First of all, let me start out by saying this: The final score did not surprise me one bit. I pretty much expected the Cougs to get drubbed. The manner in which it happened, however? Totally didn't see that coming.
I know I'll be diving deeper into some of these issues this week (and I imagine Grady will, too), but I wanted to get my initial thoughts down for discussion. It's important to keep in mind these are just my observations from the third level of Qwest Field, since I neglected to set the DVR before leaving yesterday, so some of this might be more perception than anything else.
So, with that, here we go with a look at each unit:
Truly mixed results here. The offense looked about as bad as an offense can look for the first half, looked excellent in the third quarter, and so-so in the fourth quarter.
I was struck by how vanilla the playcalling was -- for this being a multiple-look/spread attack, it sure looked like most any other offense in the country, save for the no-huddle approach. Lots of snaps from under center, lots of straight hand-offs, very little read and react. I suppose that will open up as the season goes along, but I was surprised at the lack of creativity in terms of getting the ball to playmakers in space.
The patchwork offensive line looked great at times in the running game, terrible at other times in the passing game. The line seemed most effective on running plays that involved lots of pulling and movement -- not a huge shock considering none of Saturday's starters exceed 300 pounds. But that also is a detriment on passing downs, where the line often got shoved into the backfield. Perhaps more shotgun is the answer here?
The receivers were an unmitigated disappointment in my book. I wrote last week how I thought the guys not named Gibson would be the key to the offense's success. Well, the receivers had eight total catches, and six of them were by Brandon Gibson (who was not exempt from my ire with those early drops). Jared Karstetter only had the ball thrown his way a couple of times, with a drop and no catches. Those two catches -- one by Blackledge and one by Willis -- went for just eight yards. EIGHT. If Gibson is the only guy who can get open, we are in for a lot of problems until Jeshua Anderson comes back.
One thing I definitely want to explore this week was the effectiveness of Tardy and Ivory. Both looked excellent. And Gary Rogers? I thought he looked insanely nervous. People are going to be pleasantly surprised by his play against Cal next week, I think, given the way he settled in during the second half.
This was easily the highlight of the day for me. Before the game, I was telling anyone who would listen that the over/under on rushing yards for Oklahoma State was about 275. Considering the lopsided time of possession and consistent terrible field position the defense was put in, I'd say this unit deserves a heck of a lot of credit for keeping the score as close as it was.
The defensive line more or less held its own, which was something I did not expect to happen. That allowed the linebackers, the strength of this defense, to fly around and make plays. The ends were very good as well, as Matt Mullenix played big and Kevin Kooyman flashed some of the speed we all will be looking for this year by picking up a tackle for loss and two QB hurries.
The secondary has taken a bit of a beating for the plays it gave up to Dez Bryant, but I think they're getting a little bit of a bad rap. I mean, how are they supposed to compete with a guy taller and more athletic than them? Bryant might be the most gifted receiver they face all year. Let's look at what else they did. They gave up just 193 yards total passing, just 103 to receivers other than Bryant. Yes, this unit might struggle a bit against the really athletic receivers, but there's potential here, too.
And while we're at it, can I say that Chima Nwachukwu is becoming one of my favorite players? That guy is just sound -- he's always in the right place at the right time, and he'll be an all-Pac-10 player and play in the NFL if for no other reason than that.
Now, for the lowlight.
That was quite possibly the worst display of special teams I’ve seen out of any team, at any level. Special teams are all about discipline, intensity and execution, and for a team coached by a coach that has been preaching those three things incessantly since he was hired to fail so spectacularly in that regard is shocking to me.
Terrible punts, short and non-directional? Check. Missed PAT? Check. Average to below-average returns? Check. Short kickoffs? Check. Inability to stay in lanes on a kickoff? Check. We failed in every facet of special teams to some degree yesterday.
It's hard to even pinpoint what can be done to fix it. The punter problems are lack of talent, and the kicking game just might be. I suppose we could do a better job of maintaining lane assignments and not let a kick returner run behind an unimpeded wedge -- I seriously have never, ever seen that happen before, where not even one guy runs into the wedge -- but these are guys who have been forced into action that probably don't belong on a field right now.
This could be something that's a major-league struggle for us all year.