By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma State has done the first step — acknowledged the mistakes made in Saturday’s loss against West Virginia. But it was easy to point them out because they were just that glaring — turnovers, poor kicking performances and an inability to run the ball.
Now, the Cowboys must correct them — something players and coaches seemed to say every time a question was poised during Monday’s media luncheon at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“I think that we’ve identified where we need help and then we come up with solutions and then we work toward that,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “There are some things you can fix. Drops, more accurate throws and getting on the right people and blocking them are things that you can fix in a week. ... When it snowballs and you’re on the road and you’re not playing with a real experienced quarterback, at times you have to fight through it and it’s not as easy as you would want it to be.”
With the abysmal rushing statistics Saturday, there was one group of players that took it upon themselves to make sure things get fixed this week — the offensive line. The Cowboys only averaged 2.8 yards per rush attempt, with starting running back Jeremy Smith finding himself getting tackled in the backfield more often than not — running the ball 15 times and finishing with a net 1 yard.
“We’re not really an individual in there. If someone makes a bust then it is the whole offensive line’s fault,” offensive lineman Brandon Webb said. “We have to take responsibility as a whole and try to get better.”
Possibly the most talked about play from Saturday’s loss, however, was a second-and-goal possession for the OSU offense in which they didn’t run the ball.
With the Mountaineers clinging to a 3-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were looking to reclaim the lead for the first time since the opening quarter. After a Jeremy Smith 2-yard run placed the ball just short of the goal line, J.W. Walsh elected to switch the play go with a fade into the corner to Tracy Moore — which fell incomplete.
The next play — a stretch run to Smith — went for a 5-yard loss and freshman Ben Grogan missed his second field goal of the game, this coming from 23 yards, and OSU never saw the West Virginia side of the field the remainder of the game.
“We don’t have the play that he checked out of in that set. It’s a run play,” Gundy said. “We’ve had the discussion — the offensive staff has, Mike has, J.W. has — we already went all over that (Sunday).”
Wide receiver Tracy Moore said it was actually a play Walsh has the ability to audible into if the situation is favorable — which would have appeared so with the 6-foot-2 senior receiver facing man coverage on the outside.
“We work on it (the fade route) pretty much year round. They give J.W. the freedom to call it,” Moore said. “He had that much trust in me, that he felt comfortable in throwing it from the 1-yard line. A lot of people will question the call, but with some of the stuff we’ve done in practice, I’m not going to fault him for it.”
Even if Walsh could have, and did, audible to the pass play, Gundy still reiterated that with the ball inside the 1-yard line, handing the ball off to either running back Smith (at 5-10, 208 pounds) or Desmond Roland (6-2, 210) was the better option.
“We can sit in here and talk about it all we want and make each other feel good, but the truth is this: If the ball’s on the two-inch line, I’d prefer to run it. And that’s what we told him,” Gundy said.
There was still no word on the status of senior cornerback Justin Gilbert following his ejection late in Saturday’s loss. Gilbert got in a skirmish with a West Virginia player, and threw several punches that led to a flagrant ejection.
According to Gundy, the Big 12 Conference typically contacts the coach on Sundays in regard to eligibility of players.
“I’m gonna wait and see exactly what happens with the conference, and then I’ll sit down and have a discussion with Justin,” Gundy said.
With the question marks surrounding the performance of freshman kicker Ben Grogan, Gundy was asked by a fan on his weekly radio show if Bobby Stonebraker was still with the team, in which Gundy said the junior from Tuttle had asked and received permission to transfer so he could try to kick for another team.
However, the official Oklahoma State athletics website still lists Stonebraker on the roster for the Cowboys — though he is not listed in the roster contained in the weekly game notes released Monday. Punter Kip Smith is listed as the backup place kicker behind Grogan. Smith has been handling the kickoff duties for OSU through the first four games.