Jenni’s best and worst of OSU’s 34-27 loss at Iowa State

Jenni’s best and worst of OSU’s 34-27 loss at Iowa State

There were plenty of Cowboy issues Saturday in Ames. This week’s Best and Worst takes a look at some of them.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Sep 24, 2023, 12:11am CDT

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Sep 24, 2023, 12:11am CDT

The first snap of the game Saturday at Iowa State, Oklahoma State gave the ball to Ollie Gordon and sent him up the gut

The next snap, same thing.

The next, same.

The first three plays of the game, the Cowboy tailback had as many carries as he had all of last week against South Alabama. Three rushes against South Alabama wasn’t enough, but three rushes, all between the tackles and behind an offensive line that’s been meh wasn’t the best idea either.

Gordon managed only three yards combined on those plays, and the Cowboys had to punt.

Why not do some different things? Why not mix up the plays? Why not to try to get Gordon into space where his speed can be used?

It didn’t make a lot of sense.

And quite honestly, when OSU did the exact same thing again midway through the third quarter of its 34-27 loss and got the same result, three short runs and a punt, it made even less sense. In the same way it wasn’t good playcalling a week ago to only hand the ball to Gordon three times, it wasn’t good this week to call three consecutive between-the-numbers runs.

Kasey Dunn needs to do better.

Or if Mike Gundy’s dictating plays or strategies or plans, he needs to be better.

Of course, there were plenty of issues in OSU’s loss Saturday. This week’s Best and Worst takes a look at some of them.

Best pregame moment: Mike Gundy decided to put an end to the Cowboys’ three-quarterback rotation. Alan Bowman started and played the entire game. Very welcome news to Cowboys everywhere, who were ready to have a starter, any starter.

Best part of the OSU uniforms: That black-orange-black striping on the helmets and the jersey sleeves is sweet. A small detail, but the retro touch fits well.

Best offensive player: A week after getting only five touches, three runs and two catches, Ollie Gordon had more touches than that by the end of the first quarter. He finished with 18 carries for 121 yards, including an impressive 71-yard scamper that set up OSU’s first touchdown. The Cowboy tailback also had four catches for 14 yards. 

Best defensive player: Nick Martin was the first-half defensive MVP, rolling up seven tackles and a quarterback hurry by halftime. But the best Cowboy defender from start to finish was Kendal Daniels. He had a team-high 10 tackles, seven of them solo, and even though the OSU secondary had a couple of bad busts, Daniels never appeared to be the guilty party. Without Daniels, it’s hard to think where that secondary might be.

Best play: The 60-yard touchdown pass from Bowman to Jaden Nixon married superb design and excellent execution. Nixon went in motion from his normal spot in the backfield to a spot out wide. A linebacker went with him. Bowman immediately recognized the speed mismatch, and with Nixon zooming by his man, Bowman laid a pass beautifully into Nixon’s arms.

Worst play: Any of Iowa State’s three passing touchdowns were secondary nightmares for OSU, but I’ll go with the 26-yarder midway through the third quarter. Rocco Becht hit Daniel Jackson for a 26-yard score after Cameron Epps slipped in coverage. But even if the Cowboy safety hadn’t slipped, the cushion he was giving Jackson was so big, Epps likely wouldn’t have reached him in time anyway. It was a total disaster all the way around.

Best under-the-radar play: It will get lost in OSU’s poor performance against the pass, but the Cowboy defense only allowed 74 rushing yards. A big reason for that was the defensive line push. Midway through the second quarter, defensive end Kody Walterscheid got so deep into the backfield so quickly that he totally disrupted a Cyclone run. It was quickly gobbled up for only a two-yard gain. Those were the type of things the Cowboys did throughout the game.

Best stat: Iowa State only averaged 2.2 yards a rush. That’s big-time run defense. 

Worst stat: Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht completed 71.1% of his passes. What might Jalon Daniels or Dillon Gabriel complete?

Biggest offensive concern: Bowman does not look comfortable throwing the ball when he’s on the move, and because this offensive line is suspect, the OSU quarterback is going to be on the move a lot. Bowman even seemed to bail out of the pocket before he needed to a few times. Not a great sign.

Biggest defensive concern: The secondary was extremely troublesome Saturday, but since the Cowboys have had other issues in the first three games, the biggest concern might actually be the fact that you never quite know where the breakdown is going to come. Will it be poor tackling? Will it be a defensive front that can’t get pressure? Maybe Bryan Nardo and Co. are making adjustments and fixes only to have the dam spring a leak somewhere else.

Best reason to feel good about this team: The fourth quarter. The defense bowed up and forced three punts while the offense put together a methodical 11-play touchdown drive.

Best reason to want to pack it in: It’s tough to look at the schedule and see a bunch of obvious wins. Is OSU better than half of the eight teams that remain on its schedule? It’s going to have to beat at least four of them to be bowl eligible, and right now, that feels like a tall task.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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