Okay, here we go. I woke up just after six, early for me on a Sunday, and could not go back to sleep so I slipped out into the den and got this started. With break in between halves, I finished up around 10.
I have not been around too many games that had the strange ebb and flow of this one. One team gets off to a very strong start on offense but then, and I marked it, from the 4:58 mark in the third quarter following J.W. Walsh's touchdown pas to Jeremy Seaton, my favorite offensive play of the game because of the individual deception created on the part of Walsh, the offense went dead. From that point on the offense gained 30 yards, not counting Texas penalties, and threw two interceptions, one a pick six for the defense. You can blame the offensive line and from the sidelines during the game that is what I thought. They didn't help much, but they weren't the focal point.
Many of you want to blame the play calling, and I get it. However, if I am Mike Gundy and I've watched the two picks nearly get my team beat then I'm going to strongly pull back on the reigns and not throw passes until I complete pass the game over to the Longhorns. It won't always work but Gundy got conservative and got enough, just enough offensive movement and plenty of help from Texas to get a win. Afterwards, in the locker room the head coach fessed up to his decision to take the air out of the ball, be conservative, and try to get just enough for the win.
As for Mason Rudolph, I'm not sure what happened as he was having trouble throwing the ball, maybe gripping it. He had this problem part of the time in fall practice and it could be a finger issue, perhaps as simple as a blister. You know what blisters do to Major League Baseball pitchers? It puts them on the 15-day DL. Trainer Kevin Blaske was seen trying to put a Band-Aid or small tape job on Rudolph's hand and he walked away. It was obviously an optional thing, otherwise Blaske would have had Rudolph tied down while the assist was applied. He did not get treatment after the game and he appeared fine on the plane heading home.
Some other random thoughts. The Texas offensive line is a holding factory. They were called for holding three times but it could have been three or four times that. These were major cases of holding realizing that you call it virtually every play on both teams. Both teams actually covered really well as except for the trick play by Texas on the double pass that got called back there were not receivers running loose down the field. Oklahoma State took advantage of Texas's conservative and safe pass coverage early to really use the slants, but Texas shored that up later.
Read this and read it carefully, the offensive line for Oklahoma State is not going to dominate people. They get limited push, but I was not expecting a lot of no hitters. A lot of just being butt whipped by defenders. The truth is there were more missed blocks, some by the Cowboy backs.
The Cowboys used a lot more fold blocking where one guard comes around the center and the center and opposite guard block down. The fold blocking worked better with the often criticized Paul Lewis coming around then it did with left guard Michael Wilson coming around. I counted Lewis twice being pushed back too far into the backfield and twice missing his man. However, he had three good blocks on fold blocks and another two key protections on pass plays. You have to weight the good and the bad and there is no doubt it has to be more consistent.
Wilson had three plays that I counted as disappointing and Victor Salako and Zach Crabtree had one each. Brad Lundblade gets more liberty too as long as the snaps are good. Crabtree needs to watch it as I would have flagged him for holding on a couple of plays.
The bottom line is the offensive line and the running backs allneed to be more physical to help the running game. They need more push more often. Backs need to expect to have to make a linebacker or safety miss and that isn't happening. Rennie Childs seems to be getting close.
As for our video review I know you want to know what I thought about play calling, the offensive line, and all the perceived ills of this team even coming out of the win on Saturday. We will hit them and I will be fair.
On the review I like to switch it up so here are the categories: Plays of the Game; Whew, That was Close; Good Plays You May Not Have Noticed; Bad Plays that You Probably Did Notice, and This Has to Stop. All of this is obviously coming from the Oklahoma State perspective.
I'll take Plays of the Game for 100, (Okay, come on, the "Jeopardy" reference is cute). All categories will go chronological.
Plays of the Game
3rd & 8 at the Texas 17 - Rudolph looks for a receiver and give the Texas secondary credit as they cover well. The offensive line had a good pocket for Rudolph, but he had to scramble around and in his best "Ben Roethlisberger" fashion scrambled around and found a leaping Brandon Sheperd in the end zone.
2nd & 12 at the Texas 39 - Rudolph has a good pocket, which he did most of the game, and he delivers on time a slant to Jhajuan Seales. Texas opened the game playing a lot of cover two with the safeties back and the corners giving loads of cushion and that coverage and defensive posture cries for the offense to run slants. It is a pitch-and-catch play and if your receivers are good after the catch it is as safe and more profitable than a creative run play. This one went for 31 yards and set up touchdown run by J.W. Walsh.
2nd & 4 at the Texas 48 - Rudolph has a good pocket and throws to Marcell Ateman down the left sideline in a one-on-one situation nd Ateman makes a nice catch and gets one foot inbounds for a 29-yard gain and the big play on the Cowboys final touchdown drive of the game.
3rd & G at the Texas 1 - You had to have the touchdown and Walsh used the defense's expectation that he would run to suck everybody back to the middle and the line of scrimmage. He created the deception and then passed to an open Jeremy Seaton.
3rd & 4 at the OSU 41 - Texas QB Jerrod Heard has his pass tipped and WLB Seth Jacobs, even with his clubbed arm, makes the catch for the interception.
3rd & 11 at the OSU 25 - This play most definitely took points off the board as Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer continued to mix in the blitz despite the danger of Heard getting loose, which he did a couple of times. That blitz strategy may have created some big plays for Texas but in the end it created more negative plays and those were huge. MLB Ryan Simmons is the unsung hero here as he and cornerback Miketavius Jones both blitzed, Simmons got pressure that caused Heard to adjust and even appear to lose focus and Jones got his jersey and twisted for the sack. A 22-yard loss knocking Texas out of field goal range.
4th & 10 at the OSU 39 - Charlie Strong goes for it instead of a long field goal, mistake on his part. Then Jarrell Owens, off the bench, gets the sack and the unsung credit goes to defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, who got the push up the middle and just missed Heard himself. Good team work defense.
4th & 11 at the Texas 11 - Texas punter Michael Dickson has the snap go right through his hands and he runs back to retrieve it and then punts it for 10 yards to the Texas 18. The Cowboys had no returner back and afterwards head coach Mike Gundy gave credit to special teams coordinator Robbie Discher for the call and said there were two players on the sidelines begging to go in as the bonus blocker and saying they would get the job done. Gundy said there is no way to know for sure how the extra player and pressure appearance influenced the play and the drop by the Texas punter.
2nd & 14 at the Texas 22 - Ben Grogan hits a 40-yard field goal to win the game.
Whew, That was Close
3rd & 8 at the Texas 17 - Rudolph looks for a receiver and give the Texas secondary credit as they cover well. The offensive line had a good pocket for Rudolph but he had to scramble around and in his best "Ben Roethlisberger" fashion scrambled around and found a leaping Brandon Sheperd in the end zone. Yes, same play as the first Play of the Game, but on the Rudolph scramble it was close.
1st & 10 at the Texas 25 - Heard throws the ball deep and Marcus Johnson is covered well by Cowboys cornerback Michael Hunter, it truly was a close one.
3rd & 8 at the Texas 35 - Rudolph's pass is intercepted by Texas cornerback Kris Boyd and returned to the OSU 43, but Texas DT Paul Boyette Jr., is called for roughing the passer. I know some may think this was a close call but not only does Boyette make contact he makes that helmet contact into Rudolph high that is almost always going to get the flag pulled. A bad decision on his part.
1 & 10 at the Texas 25 - Oklahoma State has been burned by double passes and Texas did it again as it was perfect going from Heard to Foreman to Burt downfield except that Heard's pass to Foreman was just a shade in front of Heard and two forward passes are not allowed. The replay review said confirmed, but it was very close.
3rd & 9 at the OSU 46 - Walsh takes off on a QB draw and just past the line of scrimmage fumbles the football and in the mad scramble it appears tht Duke Thomas of Texas recovers at the Texas 42, but then officials rule that Walsh got it as he jumped in and outwrestled Thomas for the ball in the bottom of the pile. The review said the call stood because video could not prove otherwise.
Good Plays You May Not Have Noticed
2nd & 8 at the OSU 26 - Heard takes off on a run because of good pressure and MLB Ryan Simmons makes an excellent tackle for a 2-yard gain to set up a 3rd and 6 putting Heard and Texas into a good position for the OSU defense. It stalled the drive and held Texas to a field goal.
1st & 10 at the OSU 40 - Rudolph connects with a jumping Blake Jarwin between two defenders and the Cowboy back show off his athleticism. The play goes for 23 yards and helps lead to a touchdown. Fellow Cowboy back Jeremy Seaton said Jarwin thinks of himself as a wide receiver in a tight end body.
3rd & 17 at the OSU 26 - I know Texas had a long way to go but Heard passes out to the very dangerous Daje Johnson and I get my dream matchup with Johnson on the Cowboys corner Kevin Peterson, and Peterson makes a really strong one-on-one play holding Johnson to two yards. Texas kicks a field goal.
2nd & 6 at the Texas 6 - Jordan Burton and Emmanuel Ogbah combine to sack Heard for a four-yard loss as the Cowboys gear up to stop Texas on the Longhorns final possession.
3rd and 10 at the Texas 25 - Heard is sacked for a one-yard loss by DT Vincent Taylor, who had another great game. This is the last play before the fumble by Texas punter Michel Dickson.
Here's the part the naysayers have been waiting for ...
Bad Plays You Probably Did Notice
1st & 10 at the Texas 37 - Chris Carson tackled up the middle for a two-yard loss. Jarwin is pulling around for the power and misses his block up in the hole and RG Paul Lewis is pushed back in the backfield.
1st & 10 at the Texas 26 - Daje Johnson gets nine yards on the jet sweep and it was because Sterns got caught inside two steps; however, he recovered to make the tackle.
3rd & 10 at the Texas 44 - Cowboys blitz and Heard catches them all upfield and he runs 16 yards into OSU territory. The blitz worked a lot but that was an example of it not working.
2nd & 5 at the Texas 8 - Oklahoma State lets the Texas offense out of a big hole as the Horns fold block a power and DE Motekiai Maile and DE Emmanuel Ogbah get sealed outside opening a huge hole that Johnathan Gray gets through and goes 42 yards to start a Texas touchdown drive.
1 & 10 at the Texas 27 - Rudolph gets called on an intentional grounding for the spot plus a five-yard penalty. He needs to know where his receivers are for the throw away or get outside the tackle box.
1 & 10 at the Texas 47 - Heard scrambles for 29 yards on the play and breaks three tackles in the process. You get in position you need to finish the tackle against a player like Heard. One of the tacklers missing was Sterns, who came back and made the tackle so bonus points for his hustle.
Second Possession of the Quarter - This was the worse series by the offensive line as Lewis was pushed back on the first down play, a three-yard Childs gain. The offensive line blocked down on second down and the scheme left the defensive end loose who easily made the play coming from the back side. Then on third down the mis-read or miscommunication left Paul Lewis leaving Hassan Ridgeway loose to make a seven-yard sack on Rudolph.
This Has to Stop
Early in the second quarter, Rudolph lost the grip in the back portion of his passing release amounting to a fumble. This also happened in the opener at Central Michigan. It has to stop. Ball security!
Throughout the game the offensive line played too high and rarely got enough push in the run game.
Rudolph was red hot to start the game as he was 9-of-10 to begin with but in the second half he started trying to fit the ball into some coverage windows that he should have avoided. His throw intercepted by Holton Hill in the third quarter for the pick six that put Texas up was into double coverage with the receiver fronted and Hill sitting back behind the receiver. Bad decision. He doesn't do it often but he needs to stop.
After a sensational start in punting the football, Zach Sinor has regressed and his punts have had significantly less distance and they have had less hang time. Those situations could become costly down the line in conference play.