Analysis: Future Is Closer Than You Think

Two events struck me from Saturday's opening day of the 2014 Oklahoma State football season. The first was Saturday morning as I went downstairs around 8:30 a.m. and wandered into the large meeting room where at 10:30 a.m. the Cowboys were scheduled to have their breakfast. I do this often on road games and grab a coffee, check the high school scores, and read the sports page.

This time I had a great introductory conversation with the Cowboys new football nutritionist Charles Hewitt. The guy is impressive and he will have a positive influence.

Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer walked in and I spoke briefly with him. I said I understood how far the younger players and freshmen on defense had to go, but I thought that going from point A to the first game that they had made more progress than maybe any group I'd seen.

"It was a good camp and they did come a long way," Spencer agreed. "We have a long way to go but they have done a good job."

Those were words that Spencer would need to repeat after the 37-31 loss to top-ranked Florida State later that night. Spencer's group with no substitutes at linebacker and on the corners held down the fort when things could have totally gotten out of hand and allowed the offense time to kick into gear.

Spencer is not prone to massive compliments and his first words were still that there is a lot of work to do, but the look in his eyes said he was proud of his guys.

"We practiced hard for this game, we gave it our all, and we just fell short," said Emmanueal Ogbah, the Cowboys defensive hero with two sacks and two deflections. "We are real disappointed that we didn't get this win."

Ogbah is a great example of the symbolic nature of the Cowboys close loss. Ogbah is a very talented player, a redshirt sophomore, who is getting better with each game and each snap. His work and the entire defensive line coupled with solid play at linebacker and in the secondary was dully noted.

Spencer did not sub in any of the freshmen at linebacker and corners, but he will next week and expand the depth more. Josh Furman was solid in his debut at star linebacker. Seth Jacobs was spectacular, at times, at weak side linebacker, and Ryan Simmons is a leader in the middle.

Jordan Sterns should be pointed out for his play at safety, where his staying with his coverage assignment was responsible for preventing several other Seminole passes that could have been monster plays. He was also a sure and physical tackler leading the defense with eight stops. This past week there was concern he might be nervous about his first start. I think focus might have been confused for nerves.

As a tribute to Oklahoma State, the defensive rotation and substituting on Florida State's side was almost nothing too. Jack defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., said he played the whole game and so did several other Seminole defenders.

"The defensive rotation was slim this game," Edwards said. "I was out there the whole game, a lot of our guys were, but the coaches said we couldn't afford to do much against these guys."

That attitude from Florida State makes it easier to understand the building process is sped up on offense too. We all knew that this Oklahoma State team this season is like a house being built, recruiting poured the foundation, the coaches have been in the midst of putting up the frame, and this season was going to finish that and start applying the bricks, siding, windows, trim, and paint. The truth is this team showed they are further along than thought.

The offensive line improved each quarter and was helped by some adjustments made by the coaching staff in the way they were running the football. J.W. Walsh with his maneuverability was not sacked although a late grounding call was just as good as a sack.

Tyreek Hill is a can opener that can stretch and concern a defense besides often making plays against them and on special teams. Hill had big plays in the game, but his threat helped a 55-yard touchdown pass to David Glidden spring wide open and allowed for Desmond Roland (left with bruised ribs) and Rennie Childs to run effectively.

The receivers will get more opportunities, but the secondary the Cowboys was facing Saturday night will be the best they go up against all season.

Head coach Mike Gundy said there are no moral victories and he's right. An 80-10 loss is a loss just like 37-31 to the top-ranked Seminoles, but this is a loss you can really build off of and already have.

"A loss is never good and you know we're upset about this," quarterback J.W. Walsh said afterwards. "That said there are a lot of things we can take away from this and a lot of things that we are looking forward to this season. A lot of good players and a lot of good schemes and execution we can look forward to going on with the season."

The truth is this team is further along than I thought, maybe even further along than some of the coaching staff thought, and a damn lot further along than the "secular" media thought.

You know come to think of it, Oklahoma State played the pants off the defending champs and top-ranked Seminoles without any all-conference caliber players, at least according to the media.

I had said before the season began that after Florida State, September and October could be good to the Cowboys. Provided this team continues the construction phase, November with the games at K-State, home with Texas, and at Baylor, and at OU could be good as well.

Gundy and all of you Oklahoma State fans have a championship caliber house that is closer to being finished than you think.


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