More Evaluation Of Mike Yurcich

Play-calling is not an exact science, and in many ways it is an art, a skill. Some really great football minds have it, but some equally as gifted football minds don't. A long time ago a coach told me that more than football knowledge, the ability to play chess and be a stellar thinking competitor was more or at least as valuable as direct football IQ in being a successful play-caller.

I realize that Oklahoma State did not win the Cotton Bowl. I fully understand that the Cowboys were slow starters on offense and had trouble finishing drives throughout the contest, but I also understand that Missouri has a good defense.

From research, I also know that the Cowboys gained more yards and score more points than all but one of the Tigers opponents in the 2013 season. Auburn, who will play for the BCS National Championship on Monday night, is the only team that scored more points or had more yards against Missouri that Oklahoma State. The Cowboys scored 31 points and had 548 total yards versus Missouri, while Auburn scored 59 points on 677 yards.

Here are some of the other opponents numbers vs. Missouri this season.
Texas A&M - 21 points/379 yards
Mississippi - 10 points/378 yards
South Carolina - 27 points/498 yards (2 overtimes)
Florida - 17 points/151 yards
Georgia - 26 points/454 yards

Now getting more detailed in the Cotton Bowl, I took a thorough examination of first and third downs, as both are critical to drive and overall offensive success. Here is what I came up with and I divided it into first and second half totals and combined.

First Downs
In the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma State had a total of 41 first-down plays and the Cowboys were able to gain five yards or more on 22 of those 41 first-down snaps. I would love to see that number higher, but based on the competition it is pretty good.

I also noticed from a play-calling aspect that Yurcich went in calling first down plays with the intent of passing to set up the run. After what Auburn did to Missouri, I questioned that but looking at the way Missouri played early with seven in the box and a safety leaning to stopping the run, I have to say that concept made sense.

There were also two first down plays that went for 25 yards or more in the first half. In the second half, Missouri played it more honest and Oklahoma State ran much more on first down as you will see by the numbers below.

First Down Statistics
1st Half
16 First Down plays (7 run and 9 pass) resulted in 142 yards for an average of 8.9 yards per snap.

2nd Half
25 First Down plays (14 run and 11 pass) resulted in 117 yards for an average of 4.7 yards per snap.

41 First Down plays (21 run and 20 pass) resulted in 259 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per snap.

Now for third downs, which arguably did not go as well. I think you have to give some credit to Missouri for doing a good job of third-down defense. Even on plays where Oklahoma State converted, primarily in the second half, it was often reliant on individual player skill and group execution over any great advantage based on play call.

However, when playing good teams with good coaches that is generally the case. Players win games in those situations much more often than coaches with schemes.

Third Down Statistics
First Half
OSU was 3-of-8 (38%) on third downs (3 runs and 5 pass plays with one sack) and had 13 yards. That is an average of a paltry 1.6 yards a play.

Second Half
OSU was 6-of-14 (43%) on third downs (3 runs and 11 pass plays with one interception and one sack) and had 136 yards. That is an average of 9.7 yards a play.

OSU was 9-of-22 (41%) on third downs (6 runs and 16 called pass plays) and had 149 yards. That is an average of 6.8 yards a play.

Those numbers aren't great but they aren't awful either, and they came against a very credible defense. Once again, Oklahoma State was not as dominant on the offensive line in run blocking and did not have a running back as dominant as they have had in seasons past. I think the play calling decisions reflect that aspect and needed to.

I would say it is imperative for Oklahoma State to find or further develop a running back or two that can have greater success whether in space or between the tackles. Ideally, the Cowboys would have two backs that can play off and contrast each other in building a run attack that the offense can depend on for more stability.

Passing is great and the Cowboys have receivers and quarterbacks that will compliment the offense. J.W. Walsh gives the Cowboys a dual-threat quarterback, Mason Rudolph and possibly Daxx Garman and Jake Hubanek give the Cowboys more lively passers. However, it is vital to have that run game that can stand up when needed.

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