It’s time. The first game of Oregon State’s 2019 Football season is just days away. It’s time for a look at the first team the Beavers will face this season, Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The Cowboys had an odd 2018. After a hot 3-0 start, including a win over a top 25 Boise State team, Oklahoma State was blown out by a terrible Texas Tech team. They recovered with a win against Kansas, then lost back to back games against Iowa State and Kansas State. How did they follow that up? By beating a top 10 Texas team.
It was a strange year.
It’s hard to know what to expect from the Cowboys this season. They’re picked 5th once again in the Big 12 Media Poll, but this feels like a team that is either going to win big or struggle at times.
Oklahoma State Offense
The Cowboys had one of the most high octane offenses in the country last season. They averaged 500 yards and 38 points per game, Of the roughly 6500 yards the Cowboys accumulated over the season, 4000 were gained through the air. This is a team that wants to pass, or at least they did. Several losses from the 2018 squad may change the nature of this unit. Of those, the departure of Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich is the most important. Yurcich was the architect of the Cowboys’ passing attack, and with his departure to Ohio State, Princeton OC Sean Gleason was given the opportunity to join MIke Gundy’s team.
Gleason helped Princeton break a few Ivy League passing records in his time there, but he has a history as a running back and coached that position for awhile. It’s expected he’ll bring some of that experience to Stillwater, and that the Cowboys could have a more balanced attack in 2019.
If the team is going to feature the run more, it’ll center around Chuba Hubbard. Hubbard split carries last season with Justice Hill, but Hill has left to join the Baltimore Ravens, so Hubbard’s got an opportunity to become a true feature back. Hubbard rushed for 740 yards and 7 touchdowns last year, and added 229 yards and 2 touchdowns as a receiver. With Oregon State struggling against the run and having secondary issues in 2018, Hubbard could be the primary weapon the Cowboys use to attack the Beavs.
The passing game is going to have a lot of question marks. One of the best receivers in the country, Tylan Wallace, is back after being named a first team All-American and a Biletnikoff Award Finalist. Wallace caught 86 passes for 1491 yards last season, for 12 touchdowns. Wallace also grabbed a 13th touchdown the one time he rushed last season.
Wallace should be excellent again, but who will be throwing him the ball is the biggest question for the Cowboys this season. Last year’s starter, Taylor Cornelius, has graduated, and there’s a fierce battle underway to be his replacement.
The first name to watch is Spencer Sanders. Sanders, a redshirt freshman, is a dual threat QB, so if the team is committed to running the ball he’ll probably get the start. The other option is Dru Brown, a transfer from Hawaii who sat out last season. Brown is a pro style QB, and in his two seasons at Hawaii threw for 5,2273 yards and 37 touchdowns. Brown has experience, and if this continues to be a pass first team, expect him to be under center.
Of course, Mike Gundy being Mike Gundy, he may have found a third option.
#OKState coach Mike Gundy says no separation between quarterbacks. Discussions have begun about how a two-QB plan would be executed vs. Oregon State, though he declined to go into detail— Scott Wright (@ScottWrightOK) August 20, 2019
Oklahoma State Defense
As good as the offense was last year, the defense was the reason this team ended up with six losses. The team finished 8th in the Big 12 in Passing Defense, last in Rushing Defense, and 9th in Total Defense. Compounding that, they’ve lost their best tackler, Justin Philips, and their best pass rusher, Jordan Brailford.
The secondary is the team’s relative strength, and cornerback A.J. Green making a case for himself as the team’s best player on defense. Green finished 2018 with 49 tackles, 11 pass deflections, and 1 interception, and is one of the team’s most prominent seniors. The team’s other starting corner, Rodarius Green, is just as good with 49 tackles, 8 deflections and 2 interceptions. For the safeties, Malcolm Rodriguez had the most tackles last year out of returning players, with 83 total, but is being moved to Outside Linebacker. That means the starting jobs will likely go to two of last year’s freshmen, Jarrick Bernard and Kolby Peel. Both were solid last season, and have room for growth.
The secondary has talent and depth, but the same can’t be said for the other units. The linebacker unit was inconsistent last year, and lost their best player and the team’s top tackler, Justin Phillips. The team’s third leading tackler, Kenneth Edison MacGruder, is also gone. Senior Calvin Bundage returns, but has fallen behind Rodriguez on the depth chart after inconsistent play.
If the linebacker corps looks bare, the defensive line is even worse. All four of last year’s starters are gone, including the team’s best pass rusher, Jordan Braiford. The team brought in two transfers for it’s Defensive Tackles, Israel Antwine from Colorado and Sione Asi from JUCO Snow College, but for now they’re second on the team’s depth chart. There’s little experience at Defensive End, with redshirt freshman Tyler Lacy and redshirt sophomore Brock Martiin getting the starting jobs.
There are similarities between Oregon State and Oklahoma State. Both teams are probably going to focus on the run game to attack questionable defensive lines. They both have some strength in the secondary, and both will probably be trying out two quarterbacks over the course of the season. Unfortunately for the Beavers, Oklahoma State is just a much more talented team. The Beavers should be able to score a lot of points against the Cowboys, but the Cowboys will score a lot more.
Still, last year this team was able to lose to some very bad teams, so the hope is there. Make sure to get to Reser and cheer the boys on if you can.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Oregon State 33