Let's start with the ugly. The Big 12's back-loaded schedule, which created so much fanfare and attention on the league, served as a survival test that did identify a champion, but left a number of tired defenses and broken quarterbacks in its wake.
For Oklahoma State and its fans it is very difficult to hand it to the rival and even harder to watch them celebrate a championship in Boone Pickens Stadium. But the Sooners weren't just slightly the best, they were overwhelming the best in the Big 12. One of the great mysteries of the 2015 college football season will forever remain how did Oklahoma lose to Texas? It could have haunted OU but their dominant run through the gauntlet of November will erase that ugly October blemish.
The Big 12 has a champion and a College Football Playoff participant. Somewhere in a Third World country a group of impoverished people will be wearing t-shirts that read Oklahoma State 2015 Big 12 Champs.
Oklahoma wasn't overwhelming statistically, they outgained the Cowboys 524-to-457 yards, but they beat Oklahoma State in every facet. On special teams, Oklahoma had the big play with the Alex Ross 90-yard kickoff return. While Cowboys kicker Ben Grogan outdueled OU freshman Austin Seibert on field goals, making all three of his attempts (while Seibert was 1 of 2), overall the special teams victory goes to OU.
Ross went through a nice lane opened up by a trio of blocks, two were borderline blocks in the back but those don't get called unless they are blatant. The Cowboys had several decent returns but nothing that was a momentum builder like the Ross runback, which came after OSU had taken the first lead in the game at 3-0>
Maybe Oklahoma State was cheated out of its special teams momentum opportunity. After taking a 10-7 lead the Cowboys kicked off and Ross was splattered by a big hit on the coverage unit by linebacker Devante Averette. Paint from the coating on Ross' helmet flew off as Averette delivered the blow.
The ball slipped out to and was recovered by Oklahoma State but referee Brad Van Vark announced that the ruling was Ross' forward progress had been stopped, taking replay out of the equation for a ruling on the play. His forward progress was stopped because Averette knocked the heck out of him. It was a very questionable call, indeed.
Oklahoma State'S punting was average (Sinor averaged 38.0 and OU's Seibert averaged 45.3), kickoffs were short and returnable, and kickoff and punt returns, as mentioned before, were nothing special on a night were special would have helped a lot.
Mike Gundy called the defense tired. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer was worried that his defense was lacking the punch it had early in the season. Too many conversations about defense were starting off with a list of the players no longer available like defensive end Jimmy Bean and linebacker Ryan Simmons. The depth that was once talked about as a valuable weapon in September and October was all of a sudden not there, less experienced, or as Gundy described "tired."
Go back and look at the last two weeks and the losses to Baylor and OU and count the missed tackles, many of them still behind the line of scrimmage. Joe Mixon could have been tackled for a two-yard loss by Vincent Taylor and then a short gain by Jordan Sterns but both missed and it became a 66-yard touchdown with Blake "Warrior Quarterback" Mayfield blocking Cowboys corner Ashton Lampkin off his feet.
Too many missed assignments, missed tackles, and missed coverage led to a runaway score that actually could have been worse. OU took the foot off the pedal in the fourth quarter and just wanted to run out the time so they could start the celebration.
"That was the fear. I've said that all week, everybody that has played them has probably had their highest missed tackle total of everybody they played," Spencer said of the OU playmakers. "Between the two running backs and (Baker) Mayfield, they're good players. I'm disappointed. I hoped we would've tackled better, but it was evident that they're strong and they broke tackles."
You had a bad feeling when the "Warrior Quarterback" bounded on the field prior to warm ups with his headsets on, likely listening to the theme from Rocky, the speech at the start of the movie "Patton," or some scene from the movie "Braveheart." He immediately charged over with intent and shook hands and hugged J.W. Walsh and Mason Rudolph.
I'm sure he had good intentions and the budding friendship between players on the two teams is well known as is that Mayfield in in Stillwater a lot to see his girlfriend, former OSU soccer player Baillie Burmaster. However, Mayfield had that look on his face of just want to greet you before I have to beat you.
Walsh, who played all but one series for the injured Mason Rudolph, had 50 rushing yards and threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns. A nice 375-yard total offense effort. Mayfield threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns and he ran for 77 yards and another score. His confidence and bravado is off the charts and it is obvious OU players on both sides of the ball feed off of it.
Oklahoma State players have fed off Walsh all season long too, but OU has better players. The two running backs that Spencer called "NFL ready" during the week may not be ready to dominate on Sundays but they sure can on Saturday and Saturday nights. I'll bet it won't be long before Perine will be NFL ready and Mixon may follow.
On defense, OU is in better shape than Oklahoma State and hybrid defensive end and linebacker Eric Striker gives them a multi-talented player that can really frustrate an offense and even a mobile quarterback like Walsh.
Another part of the bad news is Rudolph, who suffered a broken bone in his foot versus Baylor. With treatment and some orthopedic support in his shoe and a new and more supportive shoe he was able to practice. In warm ups practice to the game, he took all the first team snaps and had everyone in the stadium thinking okay, he looks fine.
Being a former quarterback, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy is a better judge of what a quarterback can do with injury and Gundy knew there was a big difference from practice and scouts than the game and Striker and the Sooners defense. He was afraid that Rudolph would not be able to deal with it and maybe even protect himself, and the one series he played revealed the head coach knew what he was thinking to be right was spot on.
"We felt like J.W. needed to play more. We didn't really feel that Mason [Rudolph] was healthy enough to play the game at full speed and protect himself," Gundy explained. "We gave J.W. most of the reps, and we felt like that was the best way to go. Then we tried to make a little change there, and in my opinion, Mason wasn't really that comfortable with throwing the football. In the next two or three days our medical staff will decide what to do in treating Mason. It's a situation that could go two ways (presumed inactivity and surgery)."
At the end of the night the ugly was how dominating the Sooners were over the Cowboys. The bad was how tired and depleted the Cowboys became during the Big 12 gauntlet run, and the good was that this team still won 10 games this season and will have a chance for an 11th win after a badly needed break.
"Tonight, I was disappointed because the score will take away some from the players and what they were able to accomplish this year.," Gundy said. "Both teams they lost to were ranked in the top 10 in the country so I don't want them to forget that.
"I felt like we could have played better tonight. I didn't feel like our plan, coaching-wise, was the best either. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes they don't work as good as you don't want them to, and it's just not fun. It happens, and it's the unfortunate part about what we do. I don't want to take anything away from the players and what they were able to accomplish this year. They have brought a lot to us, and they continue to build this program." Gundy continued.
"Looking at the big picture, we're very blessed to be in this position.," added linebacker Seth Jacobs. "A lot of people around the country don't get to say that they're in a bowl game or that they're 10-2, and looking at it overall, we're not happy with how it came out tonight, but we had a good season."