It's A Good Thing There Are Heroes On Field

Mason Rudolph and the Cowboys struggled for the better part of three quarters Saturday against Iowa State but rallied when they needed to for the 38-31 victory over the Cyclones.

During the third quarter of the Oklahoma State-Iowa State game I looked at my phone to see one of the listeners on my radio show has text me. Yes, I give out my cell phone number for listeners to text me and it is great during the show, but a few have decided to branch into other time slots. I mostly ignore them and I did this one. 

"Gundy needs to put Corny in," meaning that Mike Gundy needed to replace starting quarterback Mason Rudolph, who has a 16-5 record as a starting quarterback, with backup Taylor Cornelius, who has never started a game and has very limited experience as a backup. 

I noticed after the game that this same person followed their text with,"never mind." 

It's a good thing that Gundy and his staff coach, and that Rudolph and his teammates play, and that those duties are not left in the hands of the fans or the media that follow and write and talk about it. You see, if coaching and playing college football were easy, something just about anybody could do, it wouldn't be quite as fascinating.

It's not easy and the coaches and players are human, which explains the most serious question and mystery about Saturday's 38-31 Oklahoma State win. 

Deion Imade, a former Cowboys special teams captain and linebacker, and myself talked about the heroes on Saturday, and we really stayed on the defensive side of the ball.

We both liked the contributions of safety Tre Flowers, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Ashton Lampkin and he made eight tackles, seven of those unassisted. We also loved the play of linebacker Devante Averette, who tipped a pass in the fourth quarter that was intercepted by Jordan Burton. He also tipped a pass earlier, and he led the Cowboys with nine tackles, six of those unassisted. 

Remember that the Oklahoma State defense was without starting safety Jordan Sterns and playing with several walking wounded that did not practice during the week. 

"This was a tough week for us," Gundy said. "We had five guys on defense that didn't practice, really until Wednesday, and a couple of others didn't practice until Thursday. Larry (Williams) went down and (Brad) Lundblade really didn't practice until Thursday. James (Washington) really didn't even practice Thursday. Rudolph didn't do anything Tuesday. He was out there but he didn't even throw a pass. Wednesday he was very average and didn't throw the ball very good.

"Every night I went to bed and I worried about it. You know, coach (Pat) Jones always said, 'guys have to practice full speed by Wednesday or they don't play very good,' and that's exactly what happened."

Or maybe when they don't get to practice full speed by Wednesday then they are subject to not playing well until the fourth quarter. That's what happened. The Oklahoma State defense allowed Iowa State all 31 of its points and 425 yards of offense in the first three quarters, 157 rushing yards and 268 passing.

In the fourth quarter, Iowa State had a whopping 23 yards of offense. In the final 15 minutes, they went three-and-out, threw an interception on a second down, went three-and-out, went three-and-out, and ran two plays before the game ended. 

Rudolph, as my listener friend wrote should have been replaced, did have his issues. Rudolph, who has been banged up and was facing an Iowa State defense that showed some unexpected looks on defense, had another case of the high and wild passes, even more than he did against Central Michigan.

In the first quarter, I counted three passes that were either high or uncatchable, three more in the second quarter, and in the third quarter there were six. Honestly, if you didn't know what Rudolph was capable of and how he has turned around games then you would have seriously thought about changing the quarterback.

But Rudolph, with the aid of an offensive line that protected him really well despite multiple members of the line being beat up, and those sensational receivers including Washington, who was coming off a head injury against Texas, went 10-of-13 in the fourth quarter with one slightly off throw that was caught by Chris Lacy. Rudolph threw for 89 very important yards in the fourth quarter. 

Humans, that's what players and coaches are. The coaches often make good decisions, right ones, but they will make some poor ones at times. The good ones really outnumber the bad ones in Stillwater and have for awhile. The players, they make highlight-reel plays, plays that make you stand up and scream, but they can make you groan at times. A beat-up group that has persevered through fall practice and the first half of the season with little break, came up with an heroic quarter on Saturday. 

If it was easy we would all do it. So in this case, I salute the ones that can, and realize that 4-2 with an open week, and it really should be 5-1, is a lot better than 3-3.

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