Berry Tramel: Mike Gundy again spent more time than usual in the locker room at halftime. It appears to have paid off.
OSU’s 45-13 rout of Cincinnati wasn’t a breeze from the start, but the longer the game went, the more the Cowboys were in control. And all three phases helped.
Containing Jones: A. Cincinnati quarterback Emory Jones is not much of a passer. Jones entered the game having rushed for 408 yards, second on the UC squad. But the Cowboys limited Jones to 33 rushing on 10 carries. In eight designed running plays, Jones gained 26 yards. He scrambled for a 14-yard gain and was sacked once. Jones had even less success running a year ago, when he quarterbacked Arizona State vs. OSU, a 34-17 Cowboy victory. Jones has seen enough of Boone Pickens Stadium.
Coaching: A. Mike Gundy was quite pleased with the halftime adjustments of his coaches. For the second straight home game, the Cowboys spent more time than usual coming out for the second half — about 1:20 left on the halftime clock when OSU returned to the field. The offense went to more run-pass options and fake-handoff passes, to deal with the line movement that UC surprisingly showed, and Ollie Gordon’s production went way up — 90 yards on five third-quarter carries, then 121 yards on seven fourth-quarter carries. And the OSU defense changed the angles on UC’s lead zones, the runs that hit off tackle. The Bearcats had 194 rushing yards in the first half, but that dried up to 83 in the second half.
Leon Johnson: B. The 6-foot-5 wide receiver was on the redshirt list and still might be, if the Cowboys can get back some wide receivers. But OSU was missing the injured Jaden Bray, Blaine Green and Tayln Shetton, plus De’Zhaun Stribling, who a few weeks ago was lost for the season. Johnson came through. Bowman threw him 12 passes, and while Johnson caught just five, he dropped only one, and produced 149 yards. The Cowboys are getting thin at receiver; Johnson was a life-saver against UC.
Wes Pahl: A. The Cowboy punter had a monster game. Summoned to kick three times, Pahl delivered all three times. His average was 44.3 yards a punt, and all three pinned Cincinnati inside its 20-yard line, including once at the 5-yard line. That’s the kind of field position that allowed the Cowboys to dominate the game.
Short-yardage offense: C. As great as Gordon and the running game was against Cincinnati, the Cowboys struggled in short-yardage. They converted just four of nine plays in which they needed less than four yards for a first down. OSU converted its final three short-yardage situations, but all three after the Cowboys took a 24-7 lead. OSU did produce two big plays out of short-yardage – a 42-yard run by Gordon on 3rd-and-1, and a 26-yard touchdown run by Elijah Collins on 3rd-and-2 late in the game. Still, the Cowboys need to improve if they want to keep winning.
Takeaways: B. OSU didn’t win or lose the turnover battle. Each team had two. But Cincinnati’s turnovers seemed more costly. In the final minute of the second quarter, with UC having just crossed midfield, Cowboy lineman Nathan Latu forced a Jones fumble, and linebacker Collin Oliver recovered, preserving OSU’s 10-7 halftime lead. Early in the third quarter, Cowboy safety Cam Epps intercepted a pass that went through the hands of leaping Bearcat receiver Braden Smith, setting up the second of OSU’s three third-quarter touchdowns. Those takeaways were part of a dominant stretch in which the Cowboy defense produced eight straight stops as OSU took command of the game.