Just some general thoughts to start off as we review OSU's 30-27 loss to Central Michigan.
It was obvious that against a solid but not overly loaded Central Michigan defense that the offensive staff felt it had to use the pass to set up any running attack in the game. The offense threw the ball 45 times, and roughly a third were screen passes, nows, or jet flips, which often times substitute for actual run plays.
Then a good number of the run plays called were draws, again, another way to use the pass to set up the run. For this team to really have a chance to win a championship (Big 12 or greater) the run game must take on a greater impression and stand on its own.
The offensive line had issues but not as many as many of you that have written your own reviews and opinions would think. With 70 plays in the game, I found nine plays where an offensive line mistake led directly to the play not working or not working as well as it could have. I also found that four different offensive linemen were guilty and none more than three times. They were also a mixture of run and pass plays. A couple of the pressures and one of the sacks on Rudolph were due to excellent coverage on the part of the back end of the Central Michigan defense.
Mason Rudolph did struggle. He came out early with his throws being too high. It never totally settled down as by the end of the game I had Rudolph with 11 throws that were either high and were completed but hurt the productivity of the play or they were overthrows including the one interception on the fade in the fourth quarter. That is a fourth of his throws with 44 attempts in the game.
The defense was pretty solid and a lot of the credit for Central Michigan production goes to the Chippewas for good plans and good execution. There were several players falling. There were two or three missed or late pickups in coverage. Effort never seemed to be a problem and there were the two penalties on Trey Carter. One, a face mask that is excusable and the other a very late hit for a roughing the passer penalty that was highly inexcusable and a penalty that contributed to a touchdown drive.
One possibility on defense would be that when OSU led 14-0 and Central Michigan got its offense in gear the tight end was a major factor.It appeared that with the lead the Cowboys, in the second quarter, used more cover four and less blitzes with more four-man pressure. This is a defense that feeds on aggression, as most defenses do. Also, D.Q. Osborne is a weapon that I could see being used more often against the right opponents. Cooper Rush is a pretty good quarterback.
On the first series the high throws kept the now and quick pass game from gaining more yards and eventually ended the series. Jhajuan Seales was having trouble getting perimeter blocks made. Those are not always easy as it is open-field blocking. Protection was good except for one play where center Brad Lundblade allowed Kelby Latta of CMU too much penetration.
The first play of the second series, Latta sacked Rudolph and it was Lundblade that could not contain him. OSU got a break on a penalty on CMU for leaving their feet to go over the shield on the punt. They couldn't take advantage of the penalty as Carson had a good run for seven yards that could have been better if the right side had blocked it up better. Carson lost his shoe and Rudolph had to change a play and then Larry Williams got beat and Rudolph was pressured to end the series.
The third series started with a well-blocked one-yard gain, but protection was good throughout the series and Rudolph's progression to hit Carson and a tough run by Carson extended the series and the touchdown came on a quick pass to Jalen McCleskey with James Washington making an excellent block.
The fourth possession had a good concept play-fake to misdirect the rush and a good play by Washington for 32 yards. But then a bad decision on a zone read and Larry Williams lost his man but Rudolph still got the ball to McCleskey. It was a four-play drive that ended with a picture perfect strike to Cowboy back Zac Veatch.
Jordan Burton helped stop the first run for a two-yard gain with penetration in the backfield that limited the back, Spalding of CMU. A good pass rush and a nice diving defensive break up by Chad Whitener closed the three-and-out.
Another three-and-out featuring a good read by Jordan Sterns, a good effort play by Sterns, and Kenneth Edison-McGruder on the blitz for a QB hurry.
The third three-and-out in a row with a penalty on Corey Willis of CMU for pushing off and offensive pass interference. Jordan Burton got a QB hurry with a blitz off the strong side. On third down the pass rush forced Rush to throw the ball into the back of his center.
On the fourth series which started at the end of the first quarter and concluded in the second quarter, the coverage was more four and DT Vincent Taylor had a nice hustle play to make a stop for six yards on the tunnel screen. The second to last play of the quarter was a nice 11-yard gain on a three-level concept route that I really like. It attacks well – short, medium, and medium long in the secondary. The drive ended with a CMU touchdown. Ramon Richards fell on a 19-yard pass play. CMU blocked a run well up the middle. Sterns broke up a pass that Taylor got a hurry on and Rush hit the tight end Conklin on play where he beat Whitener, but Rush had to scramble to extend the play.
A backward pass to McCleskey, always chancy, started the next possession for eight yards. Justice Hill had seven on a run that was well blocked. A throwback across to Washington went for 11 yards and after three short plays, kicker Matt Ammendola came on for a 53-yard field goal. That is the longest since a 53-yard field goal by Jason Ricks in 2006.
The first true three-and-out had a five-yard run by Carson on first down followed by an overthrow by Rudolph and being hurried on third down when Marcus Keyes lost his man.
The half closed out with a late possession where the offense was looking for a sign to press the accelerator. After an overthrow, Carson ran 12 yards and well blocked run, an incompletion, and a sack on the last play of the half when left tackle Victor Salako lost his man on a wide rush.
A long drive for a field goal was aided by a face mask penalty by Trey Carter. Owens had a missed tackle that let Rush scramble and hit Kroll for nine yards and a first down. By the way, on the Carter penalty the officiating crew had its first screw-up as they mis-marked the play and penalty to give CMU an extra five yards. Jordan Sterns made a good play to stop a pass and Maile had a sack on a bad snap to stall the Chips and force them to kick the field goal.
The biggest observation on their final drive of the half, a six-play drive that ended up empty, was that coverage was softer but the tackling was excellent as the receivers could get no extra yards.
CMU got the ball first and had to punt after a 17-yard run to start the half was helped by a big hole and some missed tackles. Mote Maile at DT helped make the next play with his pass rush and Chad Whitener had the coverage on Tyler Conklin. Maile also tackled Spalding for just a one-yard gain.
The longest CMU drive of the game was 12 plays and 89 yards in the heart of the third quarter as it tied the game at 17-17. A missed tackle by Burton allowed Jonathan Ward to pick up 17 yards on a pass from Rush. After a couple of good defensive plays versus the run, the Cowboys blitzed and Rush got the pass off and thanks to a coverage bust the tight end Conklin was wide open for 22 yards. The Trey Carter roughing the passer penalty bailed out CMU on this drive and after Devante Averette lost contain getting too far upfield on a blitz allowing Rush to run for 19 yards then Rush hit Conklin on a perfect pitch and catch for the score.
Jarrell Owens got through and beat his blocker and sacked Rush to doom the Chips last series of the third quarter.
A three-and-out started the quarter for Oklahoma State as Salako missed his block on a one-yard loss, a run by Carson. Rudolph was high on a third-down pass to an open McCleskey.
The best run sequence of the game featured freshman Justice Hill with a five-yard run on first down followed by a 17-yard run with big blocks coming from Zac Veatch as he flipped a defender and Williams helped seal the hole for Hill. The drive stalled on several incompletions and a loss of a yard on a run play where the line allowed too much penetration.
The quarter ended with a seven-yard run by Rudolph and a seven-yard completion to McCleskey on a jet flip. That same drive ended at the start of the fourth quarter on two pass incompletions and a one-yard pass to Barry J. Sanders where he retreated too much right after the catch.
The longest drive of the game covering 95 yards started off looking much better for the Oklahoma State defense as D.Q. Osborne had penetration to set up Burton with a tackle for a no gain on first down. Then after a run and pass combined for a first down, Rush hit Conklin for 15 yards. Conklin caught the ball even though linebacker Gyasi Akem was called for holding on the coverage. Still in CMU territory, Vincent Taylor stopped Ward for no gain on first down and Maile stopped Spalding for a three-yard loss on second down. After a timeout Rush hit Mark Chapman down the middle of the field for a 40-yard gain and then the next play on the wheel route the Cowboys middle linebacker Chad Whitener was just a step late getting to Spalding who caught the 31-yard pass for a touchdown.
After a long Cowboys drive to the brink of the lead ended with an interception, Averette, who is quite the ball hawker, striped Spalding and recovered himself and ran the ball down to the 11-yard line in CMU territory. A tremendous individual play!
Cole Walterscheid tackled Spalding for a two-yard loss on the next series before Ramon Richards, using something he saw as a tip in extra video study, beat the receiver to the spot on an out and intercepted the pass that looked like it would seal the deal.
The long drive that in a way set up the go-ahead score for Oklahoma State featured a nice play-action post hook up from Rudolph to Seales. A now to Seales picked up 11 yards more. Rudolph to Carson on a screen went for 12 yards with Carson breaking two tackles. Justice Hill was tackled for a one-yard gain on a one-on-one situation. The negative play was a seven-yard sack where Keyes lost his man. CMU was called for pass interference and then after a couple of more completions, Rudolph threw into the end zone and was picked off.
After Averette stripped and recovered the fumble, a few plays led to a fourth-and-one at the 2 and freshman Dillon Stoner came in and tapped the jet flip to Washington for the touchdown.
The final series in regulation had a run and a pass to Carson that got a first down because of his tough run after the catch on the pass for 18 yards. He broke two tackles there. OSU tried to run the clock out before the final play where the intentional grounding was called.
Oklahoma State rushed five and played the secondary way back. Ramon Richards was on top of the play but told me he hesitated because he was thinking whether to go for the pick or for the knock down. Either would have done, but Kroll caught the ball and flipped it as he was going down. It was a well executed play in a lucky situation.
Overall, there was good but as mentioned several times this team needs to get more consistent on both sides of the ball.