Sunday Review: Positive Plays vs. Baylor

There were plenty of positives from Saturday night despite Oklahoma State losing 35-24 to Baylor. Here's Robert Allen's top 10 list – make that 11 – of positive plays by the Cowboys.

I appreciate your patience as I will get to the posts and answer questions as best I can, but it took me a little time after driving in from Stillwater Regional Airport in the rain and putting my head down at 4 a.m., then waking up, sharing breakfast with my wife and then jumping into a three-hour video review of the game.

The review is easy and relatively simple. Oklahoma State had a good offensive game plan to mix up the run and control the game against a Baylor defense that lacks the teeth it had a year ago. They were also able to mix in the passing game with a greater accent on Jhajuan Seales, Chris Lacy, Jalen McCleskey, and the Cowboys backs as they correctly anticipated that Baylor would roll coverage and try to play a safety over the top of James Washington as much as possible. Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett did that most of the time as predicted. 

The only real negative to the offensive part of the 35-24 loss Saturday night to Baylor was the turnovers. Despite coaching on it and drilling it, Mason Rudolph continues to be a little lazy with ball security in really tight situations as he is being sacked or there is a defender near.

By the way, you will not see the interception thrown late by Mason Rudolph on the list. At that stage you were asking for a miracle play and when asked to produce a miracle play then you have to expect the mortal result, which was exactly what happened as Rudolph tried to heave a desperation throw across his body toward the middle of the field and hit a target 40 to 50 yards away.

The most disturbing aspect of the night was seeing freshman running back Justice Hill over on the offensive bench with his head down and distressing over his final fumble on a play that was an absolute outstanding effort. It was part of a sensational night of running the football, that unfortunately also included another fumble by Hill. That fumble was much more a great play by the defender than a careless one by the freshman Hill.

The defense, despite a lousy night in curtailing big plays by Baylor, came up with some huge defensive plays as well. In my opinion, a few more of those type of positive plays, even in the face of giving  up the negative plays could put Oklahoma State in a better position. This may be a team that has to play on the edge and be ultra aggressive and then live and die with the result. I believe in being smart, but sometimes you have to gamble and hope your players' desire and athleticism will pay off. Baylor doesn't have the players and talent of a year ago but they are playing with the same mindset of going for it on illogical fourth downs and blitzing two or more defenders and rolling dice.

Here are my top 10 – make that 11 – positive plays for the loss at Baylor. They are listed in chronological order.

1st Quarter

Positive Play #1

Zach Sinor punts after the Cowboys first possession following the one-hour, 35-minute weather delay and Ashton Lampkin makes a swipe at the ball after Baylor return specialist Tony Nicholson makes a mistake and catches the punt at the Baylor 4-yard line. Nicholson fumbles and the ball squirts out and is recovered at the by freshman deep snapper Tanner Morgan. Credit special teams coordinator and graduate assistant Steve Hauser, who adjusted the Cowboys punt formation this week to a two-man shield instead of three to get extra coverage down the field. Baylor doesn't go for the block on punts, but instead tries to hold up the coverage. On two punts, Baylor had one yard in returns. 

Positive Play #2

Baylor goes for it on fourth-and-4 at the Oklahoma State 14-yard line and Terence Williams takes a direct snap and is stopped for a three-yard gain. Defensive end Jarrell Owens makes the play for the Pokes.

Positive Play #3

Baylor quarterback Seth Russell is looking for a shot at the end zone on first-and-10 from the Cowboys 22. Russell's pass is batted in the air by defensive tackle Motekiai Maile as he gets way up to deflect it and the ball pops in the air and is plucked out by linebacker Jordan Burton. It was a huge play to get the ball out of Baylor's hands in the red zone and back to the Cowboys. 

Positive Play #4

This one didn't make anybody's highlights but maybe mine, and that's because I'm a sucker for crazy effort, and I thought this led the Grogan missed field goal attempt. Mason Rudolph under pressure throws to Cowboy back Blake Jarwin, who juggles it not once, not twice, but clearly three big juggles before pulling it in. The play went for a 14-yard gain. I wished it had led to points. 

2nd Quarter

Positive Play #5

On the way to their second touchdown on third-and-12 at the Baylor 20, Rudolph spots six-man pressure on the blitz by the Bears and unloads to Jalen McCleskey on a good catch and run. McCleskey keep looking for space and green and gets enough for a 14-yard gain and a first down at the Baylor six. 

3rd Quarter

Positive Play #6

Baylor was determined not to be hurt by Washington, at least not hurt badly in the big-play department, But on a third-and-9 on the first drive of the second half, a drive that went 75 yards in a game-controlling 16 plays and 7:14 in clock time, Rudolph converted with a solid pitch and catch with Washington. Protection was good and it was a really well-executed play.

Positive Play #7

Another completion to McCleskey on a seam route for 21 yards. This one came on first down and got the Cowboys started on a drive that led to a Ben Grogan field goal to make the score 28-24. 

Positive Play #8

Later in that drive on second-and-10 at the Baylor 33, Rudolph made a strong throw on an out to Chris Lacy. The receiver was open but it was a really good example of how strong Rudolph needs to be with his arm when he has to be as the out was to the field side and took a heckuva toss on the part of the quarterback. 

Positive Play #9

Another fourth down try by Baylor. This one on fourth-and-1 at their own 24-yard line and defensive end Cole Walterscheid came down strong and put the grip on Baylor running back Terence Williams and stopped the 220-pounders progression and with some help put Williams down a half-yard shy of the first down. 

4th Quarter

Positive Play #10

On third-and-23 at the Baylor 37-yard line, Rudolph avoids the rush on a play where the receivers are fanned out and well-covered, but that left green in the middle of the field. Rudolph not only grabbed as much as he could but he dove into defenders to get a little more and that was enough for the first down on the 25-yard scramble. 

Positive Play #11

In three plays, freshman running back Justice Hill put on a big-time rushing show with the help of his offensive line. He had three carries for 62 yards. The big carry was for 38 yards as he took advantage of a hook block from right tackle Zach Crabtree that got him around the edge with steam and then he powered up the sidelines. On the third play, the next play in the Hill sequence, he ran for 12 tough yards but while trying to score lost the football as he was nearly down and Baylor recovered at the Baylor three.

That was tough, seeing a freshman play that well but at the same time feel the weight of the world on him because of the turnovers. Hill will improve in that area and he has a chance to be really good.

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