This was a good win over a solid but not great team. It was very impressive in that Oklahoma State got down and dirty and beat an SEC team playing SEC-type football. They wore them down and they out-toughed them.
One quick note before we get started, from an injury standpoint it appears there were plenty of bumps and bruises that are expected in a physical game but only one serious injury. Reserve defensive back and senior Larry Stephens suffered a knee injury, presumed to be an ACL tear on the right knee. He will be re-evaluated Sunday and Monday.
1. Third Quarter is a Key to Any Game
The Cowboys came out and took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove the ball 75 yards in 11 plays and converted two third downs, both with short passes (Walsh to Josh Stewart and Walsh to Blake Jackson).
They finished it off with a jet handoff for 15 yards to Stewart after the review of the catch by Desmond Roland that was clearly out of bounds. Jeremy Smith got the touchdown on a 1-yard run. That drive ate up nearly a third of the quarter.
Oklahoma State would finish the quarter on a drive heading toward its final touchdown. In all, the Cowboys had 200 yards of offense in the third period and Mississippi State had 10 yards with one-yard rushing and no first downs. Complete dominance in one of the most critical times in a football game.
Of course, the first quarter was not so good with Mississippi State holding a 148-to-47 advantage in total offense and a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard. However, the third quarter more than trumped that.
2. Quarterback Situation Now Has Walsh as Starter
It is always tough for me because I truly like all the Cowboys players. Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh are both quality young men from good families but quarterback is a position where unless there are drastic style differences to be tapped there needs to be one quarterback.
I agreed with Chelf getting the start. He came in last year and "saved the bacon" with his late season heroics and bowl game-MVP performance. He did all of that after sticking out a situation where most would have quit. He earned the start.
However, based on fall camp and the caliber of the first opponent I believe both quarterbacks were told that the hot hand would play and that there was no time to waste in getting the offense in gear. Walsh had an advantage to offer the offense and that had been seen in team periods and scrimmages. during the fall.
That is where the QB run came out of what we know as the diamond. I saw it on the Shippensburg tape I watched after Yurcich was hired, and I called it a counter option read, which Yurcich brought with him and has another name for it.
Without a quarterback with an NFL arm like a Brandon Weeden or Wes Lunt the offense has to have that other unlocking dimension, and Walsh's speed and running ability gives that to the offense. In time, as soon as Saturday against Texas-San Antonio, opposing defenses will have to respect that. As a result, that will allow bigger and better windows in the passing game.
I don't blame Colton Chelf for his "tweet" and defending his brother. He could have used different language. Clint is important to this team and as we have seen the quarterback position can have some crazy twists and turns.
Chelf owes nobody an apology, far from it as he is a valuable member of the Cowboys program. However, he is also not owed anything above and beyond a fair chance, which every player gets in practice and some in games. Chelf had a fair chance throughout August and the first chance against Mississippi State on Saturday.
3. Sam Wren
His final stats on Saturday was one assisted tackle but Wren was much more accomplished than the stats showed. His rush on the short pass to the sideline in the first quarter was instrumental in the interception by Justin Gilbert.
Wren came in and leaped to restrict the sight of Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell on that first quarter play. I think if he had seen the situation better, Russell may have thrown the pass out of bounds. Wren was in the neighborhood in the backfield on several plays, running the quarterback or a running back into another Cowboys arms. He was able to get penetration and he was active.
4. Shamiel Gary has a Big Day
There are two Oklahoma State defenders that seem to come under the microscope more than others -- middle linebacker Caleb Lavey and strong safety Shamiel Gary.
Lavey led OSU in tackles with 11 and a half sack and two tackles for losses against Mississippi State. Gary was right behind with 10 tackles and three passes broken up. Gary was an aggressive tackler and seemed to be at the right place at the right time and almost had a huge interception of his own. Had he caught it, the Cowboys may have kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard entirely as a few plays after the near pick they hit the field goal for their only points.
This OSU defense is built to stop Big 12 offenses but thanks to two hard-headed, throwback-type players like Lavey and Gary, along with others defenders that like to fistfight for a few hours, the OSU defense out-SEC'd the Mississippi State offense.
Kip Smith has been on campus for two years now but the first was spent getting medical treatment and going to school before he officially joined the football program last January. So he is considered a first-year player in the program and is not allowed to do media interviews.
That's unfortunate because he deserved to be heard. His kickoffs were good, but his punting was spectacular and without it in the first half Oklahoma State might have been down at the half by multiple scores.
In the first half, with the OSU offense trying to find its rhythm, Smith punted five times for a 46.6 yards average and because of the hang time and the placement the Bulldogs had one punt return for two yards. Smith, in his first effort, really flipped the field for the OSU defense. He's a good young man and I'm looking forward to interviewing him some day, he earned it Saturday.
6. Downfield Blocking
I really hoped to keep this to just five topics but I had to add downfield blocking as it was really good. Some of the offensive line, including center Jake Jenkins, was getting downfield for second-level blocks.
The running backs, including Jeremy Seaton, Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland, also were good downfield. Roland had a great block on the Walsh run to set up the first touchdown.
The receivers blocked well too. A few times too well in the eyes of the Big Ten officiating crew. Not complaining, the calls were good. The corrections should be even better. Anybody that doesn't think Josh Stewart will see, listen and work on correcting the two plays he was called for is off base. Stewart will get that right and Roland will learn not to trip a defender.
That is what first games are for. It would be more difficult to digest if those blocks weren't being attempted or made at all. That is not the case.
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