Oklahoma State Cowboys

OSU football: Penalty problems, home woes and looking ahead

OSU football: Penalty problems, home woes and looking ahead

Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill (5) fights a tackle by Iowa State defensive back Braxton Lewis (33) in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State keeps shooting itself in the foot.

Big plays are taken away, momentum is squashed and opponents are given advantages throughout nearly each OSU game this season because of its penalty problem. The officials are probably getting tired of officiating the Cowboys because of all their mistakes.

OSU had nine penalties for 87 yards during Saturday’s 48-42 loss against Iowa State on Saturday.

The Cowboys have been called for at least seven penalties in five of their first six games. In conference play, they have been called for at least eight.

OSU is averaging 74 penalty yards per contest while its opponents average 49. The Cowboys are constantly behind the chains and playing catchup, something coach Mike Gundy said has to change.

“We had nine penalties for 87 yards,” Gundy said. “That’s 40 yards too many at least. Again, we had a horse-collar on the sideline, had a couple holding penalties on offensive linemen. We had one call on (Calvin) Bundage, I’m not sure what it was, even now. But regardless, we have to be more disciplined in the penalty area. We’re not good enough to overcome large numbers of penalty yards.”

Gundy is right. The Cowboys aren’t great, and there’s a question on how good this team actually is. If the penalty miscues continue to occur, which signs point to that being the case, the season-ending stretch is going to be a struggle.

Home-field disadvantage?

OSU hasn’t sold out Boone Pickens Stadium through five home games this season.

Last year, the only game the Cowboys didn’t sell out was against Kansas, two days after Thanksgiving.

OSU has been a lackluster football team when playing in Stillwater the past two seasons. Its record is worse during conference play.

Dating to last season, OSU is 6-5 overall when playing at Boone Pickens Stadium and 2-5 during conference play. The Cowboys have only two Power 5 wins during that span, against 1-11 Baylor and Kansas teams.

This season, a nonexhilarating home schedule combined with poor home performances have led to lower attendance numbers. About 10 minutes before kickoff of Saturday’s game, the stadium was about half full. The student section had more empty seats than filled ones at any point during the game.

OSU fans have come to expect better performances from this OSU team. For the seventh straight season, OSU has lost a home game in which it was a double-digit favorite.

Gundy doesn’t have an answer for his team’s poor execution at home. The players say it comes down to limiting mistakes and executing better.

Fans expect more from the team.

The final two remaining games should be against ranked opponents in Texas for Homecoming and West Virginia for Senior Day. Both teams are at the top of the Big 12 Conference after three weeks of play. There’s no reason those games shouldn’t sell out.

But for now, fans expect more from the team. There’s not an excuse from the students to not show up. But for a school which fans claim to be Loyal and True – it’s in the alma mater – that’s not the case when it comes to supporting its team.

A sold-out crowd doesn’t help OSU survive the slaughter against Texas Tech and Saturday’s loss against Iowa State. Yet when the crowd was involved for short periods Saturday, OSU was a different team.

Crowds are important. There’s no excuse why OSU has five home losses in the past two season.

We’re halfway there

OSU’s season is halfway over.

Yet this season compared to the previous few, many questions remain about how good the team really is.

There are two home games remaining on the schedule, with four coming on the road. At the beginning of the season, OSU looked as if it could be favored in its first nine games. It has been favored in five of its first six games, but that will change as the stretch run begins.

OSU won its lone game it wasn’t favored against Boise State, but it dropped two as a double-digit favorite. At Kansas State next week, OSU will likely be favored, but that’ll be one of two remaining games that will be the case.

The room for error is also minimal if OSU wants to become bowl eligible.

Kansas State and Baylor are two games OSU must win. The Cowboys are better than both teams but have struggled in Manhattan, Kansas, and Waco, Texas. Defeating both opponents on the road will be pivotal in helping OSU maintain momentum.

A home game against Texas on Homecoming looks a lot more difficult than it did after the first week of the season. Texas has one of the league’s best defenses and its offense has turned a corner. When West Virginia comes to town, it brings one of the nation’s top offenses, with Heisman Trophy candidate Will Grier leading it.

The Cowboys could win at least one of those games but dropping both would be a disappointment.

The final two road games, against Oklahoma and TCU, are unknowns to this point. OSU’s struggles against OU are well documented, and the Sooners also have a Heisman Trophy candidate in Kyler Murray. TCU isn’t as good as many expected them to be, but any road trip is difficult late in the season.

OSU should have plenty of wins to become bowl eligible, but with its questionable play through three weeks of conference play, nothing is a guarantee.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Cameron Jourdan has covered Oklahoma State athletics since January 2017. He has written for The Oklahoman, The Tuscaloosa News and the Stillwater News Press, among others. Follow Cameron on Twitter: @Cam_Jourdan

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