Mike Gundy has transformed the Cowboys, but can they take the step to full elite status?
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are everything you think about in the Big 12. Since Gundy has been the head coach at Oklahoma State, the offenses have always put up points and the team has always been competitive. The Cowboys have played in a bowl game every year since 2006 and finished with at least 9 wins eight times and they have finished the season ranked at least eight times. Gundy and the Cowboys have been the model of consistency but the big question remains, despite all of the good that Gundy has brought to OSU, they have one conference title to their name – can Gundy and the Cowboys get over the hump to Big 12 elite?
GET TO KNOW THE ENEMY
Where are they from?: Stillwater, OK
#BRAND Slogan: #GoPokes
Recommended Blog: Cowboys Ride For Free
Famous Alumni:Barry Sanders, Garth Brooks, James Marsden
Conference: Big 12
THE HEAD COACH
Mike Gundy is the longest tenured head coach in the Big 12 now and one of the most successful. Gundy was a former quarterback at Oklahoma State who was at the helm during Barry Sanders’ amazing 1988 season. Gundy graduated and immediately joined the OSU staff, working his way up from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach to assistant head coach. Gundy took a four year leave to Baylor and Maryland before returning in 2001 as the offensive coordinator for Les Miles. When Miles left in 2004 for the LSU Tigers, Gundy took over as head coach and has been at OSU ever since. Gundy will flirt with other teams from time to time but its clear now that Gundy and OSU are married for life.
SCOUTIN’ THE COWBOYS
The 2018 Cowboys were an egnima, a team without a full identity after it lost Mason Rudolph. The team handled their non conference slate of Missouri State, South Alabama and Boise State but once Big 12 conference player began, the team struggled to find footing. The Cowboys lost to the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Iowa State and Kansas State, with their only win in that stretch a 48-28 beatdown of lowly Kansas. The Cowboys were able to surprise the Texas Longhorns 38-35 but then dropped games to Baylor and Oklahoma. As the Cowboys fought for bowl eligibility, the staged one of the better second half comebacks against West Virginia in a game that should have been a rout for the ‘Eers, The Cowboys entered halftime down 31-14 but scored 31 points in the second half, including 21 in the fourth quarter to get to bowl eligibility. The Cowboys lost to TCU but then beat former conference foe Missouri in the Liberty Bowl 38-33.
Who did they lose?
Justice Hill, the 2016 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and a two-time All Big-12 First Team running back is gone after a career that saw him rush for over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns as a Cowboy. Hill brought stability and toughness to the running back position for the Cowboys. Also gone is quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who threw for nearly 4,000 yards last season in his only starting year. Cornelius wasn’t as good as former starter Mason Rudolph, but he still led the team to big wins against Texas and West Virginia.
On the defensive side, pass rushing specialist Jordan Brailford is gone, taking his 9 sacks and 2 forced fumbles with him. Linebacker Justin Phillip’s 98 tackles are also gone, leaving a major hole in the front seven.
Who do they return?
Taking over for Hill will be running back Chubba Hubbard, who nearly matched Hill’s production last season with 740 yards and 7 touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders will be battling it out with Hawaii transfer Dru Brown for the starting quarterback position. Whoever wins the starting position will have a plethora of receivers to throw to, including All-American Tylan Wallace and his 1,491 yards from last season, along with Dillon Stoner and Landon Wolf. The trio will form a dangerous receiving corp for the Cowboys.
Linebacker Calvin Bundage will be asked to man the linebacker spot and make up for Phillip’s absence while cornerbacks AJ Green and Rodarius Williams will anchor a veteran secondary that allowed 267 yards per game last season. The turnovers will need to increase from the 5 interceptions from last season.
Why should West Virginia be worried?
Gundy and his team are always well prepared and have beaten the Mountaineers every year since 2015 and twice ruining a chance at a Big 12 title. Last season, despite a 31-14 halftime deficit, the Cowboys made adjustments and essentially ruined the Mountaineers chances at the Title Game.
Why should West Virginia not be worried?
Two new quarterbacks who haven’t played in this system could spell trouble in Stillwater. While there is talent on offense, it always starts with the quarterback. This will be the last home game of the year for the Mountaineers and could be their final chance to get to bowl eligibility. We saw last season that a team fighting for bowl eligibility is more dangerous than a team that isn’t fighting for its life.
Source: Smoking Musket