The State of Oklahoma: The Pokes Quietly Keep Winning

Now that OU's season is currently in the dumps, it is high time for their neighbors in Stillwater to finally get some attention.  I thought Oklahoma State would start receiving some talk after starting conference play, but not even a night game against Missouri accomplished that.  Nonetheless, the Pokes have just one loss and currently stand at #15 in the BCS rankings, ahead of the team that beat them (Houston) but behind two-loss Virginia Tech.  Shrug.  I guess Houston can't complain since they got spanked by UTEP of all teams.

The Pokes started conference play with a relatively sloppy win over Texas A&M and a solid dismantling of Missouri last Saturday night.  For both contests, they were without Kendall Hunter and, of course, Dez Bryant, who has yet to hear anything back from the NCAA.  I'll summarize the games below.

Against Texas A&M:  Bullets

Some may argue that this game is meaningless because the Aggies deserve consideration with the likes of Rice after that incredible flop against K-State.  Perhaps so.  To be fair, though, as much as I dislike the Ags, I'd categorize that as more of a meltdown than an actual display of their abilities; not even A&M is that bad.  A&M actually kept this game fairly close throughout, trading scores with the Pokes until OSU finally pulled ahead by 11.  The Aggies scored again to cut the deficit to five but never got the ball back.

Bullets, because I'm lazy:

  • Keith Toston had a strong day, gaining 130 yards on 26 carries.  However, Okie State as a whole only averaged 3.5 yards per carry during the game, although Johnson did score twice. 
  • The Pokes continue to be heavily penalized, being flagged 11 times against A&M for a whopping 118 yards.  They are averaging an NCAA worst 9.8 penalties per game.
  • Zac Robinson didn't have mind-blowing stats but he was efficient, throwing two scores and no interceptions.
  • Okie State was able to create some big plays without Dez Bryant.  Robinson had passes for 51, 40, 32, and 27 yards and averaged almost 20 yards per completion.
  • Oklahoma State generated four sacks while not allowing Robinson to get dropped for one.
  • Jerrod Johnson was only 22-42 but had three touchdown passes, while Nunchuku... I mean Nwachukwu had 8 receptions for 142 yards.

This was a game Okie State arguably should have won more by; penalties and defensive mistakes kept the Aggies in the game.  The Pokes did a good job applying pressure to Johnson and largely won the battle at the line on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, it was encouraging for Pokes fans to see multiple 25+ yard completions in the absence of Bryant, although A&M's defense isn't exactly very good.  Defensively, they often did a poor job containing Johnson and he was able to create some big plays in the passing game.  However, A&M did not have much success running the ball, and after Okie State went up by two scores there wasn't really any doubt they'd win the game.

Mizzou after the jump...

Against Missouri:  The Good, The Bad, and The Inexplicable

The Pokes put on a pretty strong performance against Missouri.  It's their biggest win since Georgia and sets them up nicely in the Big 12 South race.

The Good

-Zac Robinson once again did not turn the ball over.  He was efficient, going 22-35 for 227 yards and a touchdown, and he did some good things with his legs.  This is the Zac Robinson OSU needs.

-Hubert Anyiam had a big day with 10 catches for 119 yards.  If there's ever a silver lining for the Dez Bryant situation, it's that it forces both Robinson and other wide receivers to create a credible passing game without their star.  If and when he comes back, OSU may be all the stronger for it.

-Keith Toston didn't average a lot of yards per carry but gained 91 tough yards on 24 rushes.  They would love to have Hunter back but they have enough depth to make the running game work without him.

-Perrish Cox and Victor Johnson did an excellent job on kick returns, helping the Pokes have a big field position advantage all game as noted by Bill C. at Rock M Nation.

-OSU's kicker hit all of his field goals. 

-Okie Lite forced four turnovers, including a pick six.

-The Pokes shutout Mizzou in the second half. 

The Bad

-Danario Alexander had a big day against the Pokes.

-OSU could not score a TD in the second half.

-Now only Anyiam seems to be a legit threat at WR.

-Missouri had early success, including a 97 yard drive.  The Tigers would have possibly built a lead if not for Antoine's pick six.

-OSU only dropped Gabbert once, although they put on decent pressure at times.

The Inexplicable

-Nine penalties.  Again.

Slow Improvement

Injuries and a high profile suspension have robbed the Pokes of some potential, but they remain a strong team who has showed noticeable improvement.  Anyiam's emergence is good news for a team that needed a receiver to step up alongside Bryant, but unfortunately his suspension almost puts OSU back to where they started for the time being.  Johnson and Toston have done a good job holding the fort without Hunter, and Robinson has done a much beter job protecting the football.  The tight-lipped Gundy won't say much about Hunter's status, but there are even rumors that he potentially be done for the year.  OSU fans better hope that that's just another "horrible internet rumor."

It's kind of a mixed bag defensively.  Giving up 31 points to the Ags is not good, but they have shown some big play ability and they held down Mizzou's offense.  The linebackers, particularly Booker, continue to play well, while the line has been successful against the run and moderately so against the pass.  The secondary can be a bit undisciplined and give up some yards, but the aggressiveness can pay off sometimes.

One thing that needs to stop is their penalties; averaging 10 per game will most definitely cost them a game if they keep this up.  They're not all five yard false starts either; the Pokes are 116th in penalty yards too.  Basically, that penalty-fest in the Cotton Bowl would be just another game for the Cowboys, which has to be very exasperating for the fans to watch.

This is a very competent team that will pose an interesting challenge.  Their defense is not as good as Oklahoma's, but their offense looks far more capable with a stronger line.  If Bryant and Hunter make it back by Halloween, they will field the most potent (or at least most balanced) offense we will see all year in the regular season.

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