The Oklahoma State Cowboys opened the 2019 season against Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon, on Aug. 30 with a 52-36 win over the Beavers, but Head Coach Mike Gundy said there is always room for improvement highlighting a need for stronger defense.
“We couldn’t get off the field on third down,” Gundy said. “We had 88 plays of defense. If we could have gotten off the field on 50 percent less of those third downs, we probably could have held them to 25 points or less.”
The Cowboys defense struggled early allowing Oregon State to find the scoreboard first in only six plays on their opening drive. Defense was a key area the Cowboys struggled with in the previous season, and with Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles now in his second season with the Pokes, adjustments are continuing to be made to present pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
“We didn’t do a good job pressuring the quarterback,” Gundy said. “We brought pressure at times, but we didn’t get home. Most of those times they are in man coverage. If the quarterback gets 2.8 seconds or more, it usually doesn’t work. That was the main reason we weren’t able to get enough pressure on the quarterback.”
Oklahoma State produced 72 total tackles with 50 being individual. Standouts like Malcolm Rodriguez and Amen Ogbongbemiga led the Cowboys defense combining for 19 tackles in vital situations for the Pokes.
“He is an intelligent player and processes information really fast,” Gundy said about Rodriguez. “He sees things, reacts fast, and he is a good tackler. He’s a wrestler, and he is a great athlete.”
The defense had its struggles to open the season, but it was nothing starting quarterback Spencer Sanders and the Cowboy offense couldn’t retaliate from.
Sanders, a redshirt freshman, was awarded the starting position just hours before game time, and though he admitted postgame he had nerves about the responsibility going into the game, Gundy says it’s nothing out of the ordinary, and his efficiency throughout the game is what kept him in for the entirety of game play.
“They’re all going to be nervous,” Gundy said regarding Sanders. “They’re competitors. It’s natural. Once the game gets going, it’s all good, and I would guess that’s how it’s going to be every game for him.”
Sanders threw for 203 yards on a 19/24 ratio connecting with key players such as Tylan Wallace, Dillon Stoner, and LD Brown to give the Cowboys a total of 203 receiving yards and 352 rushing yards.
Chuba Hubbard was the star of Oklahoma State’s rushing with a career 221 yards, but Sanders athleticism allowed him to pick 109 rushing yards of his own, and Gundy said his ability to run is what ultimately gave him the starting quarterback title for opening night.
“He played well and handled the offense well,” Gundy said. “I never thought he got flustered, which is important for a quarterback at any level or at any school. He had enough energy to bring a lot to our team, but not so much that he got out of control.”
Gundy also proceeded to say that Dru Brown was available to see playing time in Corvallis, but Sanders’ performance aided the decision to keep Brown on the sideline for the night.
Cleaning up the defense and straightening key components to the game will always be something teams want to work on coming out of a season opener, and Gundy spoke highly on McNeese State with a Saturday home opener on the horizon for the Cowboys.
“Every game is important,” Gundy said. “People always ask if this is a bigger game than others, but it’s a big game for us because we need to continue to improve. We know that overall our talent level should be better than McNeese. They’re excited about their team, they won last week, so they’re going to come in here all amped up.”
The Cowboys face off against the Cowboys, the McNeese State Cowboys that is, on Saturday, Sept. 7, inside Boone Pickens Stadium where both teams have a 1-0 record to start the season.
For now, the depth chart has Spencer Sanders listed as QB1, so Cowboy fans will be in for a treat to see the young quarterback bring the action to Boone Pickens Stadium as Oklahoma State seeks a second consecutive win.
Kickoff for Oklahoma State vs. McNeese State is set for 6 p.m. CST