John Klein: OSU-Texas highlights Big 12's depth
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Monday, October 01, 2012
10/01/12 at 4:41 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: OSU-Texas highlights Big 12's depth
Oklahoma State had a freshman back-up quarterback making his first start on Saturday night against Texas.
That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
Instead, the Longhorns needed every break possible, including a favorable ruling on the game-winning touchdown, to turn back OSU's upset bid.
The efficiency and confidence of quarterback J.W. Walsh is yet another encouraging trend in the evolution of Oklahoma State football.
Yet, O-State's defense continues to be a drag on a team that has a championship-level offense and kicker/punter.
Texas got a 41-36 victory over the Cowboys, but it should not give the Longhorns any false sense of security. Texas has work to be done the next two weeks, against West Virginia and Oklahoma, if it wants to prove it is really back among the national elite.
Oklahoma State is 3-2 and faces an uncertain future in the short term. But, long term, the Cowboys continue to grind it out and inch in the right direction.
"They (OSU fans) gave their guys a standing ovation after they lost," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "I don't think I've ever seen that before.
"Mike Gundy has done a great job here, and they've come a long way."
It just wasn't enough against Texas.
The Horns made enough mistakes, and were hammered relentlessly by OSU's Joseph Randle, that it should serve as a blueprint for future Texas opponents.
Of course, no one may have a running back as good as Randle, who is emerging as OSU's next great running back and should top some All-American lists at mid-season.
Still, OSU had no problems moving the ball on Texas with an untested teenager at the controls. Walsh was standing on the sideline with a clipboard in his hands as recently as two weeks ago.
If that isn't a concern for Texas it should be. In the next two weeks, Texas will face West Virginia's Geno Smith, the current odds-on favorite for the Heisman Trophy, and Oklahoma fifth-year senior Landry Jones.
In other words, if the Longhorns thought Walsh was a load then they face a grim reality.
The Cowboys made a handful of critical mistakes, most of them on defense. If OSU makes a defensive play on fourth down with less than two minutes left, we're not having this debate about OSU's future this season.
And, OSU's coaches would have gotten some sleep.
"I still lay in bed at night and am upset at myself for calls I made 10 years ago," said Gundy. "We put it all to rest tonight (Saturday night)."
Of course, what the Texas-OSU game really proved is what we've been saying for a while.
There's not much difference between eight or nine teams in the Big 12 Conference.
West Virginia is the current favorite but gave up 63 to Baylor in a victory on Saturday that was virtually a dead-even game.
Texas Tech had a tight victory over Iowa State. Texas had to score a controversial TD in the final seconds to beat OSU.
A week ago, Kansas State had a tight victory at Oklahoma.
No one is running away with the Big 12 Conference. Close games will be the norm.
Only Kansas looks to be a clear notch below the other nine.
What we've seen in the first two weeks of the conference season, a series of tight games decided late in the fourth quarter, is a trend likely to continue through November.
No one appears good enough to run away with the league title. No one, other than Kansas, appears bad enough to look like an automatic victory.
Two losses isn't out of the question for the Big 12 champ. In fact, after these first two weeks, a two-loss Big 12 champ looks just as likely as an unbeaten league champ.
Scoring seems to once again rule in the Big 12. Defense is just something you do until you get back out there and score again.
Texas figured to have the best defense in the Big 12. Yet Walsh and the Cowboys clearly overwhelmed UT's defenders both passing and running. Texas, with fabulous defensive ends, appeared to put up little resistance to OSU's offensive assault.
On the controversial game-winning TD, the ball was out, and recovered by OSU, before getting to the goal line. So what official saw the ball cross the goal? How does that call get made?
Don't say that play doesn't matter. It does matter. It won the game.
Still, if OSU plays any kind of defense on the final drive then we're not talking about the no-call on the fumble at the goal line.
"If we make that stop, we win," said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young.
That's the way the Big 12 season is going to be this fall.
These are going to be close games. Teams are going to score points and mistakes will be made.
Making sure you are on the right side of those mistakes is the winning formula.
Oklahoma State's Shaun Lewis(11),James Castleman and Caleb Lavey tackle Kyle Ashby of Texas. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World