OSU-Central Arkansas Report Card: A quarterback derby without a clear leader

OSU-Central Arkansas Report Card: A quarterback derby without a clear leader

It took a three-quarterback cycle and the running game breaking through late, but Oklahoma State is 1-0. The Cowboys beat Central Arkansas 27-13 on Saturday in Stillwater. The grades are in.

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

| Sep 2, 2023, 11:59pm CDT

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

Sep 2, 2023, 11:59pm CDT

(Correction: OSU quarterback Gunnar Gundy is a redshirt sophomore. His classification previously incorrect.)

STILLWATER — It took a three-quarterback cycle and the running game breaking through late, but Oklahoma State is 1-0. The Cowboys beat Central Arkansas 27-13 on Saturday in Stillwater. The grades are in

Quarterbacks: C+

As far as OSU’s three-way QB battle, the season opener created more questions than it answered.

Neither Alan Bowman nor Garret Rangel, the two presumed frontrunners, played convincingly enough to win the job. Coach Mike Gundy said the plan was to play the quarterbacks in thirds, with redshirt sophomore Gunnar Gundy handling the final third. Snap-wise, that’s about how it played out. Redshirt freshman starter Garret Rangel went 10-for-15 for 118 yards to lead the team in passing. He finished with a TD and an interception but received little help from the rushing game.

“I thought they all played pretty good,” Mike Gundy said. “Each one of them missed a throw or so. But they also all made some throws.”

Bowman, a senior transfer from Michigan, was 13-for-24 for 80 yards. Drops bruised his stat line. Gundy took over late in the third quarter and completed 7 of 9 passes for 106 yards. With a rushing game that started to rip off big chunks aiding him, Gunnar led two key TD drives in the fourth quarter. 

If anything, the game expanded — not whittled down — the starting QB candidates. 

Bryan Nardo’s new defense: B 

Working almost exclusively from a new 3-3-5 scheme, OSU’s defense gave up 13 points. Considering the Cowboys on defense forced only one turnover and their offensive counterparts sputtered for much of the game, that’s a solid showing.  

The scoreboard could’ve easily looked less favorable. The Cowboys blocked two field goals and an extra point after strong UCA drives. Penalties erased multiple UCA touchdowns. 

“I thought (defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo) did fine,” Gundy said, “Very calm. Had answers with certain things….we were pretty vanilla in this game. We wanted to line up in a lot of base and just let guys play.”

The Cowboys managed four sacks and managed to collapse UCA’s pocket consistently. Redshirt senior Nathan Latu led the way with 1.5 sacks. Bears senior quarterback Will McElvain threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears rushed for 123 yards on 28 carries. 

OSU in the trenches: D 

Take away the logos and it would’ve been hard to distinguish the FBS team from the FCS team when watching the line of scrimmage.

For long stretches, the Bears bested OSU offensive line and defensive line.  

Sure, right guard Preston Wilson was out for a non-medical reason and an injury forced Jake Springfield from the game, but even a disheveled offensive line should have been able to keep UCA defenders from tearing into the backfield to blow up run plays. The O-line improved after halftime. Ollie Gordon (seven rushes for 44 yards) was the main beneficiary of wide running lanes late. 

“We always have good halftime adjustments,” left tackle Cole Birmingham said. “I feel like we came out with more enthusiasm (in the second half). We ran the ball a little better in the second half. IT was just better. We were more confident in our schemes.”

Mood at the next Gundy family dinner: A+

Gunnar Gundy shielded his dad from criticism.  

Mike Gundy’s decision to keep playing his son at crunch time after a three-and-out wasn’t popular in the stands or on social media, but it appears to have been the correct one. 

Gunnar Gundy was the architect for two late scoring drives in a game where touchdowns were scarce. The murmur of disapproval was replaced with roars of joy. His play might make Mike’s life harder down the road when the times comes to appoint a starter, but in the short term, Mike looks more like a strategist than a nepotist.

 

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Sam Hutchens covers Oklahoma State sport for Sellout Crowd. He interned for The Stillwater News Press in 2021 and The Guthrie News Leader in 2022, where he won a first-place OPA award for in-depth reporting. He has also covered sports in southwest Oklahoma for The Lawton Constitution. He strives to tell you the OSU sports stories that you want to tell your friends about. You can email him at [email protected] and connect on Twitter (X) @Sam_Hutchens_

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