AUSTIN, Texas — For his introduction to Big 12 football, Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders played in front of a sold-out crowd and a national television audience.
For the most part, Sanders held his own while attempting to vault the Cowboys to a road upset of No. 12 Texas Saturday night at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
“It’s not an easy place to play, so I was really happy with the way he handled himself and the way he went out there and kind of stayed calm and made plays,” OSU receiver Tylan Wallace said.
A redshirt freshman playing in his home state, Sanders was 19-of-32 passing for 268 yards with two interceptions. He also rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown in the 36-30 defeat.
“The kid played his tail off,” offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson said. “He got hit a few times. There were some wobbly balls, but I think the grit we saw tonight in the throw game and his compete level in front of a big crowd in a primetime game, I’m very happy.”
Sanders was right on the money for a handful of long passes in the first half, but he overthrew big target Jelani Woods on an ill-fated ball that produced a 37-yard interception return and preceded the Longhorns’ second touchdown. The other interception occurred when Sanders was hit while throwing.
“That’s my mistake,” Sanders said. “I’ll get better next week and it won’t happen again.”
Two drives later, Sanders connected with Braydon Johnson on a 55-yard bomb and used his elusiveness to find the end zone. In the closing minutes, he escaped for 33 yards to set up the game’s final touchdown, and an unsuccessful onside kick allowed Texas to run out the clock.
“He’s making competitive plays … and that’s a good thing,” Gundy said about Sanders’ performance. “The guys chasing him today run pretty well and he still made some competitive plays.”
When OSU’s possessions repeatedly stalled, it was more frequently a result of ineffective run plays rather than off-the-mark passing. In a six-point loss, the Cowboys also opted against kicking a pair of field goals in the second half in favor of going for it on fourth down.
“Whatever (Gundy) thinks is best is what he thinks is best,” Sanders said. “I’m just a freshman playing ball.”
Through four games, Sanders has thrown for 890 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions while completing 64.6% of his passes, and he has rushed for 328 yards and two scores.
“He’s getting better and better every week,” Wallace said. “You can tell he’s starting to understand the offense more. He’s going out there and just making big plays. I’m just really excited to see how he progresses after every game.”