Graham completed 63% of his passes for 353 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. While Graham didn't have a phenomenal outing, he also kept us out of trouble. There were a few plays in which Graham made good decisions to throw the ball away when the play wasn't there instead of forcing the play and possibly making mistakes the way he did earlier in the season. Those who think that he hasn't progressed need only to watch his performances early in the year compared with the way he played against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and Iowa State. Graham has plenty of promise.
Shannon Woods had a productive afternoon overall, but dropped one key pass late in the game that could have been a touchdown. However, Shannon blocked well once again and did a great job getting yards on the ground. Woods averaged 4.8 yards a carry, and is at 6.1 per carry for the season. While we struggled a bit in the short yardage situations, that was more of a playcalling issue than poor play by Woods. We tried to get too cute near the end zone with misdirections and delayed handoffs that took too long to develop. We need to work on utilizing his talents better to maximize his potential.
In the absence of Jarrett Hicks, our receiving corps had their best outing without their full starting lineup in the game. I credit much of this to a smart game plan by Leach to move Filani to Graham's left side for much of the game to keep Graham from becoming too enamored with the right side of the field. However, an inspired effort by Robert Johnson, some great yards after catch by Joel Filani, and fantastic route-running by Eric Morris made the receiving corps work well and helped Harrell have a good outing. The receivers made some big plays that turned out to be the difference in the game.
The offensive line had a bit of a slow start, putting Graham in some tough situations early. I would have liked to have seen more of a push from our offensive line near the goal line. That, and no false starts from the one foot line. Still, the pass protection held up in some key moments, which allowed us to make some much-needed plays and get back in the game. Also, the run blocking opened up some huge holes for Shannon Woods in the middle of the field, so Brandon Jones deserves some credit for that. Jones has really come on strong from where he was at the beginning of the year, and deserves credit.
The defensive line was doing a good job of putting pressure on Bobby Reid, and forced him into making decisions earlier than he wanted to on several occasions. Most importantly, they kept him out of his comfort zone. The unit recorded four tackles for loss and two sacks. With the rushing weapons that Oklahoma State had in Hamilton, Savage, and Reid, we did a decent job of keeping them in check. It wasn't great, but definitely could have been much worse. The penetration and play of the defensive line towards the end of the game got the job done, and that's what counts.
Well, Brock Stratton had another big game, recording 13 tackles on the afternoon. This makes Stratton our leading tackler for the season, which may come as a bit of a surprise to some. Fletcher Session also had a fairly good outing, with six tackles and a sack. Paul Williams played most of the game at Kellen Tillman's OLB spot, presumably because of his advantage in speed, and brought some aggressiveness to the unit. The linebackers did well in coverage, but the OLBs need to work on providing a bit more support in the run game to prevent big gains on QB scrambles and long rushes.
Other than the one deep touchdown that barely eluded our grasp for the INT, the secondary played fantastic throughout the game. We had three interceptions, two of which were returned a long way, but unfortunately were negated by penalties. The defensive backs kept us in the game with Darcel McBath's late INT and some good pass breakups on OSU's final drive. Also, Jamar Wall is deserving of a commendation for his fantastic leaping deflection that prevented a big play. That said, everyone in the secondary played well. There were also seven deflections by our DBs, which is an impressive effort.
5, 9, 7, 7. That is the starting field position for four consecutive Oklahoma State drives. Our kick and punt coverage teams played out of their minds. I hate that I can't give the ST an A+ because of Amendola's fumble on a punt return. Alex Trlica did his job on field goals, and Keith Toogood was hanging his kickoffs long enough in the wind to give our coverage units plenty of time. Also, Alex Reyes had another great outing, especially considering the job that he did with fielding an extremely poor snap to get a critical punt away late in the game. Overall, the Special Teams was very special this week.
It was painful watching our slow start, but nice to see the way we closed out the first half and began the second half. The defense stepped up in a huge way towards the end of the game to get us the win. The red zone gave us some problems, but that problem can be easily addressed and fixed in the film room. I wish the offense had done a better job closing out the game in the fourth quarter, because we had our chances to put the game out of reach. Still, I've always said that I wouldn't mind winning every game by one point. Overall, the team helped each other out enough to get the win, and that's what matters most.
(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at email@example.com.)