STILLWATER — The Cardiac Cowboys finally got a night off, making way for a more vintage group of Pokes to throttle the Big 12’s bottom feeder.
Oklahoma State thumped Kansas 55-3 on Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium, the Cowboys’ largest margin of victory in quite some time. Here are 10 thoughts on the game.
1. It’s Kansas, but What a Defensive Performance
Oklahoma State’s defense was supposed to suffocate the Jayhawks, but that might’ve been overkill.
The starters played the first half in which KU had zero first downs, 10 passing yards and two interceptions. Quarterback Jason Bean was 3-for-10 with a -1.6 QBR — negative one point six for an entire half.
KU’s first half drive chart:
The Jayhawks finished the game 0-for-13 on third down, a stat OSU’s defense has prided itself on since Jim Knowles got to town.
“I think it’s just in [Knowle’s] head,” Kolby Harvell-Peel said on what makes OSU so good on third down. “He knows. I don’t know the answer. He just dials up calls for us. He’s super aggressive. Probably his aggressiveness plays a role, but only he knows the real answer to that question.”
OSU’s defense has been great all season, but it isn’t too often a defense puts up gaudy numbers to the extent that the Cowboys did Saturday.
2. Points Are Possible
Mike Gundy said Monday that he expected another fourth-quarter game. Well, this was hardly a first-quarter game.
The Cowboy offense proved it can put points on the board. The 55 points OSU scored are the most the Pokes have put up since the 56 they did against McNeese in 2019. That means its the most OSU has scored in a Big 12 game with Kasey Dunn as offensive coordinator.
Gundy and Dunn credited the steps forward to the group of receivers being healthy for an extended period of time now. Ten players caught passes for the Cowboys on Saturday with Spencer Sanders, Shane Illingworth and Ethan Bullock combining for 243 yards and four touchdowns.
The competition stunk, yes, but if this can boost some sort of confidence and the Cowboys can get to even averaging 35 points a game over this final stretch, this team can be spooky with how good its defense is.
3. Spencer Sanders Does It All
Spencer Sanders dominated KU like the starting quarterback of a one-loss team should, and he laid some wood for good measure.
Sanders was 12-for-19 for 157 passing yards and two passing touchdowns while also running for 53 yards and another score. All of that came in less than two quarters of work. But he went above just being a good, mobile quarterback. Sanders was the lead blocker in Brennan Presley’s second quarter TD run, where Sanders lowered his throwing shoulder, sending a KU defensive back to the BPS turf.
“He’s gonna do what he wants to do,” Gundy said. “Like I said, he’s kind of like the Tasmanian Devil, the cartoon. He just rolls and goes and just keeps going. He likes to play football.”
It was like he was playing a video game, whether it was the fake pitch to gleeful skip into the end zone or extending a play before slinging a 36-yard touchdown to Tay Martin. It looked like high school Spencer Sanders when he was just better than everyone and knew it. It was a lot of fun to watch until you started feeling sad for the Jayhawks’ inability to do anything.
4. Skilled True Freshmen
True freshmen provided the Pokes with 154 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. Both of those numbers are more than KU’s entire team.
Bryson Green, Blaine Green, Jaden Bray, Jaden Nixon and John Paul Richardson each showed out at different times Saturday. It wasn’t totally unwarranted from the Green twins or Bray, who all had a decent amount of looks this season. It was, however, the first extended showing for Richardson and Nixon.
Richardson caught all four of his targets for 18 yards and an impressive first career touchdown that saw him layout and bring in an Illingworth bullet.
Nixon had his first 11 career carries, where he had 53 yards. He also caught a pass for three yards. His speed was a big selling point in the recruiting process. It’s one thing to be fast as a high schooler, but Nixon’s speed and burst was also impressive in a Big 12 games.
5. Illingworth Looks Good in First Run since Week 1
With the Pokes throttling the Jayhawks like it was 2011, Shane Illingworth got a chance to stretch the arm, coming in at the end of the second quarter.
In his first action since Week 1, OSU’s pro-style sophomore completed 6-of-10 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. His two best passes went to the Green twins.
He hit Bryson Green in the corner of the end zone in the third quarter. A good throw, and a good catch.
Not too long after, Illingworth hit Blaine Green down the Kansas sideline for a 40-yard gain, the longest completion from any quarterback all night.
The backup quarterback is often the most popular guy on the team, but this is no call for Illingworth to usurp Sanders. Sanders has proved he is OSU’s guy, Saturday’s game was a shining example of that. But, it’s gotta be nice for Gundy and Dunn to know that Illingworth is as solid as he is.
6. Turd Quarter, No More
If OSU didn’t score a third-quarter touchdown in this game, it might’ve truly not been meant to be — but the Cowboys did.
Illingworth’s TD pass to Bryson Green was the first third-quarter touchdown the Pokes have scored this season. It’s just the second time OSU has scored in the frame, joining the field goal Tanner Brown hit in Austin.
Dunn said he hadn’t put too much thought into it. Now that the curse has been broken, no one has to think about it any more.
7. Kolby Harvell-Peel and Jason Taylor Are Good on the Field but Maybe Better on the Mic
Kolby Harvell-Peel and Jason Taylor picked off Kansas quarterback Jason Bean on consecutive possessions Saturday.
The pair stood on either side of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles during his postgame press conference before doing their press conference together — it was comedy.
Harvell-Peel said they have a little competition going as to who will finish the year with more INTs. When Taylor got his, it tied the two up at two picks apiece, but then Harvell-Peel pulled back ahead on the Pokes’ next defensive play.
“He was like, ‘Man, we was only tied for a minute, bruh,'” Harvell-Peel said. “He’s gonna have his fair share of chances, that boy’s a ballhawk. I gotta stay on my Ps and Qs or he’ll catch me.”
Toward the end of their media session, the pair talked about redshirt freshman Nick Session’s fourth-quarter INT. Session had a chance to score on the play but got caught.
“I thought he could run,” Harvell-Peel said. “You didn’t think Nick was faster than that?”
“Nuh uh,” Taylor replied.
“He said on the sideline that he was surprised he had it,” Harvell-Peel said.
“It hit him in the stomach,” Taylor said. “If it was a spear, it would’ve killed him.”
IF IT WAS A SPEAR, IT WOULD HAVE KILLED HIM. The first time I had ever heard that line, much less from the football player about an interception.
The duo also hit on Sanders’ aforementioned block.
“I don’t cosign that, to do that with his throwing shoulder,” Harvell-Peel said. “Nah, It was awesome and it sprung a touchdown. I was excited, obviously, then the excitement comes down and I was like, ‘Bro, why is he out there throwing blocks like that?'”
8. Brown Hits Confidence-Boosting Field Goal
After a rough day in Ames, Tanner Brown set a new career long Saturday with a 49-yard field goal.
If OSU is going to compete for a Big 12 title and high-level bowl appearance, special teams is sure to play a factor. Him being able to mentally reset from missing two on Ames’ natural grass could be a big deal.
9. Kansas, Man
Kansas hasn’t won a road Big 12 game since 2008 — like sheesh.
It got to the point Saturday it was just kind of sad. OSU had nearly four times as many yards as KU did. The Jayhawks struggled to seven first downs, all coming against the Cowboys’ reserves (OSU, meanwhile, had 31 first downs).
This is the third time this season KU has managed only single-digit points. It has to be demoralizing. They’re people out there. Now the Jayhawks have to go home and wake up Sunday and start the process all over again. It’s just sad.
10. Back in the Driver’s Seat to Arlington
Iowa State pulled an Iowa State on Saturday, falling to West Virginia, meaning with a tiebreaker advantage over Baylor, OSU is back in the driver’s seat to play in the Big 12 title game in Arlington.
Here is a look at the Big 12’s contenders and their remaining schedules:
Oklahoma (6-0): at Baylor, Iowa State, at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State (4-1): at West Virginia, TCU, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma
Baylor (4-1): at TCU, Oklahoma, at Kansas State, Texas Tech
Iowa State (3-2): Texas, at Texas Tech, at Oklahoma, TCU
Mini thoughts within this thought: 1. OU gets its three toughest conference tests on consecutive weekends, which could send this thing into pandemonium. 2. OSU might have the easiest remaining schedule among those four. 3. If you’re an OSU fan (which is probably why you’re reading this) you probably would feel better about Iowa State dropping one more game, be it to Texas or OU, so that the tiebreaker stays as far away as possible.
The Cowboys are fine with a two-way tiebreaker with Baylor. OSU’s head-to-head win in that makes it simple. Three-team tiebreakers make things much more challenging.
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