Bedlam Loss A Reflection Of OSU's Season

NORMAN - "Well you have to give him a lot of credit. He's a good football player. In the last two or three games his health, in my opinion, seems to be much better. He was the difference in the game. What happened in the game was we couldn't move the ball offensively to keep our defense off the field. They were smart pumping the ball to him because eventually when you have a player of that caliber then he's going to make plays and that's what he did."

Those were the words of Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy talking about Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and the process that transpired in Oklahoma winning its third Bedlam game in a row, this time 42-14 over the Cowboys. The game was a microcosm of what has to be termed a disappointing season for Oklahoma State. As they have in so many games on the road this season the Cowboys fell behind early. Poor field position and lack of success on offense set Oklahoma up for a 21-0 lead.

They Cowboys, just as they have all season, didn't quit. In fact, it was a play that quarterback Al Pena refused to quit on that led the Cowboys to a potential momentum changing score before halftime. Pena scrambling and looking for an open target saw senior wide receiver Luke Frazier pop open and Frazier took the short pass 56 yards to inside the Oklahoma 5-yard line. An illegal procedure penalty, also apropos for this team this season, moved OSU back to the nine. But three downs later on fourth-and-goal at the one, Julius Crosslin scored his 11th touchdown of the season to make it 21-7.

The wind was a factor, and OSU had it in the third period but could do nothing with. Then with 2:03 left in the third quarter Peterson, who had been held to 53 yards on his first 17 attempts in the game, broke loose through a big hole on the right side for an 84-yard touchdown. The Cowboys countered with a penalty aided drive following a Donovan Woods interception and Crosslin scored his 12th and final touchdown of the season to make it 28-14 with plenty of time left in the game. That's when Peterson broke through the Cowboys for a 71-yard touchdown run and the game was over.

Season over and the numbers from the game were reflective of how the entire campaign went. Peterson finished with 237 yards on 24 carries. OU had a season high 560 yards and averaged 8.8 yards per play, while OSU finished with a paltry 139 yards for an average of 2.4 yards a snap. The only thing missing for the Cowboys was an obscene number of turnovers. The Cowboys had just one interception and one fumble and Oklahoma did not score off either mistake.

The season is over, but the work is far from done. This Oklahoma State team made too many mistakes, never settled on a quarterback or an offense, and too often asked the defense to do too much. The defense was improved, but found an Achilles heel in trying to defend run/pass quarterbacks. That style of quarterback ate the attacking defense alive. Special teams, for the first time under associate head coach and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest, weren't special. Kicker Bruce "Sunshine" Redden was sensational, but the punting, return game, and coverage units all had problems at various points in the season.

To be fair, the Oklahoma State program, a program that had grown to mid-level in the Big 12, was asked to handle too much. A change in head coach (and almost the entire staff), the loss of a number of major contributors through dismissals, the death of senior standout cornerback and leader Vernon Grant, new systems on offense and defense, and a revolving door at quarterback (starting with the position change after game two of Donovan Woods) all played a role in the Cowboys' disappointing season.

Now with the loss of key seniors like Lawrence Pinson, Paul Duren, Jamar Ransom, Jamie Thompson, Daniel McLemore, Charlie Johnson and Shawn Willis, the remaining young players have lots of work to do. Mike Gundy made it clear that the off season, which starts on Monday, will be the most strenuous in the history of the program under Rob Glass. Glass will have complete control of the players while the coaches go about the important task of recruiting more talent to Stillwater. The players will need to help in that area as well. This team needs serious upgrades if it is going to get back where it was and climb beyond.

"We've got an offseason coming up for our players that we are looking forward to, and our coaches will be out on the road recruiting for the next eight weeks and that's a big part of what college football is all about," said Gundy. "The offseason and the development of our players is going to go on with Rob Glass getting them stronger and faster, and our coaches need to go out and sign good players into our program to develop it."

"We're going to work hard in the offseason, harder than we ever have before," said quarterback Al Pena. "If we can improve on a lot of things then we'll be fine next year."

Pena is right, a lot of things need improving. After the loss to Oklahoma, and reflecting back on the season, I came up with a laundry list for improvement.

Quarterback: This position has to get a lot better. It would be nice to settle on one player and have him stay healthy, but there have to be at least two quarterbacks capable of operating the offense, whichever offense is used, and make plays consistently.

Running backs: A nice job by Mike Hamilton, but consistency is again the key. There were games that Hamilton disappeared. He also needs to hang onto the ball. Competition is badly needed to push Hamilton.

Wide receivers:Adarius Bowman, the transfer from North Carolina, will be eligible next season, but this offense, if it is the spread, needs a bunch of consistent playmakers.

Tight ends: They need to grow up and make more plays. There were too many games where the tight end wasn't noticeable.

Offensive line: They had a fairly decent season, but depth and future talent is badly needed. They have to be able to go toe-to-toe with teams like Oklahoma.

Defensive line: Again, more depth is needed and more talent. This position has run on a shoestring depth chart.

Linebackers: They'll be new, some newer than others. That magic pill that makes players play more mature than they really are is needed.

Defensive backs: They need more of them and more size to go with the speed they have. The depth chart is really thin on experience at both corner and safety.

Special teams: They need to improve the punting game, find new returners, and cover better. They need enough talent so that DeForest can work his scheming magic.

Coaching: Gundy and his staff no doubt learned things about their players, about the Big 12, and about decision making. No mistakes repeated should be the motto for the staff as they transition into year two.

Every position either needs new players, player development in the offseason, or both. This offseason will be the most important ever for OSU. The first half against Texas and upset win over Texas Tech are nice, but the will hardly keep the Cowboys warm this winter. It will be a cold one in Stillwater, but you have to live with it until spring football and the promise of better things to come.

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