racked up 170 yards on us in a win. For god’s sake, we let Kansas put up 367 on us - they’ve only gone over 100 three other times and TCU held them to -25. -25!!! I understand that we’re young, but it’s gotta stop.
David Long is the Terminator
18 tackles, 7 TFL, and a fumble recovery. The dude is a machine. Feast eyes:
Even when he doesn’t make the play, he makes the play:
Those were back-to-back plays, by the way.
The guy is just a heat-seeking missile, and it’s going to be fun to watch him over the next (hopefully) two years.
A blocked punt?!?!
What is this sorcery? Can anyone even remember the last time we did this? It'll be lost in the midst of another relatively average special teams performance (and the loss, I guess), but it's nice to see those guys coming out of nowhere to spark a mini-rally.
It happened guys. Kwantel Raines committed. There’s not much that could’ve taken the sting out of Saturday, but securing the commitment of our next great safety definitely did. Seriously, I haven’t wanted a recruit this badly since Tavon. I’m so happy.
Random Thing I Noticed
Alabama’s radar chart is stupid. Look at this:
It’s basically just a circle. What is even the point?
I actually think there are things to be encouraged about. Surprising, I know. However, there’s a reason Oklahoma State was a trendy pick to win the conference in August - they’re the most talented team we’ve played to date and are loaded with upper-classmen on both sides of the ball. And again, despite being down by 20 twice, despite our offense playing by far their sloppiest game of the season, this team just refused to quit. The effort needs to be much more consistent (how about we try all the time instead of just when our backs are against the wall?), but there’s a lot to be said for that, and I think we’re still an extremely dangerous group. On to Iowa State.