If you haven't checked out Oklahoma State's SB Nation Blog Cowboys Ride for Free, you should head over there some time. They do a great job covering all OKST sports and have all of the inside news coming out of the Cowboys camp for the upcoming Cactus Bowl.
We did a little Q&A with them to get warmed up for the bowl game. Part I is their responses to our questions. Robert Whetsell does a nice job giving us to low down on the other orange and black OSU.
Here is my Q&A with Robert:
Robert Whetsell, Cowboys Ride for Free
1. For UW fans, this will be their first serious look at a Big 12 team this season. Talk about Oklahoma's State overall performance in conference play. Did they meet basic expectations or was 2014 considered a disappointment despite the rebuilding that we expected?
A little of both, really.
While rebuilding was expected, most fans were looking for an 8-5 type season where OSU was competitive in every game. The opener against Florida State did nothing but fan the flames of even higher expectations. When Daxx Garman came in for the injured JW Walsh in the 2nd game of the season, we all held our breath. But he seemed to perform ok, and we cautiously awaited better opponents. Then came Kansas, and had it not been for the Jayhawk coach's idiotic decision to actually kick to Tyreek Hill that resulted in a TD (they had avoided that the entire game), many Cowboy fans were convinced we were about to lose that game.
That breath of reality set us up for the most brutal stretch of losses since Mike Gundy's first year as head coach.
Once into that stretch of games, it became obvious that Daxx Garman (and the entire season) was the sacrificial lamb being laid at the feet of true freshman Mason Rudolph's redshirt. Had it not been for the pummeling Garman endured against Texas (resulting in a mild concussion), Rudolph's redshirt would have remained intact. Rumor had it that Gundy actually trotted out a walkon for snaps with the first team in preparation for the Baylor game, and Rudolph told the coaches to either play him or he would transfer. Rudolph got the starts against both Baylor and OU, and despite a couple of "rookie" interceptions, he hasn't looked anything like a true freshman. He's big and tough to bring down, is poised and moves really well in the pocket to buy time, and works through his progressions nicely. He prefers to throw, but is agile enough to do damage on the run. He had no problem handling the big stages he was thrown into at Baylor and OU.
Which left a lot of OSU fans wondering what the season would have been like had Rudolph played from the start?
Bottom line? We beat OU in a fairly heartbreaking fashion. That makes for a pretty good season no matter what.
2. The arrest and dismissal of Tyreek Hill was big news, even up in the Northwest. How does Oklahoma State compensate for the gaping hole on offense that he leaves.
As for the offense, I wouldn't say it was a gaping hole. Fans were frustrated all season at how he was under-utilized, or improperly utilized. He was the 2nd leading rusher on the team, but he got too many hand-offs between the tackles. Playcalling struggled to get him the ball in space, and his touches in the running game were too predictable. He was the 4th leading receiver in yards, 3rd in receptions, but had only one offensive home run all season.
His punt and kick returns, however, will be sorely missed. It could be argued that he was responsible for THE two plays that saved OSU's season (kick return against KU and punt return against OU), but neither of those plays happen without the opposing coach's stupid decisions.
Bottom line? Really not sure that much will change for the offense.
3. Tell us about the Cowboys QB situation. You've rotated through three guys this year and your coach made the tough decision to burn a red shirt on Mason Rudolph with only two games left in the season. Good call or not?
As referred to in #1, it was a very worthwhile call. OSU would not be bowl eligible without it. The bigger question is, if he was truly the 2nd best QB on the roster, why didn't he come in when Walsh was injured against Missouri State? He had the perfect slate of games to get his feet under him, and he was obviously the superior QB between he and Garman. The coaches tried to tell us that he had improved a lot in the weeks prior to Baylor, but they're blowing smoke to cover their asses. Rudolph enrolled at the mid-term to compete in the spring for the starting job, and it was clear from a couple of sources that he wanted to play.
Bottom line? Gundy has a history of crappy QB decisions, and we're glad his hand was forced.
4. Oklahoma State's defense gets almost no discussion in the national previews. Give us the Cliff's Notes on your D, some players to watch and general expectations in the bowl game.
Big and talented up front and on the ends. James Castleman and Ofa Hautau anchor the middle very well, and Emmanuel Ogbah is a beast on the edge. They have depth up front and on the edges.
Once we get past that, youth is the name of the game. More freshman played in the back 7 than I care to mention. They gave up a number of big plays (see Ramon Richards), but they also made a number of big plays (see Ramon Richards). Injuries plagued whatever experience OSU had. While it was a struggle at times, this group definitely improved as the season progressed, showing the promise brought by the emphasis on recruiting defensive talent. Ryan Simmons is a really solid leader at middle LB. Kevin Peterson was expected to have a really good season at CB, but has been a bit underwhelming. Michigan transfer Josh Furman has been fantastic at the "Star" LB position.
Bottom line? This group is more than capable of keeping OSU in the game.
5. Complete this sentence: T. Boone Pickens is ....
...the bomb? ...the Jerry Jones of college football? ...free to do just about whatever the hell he wants? ...the main reason OSU football is now on the map? ...a really cool old dude? ...not afraid of divorce? ...not going to cut Gundy any slack in his pursuit of championships?
I'm sure I could keep going, but I'll spare you. Seems he has managed to stay out of the middle with Gundy and AD Mike Holder, at least the public part, anyway.
6. We will have a lot of UW fans in Tempe both tailgating and at the game. What football gameday traditions do the Cowboys and their fans like to partake in that our fans may want to look out for?
Nothing earth-shattering. They will be warm and welcoming to all who stop by, so be sure to knock on the door of their gatherings. Oh, and our band will be much nicer than Stanford's.