John Klein: OSU must be much better to stay relevant in Big 12 race
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, October 14, 2012
10/14/12 at 4:22 AM
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Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: OSU must be much better to stay relevant in Big 12
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Oklahoma State may not win again this season.
If the Cowboys don't play better than they did at Kansas, it is hard to imagine OSU finding someone to beat in the next seven games.
Kansas is the undisputed worst team in the Big 12 Conference and did nothing to change that Saturday.
However, Oklahoma State's reputation as one of the most explosive and exciting offenses in the country took a big hit.
The Cowboys struggled to a 20-0 lead then needed a couple of breaks down the stretch, including getting roughed on a punt, to allow them to escape KU with a 20-14 victory at Kivisto Field.
"It was a serious struggle," said OSU coach Mike Gundy. "It was painful for me to watch."
Yes, it was every bit as bad as it sounds.
Oklahoma State did everything it could to lose. It played sloppy offense. OSU's Joseph Randle, so good in the first four games, was stuffed for most of the game (80 yards on 29 carries). He gained less than 3 yards per run.
Except for a 72-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Moore, which was pretty much all run, OSU's passing game was nonexistent (18-of-29).
This was a sobering game for a team many felt was on the verge of being very competitive in a wide-open Big 12 race.
Instead, there were all types of warning signs for the Cowboys, who face Iowa State, TCU and go to Kansas State in the next three weeks.
"No doubt next week we'll have to play better," said Gundy.
OSU still has West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor ahead on the schedule, too.
There's a lot of work to be done if Oklahoma State hopes to remain relevant in the Big 12.
"We're certainly going to have to play better to make a run, and especially next week," said Gundy.
It is hard to pinpoint all of the problems Oklahoma State faced in this game. The most glaring might have been the way Kansas' defensive front manhandled OSU's offensive line. Randle struggled because he had nowhere to go. On many plays, Randle was making sensational runs to get back to the line of scrimmage.
"They outplayed us up front," said Gundy.
However, OSU's line wasn't the only offensive problem. The Cowboys were decimated by injuries at wide receiver.
Still, J.W. Walsh played like a backup quarterback, unable to hit any downfield passes and shaky every time he threw it.
"That's not on J.W.," said OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who took full blame for the play-calling that was less than average. "Obviously, we didn't do a good job on the game plan. I did not make the right calls. That's on me."
It appeared OSU had open receivers, but Walsh failed to make plays.
Gundy admitted starter Wes Lunt, who has missed the past two games after being injured early against Louisiana, could have played against Kansas. Gundy said they didn't play Lunt because he's still limited from the injury.
"We could have played him if we needed him," said Gundy.
It certainly looked like OSU needed something, anything against the Jayhawks.
In the past few years, OSU has seldom struggled on offense. In fact, it could be argued OSU hasn't struggled this much on offense since Brandon Weeden had to rescue the Cowboys in a victory over Colorado in 2009. The Cowboys also struggled against Oklahoma and Ole Miss with a partially injured Zac Robinson at quarterback to end the 2009 season.
Since then, and for much of the prior three seasons, O-State's offense has seldom sputtered.
The Cowboys have been consistently among the most entertaining and exciting offenses in the country over the past six years.
As a result, the Cowboys had to rely on defense against Kansas. That's always scary.
"You need to shut them out when you get to that point," said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young.
OSU played pretty well defensively for three quarters, but when the Cowboys needed their defense most, in the fourth quarter, O-State suddenly couldn't stop the Jayhawks.
Trailing 20-0, Kansas sliced through OSU's defense for two quick touchdowns to get within six points with nearly nine minutes left in the game.
"It's the first time I think we've won the fourth quarter," said Kansas coach Charlie Weis. "That's a major difference from all those other games."
Five games into the season, it is still hard to get a grip on where OSU is with this team. The Cowboys have turned in five dramatically different results in five games.
There's little encouraging in the trip to Kansas.
"Winning a close game on the road is good," said Gundy.
But Gundy knows. The Cowboys will need to be far better in the next seven to win games.
"It's not the prettiest win that we'll have in the record books," said OSU kicker Quinn Sharp.
But it is a win, and that's about all OSU can take away from it.
OSU's Calvin Barnett loses his grip on Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World