Three plays to differentiate OSU’s quarterback opening acts

Three plays to differentiate OSU’s quarterback opening acts

Three plays and categories to consider as OSU coach Mike Gundy decides who, when and how many to play at quarterback. The decision-making process is expected to extend into OSU’s game Sunday night against Arizona State.

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

| Sep 7, 2023, 12:30pm CDT

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

Sep 7, 2023, 12:30pm CDT

With nine seconds left in the first half against Central Arkansas last Saturday, Oklahoma State quarterback Alan Bowman, given a clean and wide pocket by his offensive line, threw high and behind receiver Talyn Shettron.

Shettron leaped for the throw at the 10-yard line but recoiled as soon he realized he had no chance. The ball bounced in the end zone and instead of a possible shot at a touchdown, OSU settled for a field goal.

Bowman, a sixth-year senior, transferred to OSU in January with more than double the college experience of the other two Cowboy quarterbacks in the mix to start: redshirt freshman Garret Rangel and third-year sophomore Gunnar Gundy.

Many presumed that Bowman, who’d been a Big 12 freshman of the Year candidate at Texas Tech in 2018 and amassed more than 5,000 career passing yards as a Red Raider, would assume control of the position.

But no. In a 27-13 victory over Central Arkansas, the three quarterbacks shared snaps, virtually equally. And the pass that skidded past Shettron on Saturday embodied the OSU offense during Bowman’s time on the field. The Cowboys failed to score a touchdown on any of Bowman’s four possessions, settling for two field goals.

How did OSU’s three quarterbacks differentiate themselves? Differentiations among OSU’s quarterbacks continue to be at the forefront of the Cowboys’ early season. OSU plays its first road game on Saturday at Pac-12 member Arizona State.

Here are three categories to consider as OSU coach Mike Gundy considers who and when and how many to play at quarterback.

Third downs

In third-down situations against Central Arkansas, Bowman completed two of five passes for 14 yards. Rangel was 3-for-3 for 36 yards, converting twice for a first down. Gunnar Gundy was 2-for-2 passing on third down and converted one into a first down. 

The Cowboys committed only one turnover against the FCS-level Bears. Failure to convert on third down was a primary reason why the Cowboys, a 25½-point favorite, carried just a six-point lead into the fourth quarter. Combined, OSU converted just six of 15 third-down plays.

Quarterback mobility

Midway through the fourth quarter, OSU tailback Ollie Gordon sprung in the air, hurdling defensive back Tra Green, en route to a 15-yard gain. Two plays later, UCA defensive back Dude Person crashed toward the middle of the field as soon as the ball was snapped. He clearly was set on stopping Gordon. 

Gunnar Gundy read Person’s movement, tucked the ball and ran 16 yards to the Bears’ 2-yard line before Person tripped him from behind. The keeper set up a touchdown.

“If a quarterback can run, get out of trouble, scramble, get four or five yards and it’s second-and-four instead of second-and-12, there’s an advantage to that,” Mike Gundy said. 

The Cowboys relied on dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders for the past four seasons and had great success. Sanders won 30 games as a starting quarterback at OSU, two behind Mason Rudolph’s school record. But Sanders transferred to Ole Miss.

In the first quarter, the Cowboys called a quarterback draw for Rangel. He ran for 10 yards to the UCA 12-yard line, setting up a touchdown, Rangel rushed for 18 yards on three carries, and Gunnar Gundy rushed twice for 20 yards. 

Bowman rushed only once, an improvised third-down bootleg. He rolled to his right and stretched to pick up a lone yard required for the first down, but replay review ruled Bowman was short.

Mike Gundy said mobile quarterbacks open avenues for teammates in the rushing game. Defenses have to account for a rushing quarterback in the option, allowing the offensive line to double team an additional defender.

In Bowman’s 29 offensive snaps, OSU rushed for nine yards on three carries. In Rangel’s 27 offensive snaps, the Cowboys ran the ball eight times for 25 yards, only 3.1 yards a carry. 

The difference came when Gunnar Gundy entered the game with 4:37 left in the third quarter. From that point, OSU running backs rushed 11 times for 83 yards and two touchdowns.

“That’s how we should run it from the very beginning,” OSU senior offensive lineman Joe Michalski said.  “We just have to make sure we start faster and not wait until the second half to really get things going.”

Dropped passes

With 1:25 left in the first half, OSU receiver Blaine Green lifted his hands to each side of his helmet. He displayed dismay that he dropped Bowman’s best pass of the game. The miscue wiped away what would have been at least a 30-yard gain. 

OSU failed to overcome the mistake, punting two plays later on what had been a promising drive. Each Cowboy quarterback led four drives, but three dropped passes hampered Bowman. Rangel generated one touchdown, Bowman orchestrated two field goals, while Gunnar Gundy closed with two touchdown drives.

Receiver Jaden Bray failed to handle Bowman’s first pass of the game, in the second quarter. Gordon’s dropped pass on the following drive drew a groan from the crowd. Bowman had gotten the ball to one of the Cowboys’ best playmakers in space along the sideline, but nothing came of it. OSU ended up settling for a field goal. 

One play before Bowman overthrew Shettron just before halftime, he was on target with a throw to Braylin Presley at the CA 13, but Presley failed to get one foot in bounds.

Bowman’s final throwing numbers, 13-of-24 for 80 yards, look a lot better with those four makeable plays. Completions on half of them put his numbers more on par with Rangel, 118 passing yards and seven points produced, and Gundy, 106 yards and 14 points. 

“We had some uncharacteristic and untimely drops and those, unfortunately, impact the quarterback and how it looks and how we played,” OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said. “It may have looked a lot better had we caught it.”

 

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Ben Hutchens and his twin brother Sam cover Oklahoma State for the Sellout Crowd. After a decade of living in the state, Ben finally feels justified in calling himself an Oklahoman. You can reach him at [email protected] and continue the dialogue @Ben_ Hutchens_ on social media.

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