By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It was a slow start for one coordinator, while the other put out a product that produced the program’s best game in two decades.
Despite the tools, and recent history, surrounding the Oklahoma State offense, first-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich didn’t make that much of a splash in his first game at the Division I level.
Coming in from Shippensburg (Pa.) University, a Division II program, Yurcich broke into the Division I level thanks to his high-powered production — last year his team led Division II with 529.9 yards per game, and was second in points at 46.85 per contest.
“Every game that I’ve been a part of since I was a little kid playing has been full of anxiety and this was no different,” Yurcich said.
In his first showing with the Cowboys, it took nearly the entire first half before Oklahoma State scored a touchdown. And it wasn’t the way OSU fans have become accustomed to the past few years — Oklahoma State utilizing the run with J.W. Walsh, instead of looking like an Air Raid offense.
“Obviously we’d love to lead the nation in offense, but if we win 3-0, that’s a victory,” Yurcich said. “Sure, we want more offensive production. We want to get off to a faster start. We want to score on our first drive. And we want to lead the country in offense. We want those things, too. That’s the standard around here. But ultimately, winning the football game is the most important thing.”
During Monday’s media luncheon at Boone Pickens Stadium, OSU head man Mike Gundy said he believes there is a balance that can be reached with Walsh — and the running back tandem of Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland — running the rock to go with the passing attack that put the Pokes program on the map just a few short years ago.
“It should. In most cases, safeties have to help when a quarterback runs. If a safety helps when the quarterback runs it gives you a chance to throw it down the field,” Gundy said.
While Yurcich’s first shot at the big time came off with a whimper, OSU’s defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer put together a game plan that held Mississippi State’s offense — which features a quarterback Gundy claims will get a shot to play in the NFL — to just three points. It was the fewest points given up by a Cowboy defense to a BCS Conference opponent since a shutout of Bedlam rival Oklahoma in 1995.
“It’s not about me and the play calling. It’s about those players executing and we’ve got good players, experienced players and they went out and executed it well,” Spencer said.
While it wasn’t Spencer’s first time having to call the defensive plays — having done it against Arizona last year in Bill Young’s absence — it was still his first official game as the defensive coordinator — no “assistant” label attached. And the players under his watch were happy to start his tenure off right.
“He brings a lot of intensity to the table. As old as Coach Spencer is, he’s one of the most hyper men,” defensive tackle James Castleman said. “... I’m excited for him that we were able to help him get that first win under his belt as the defensive coordinator.”
Perhaps a reason for the improved play on defense for Oklahoma State was the different approaches Spencer is taking. All the talk before the season was him looking to be more aggressive — that shaped into three sacks and a pair of interceptions for the Pokes.
He’s also moved down to the sideline from his previous post above the field in the press box. It’s something he says helps cut out the middle man when addressing players in the middle of the game.
“I just think you get a better feel for things. You can correct things quicker, you can have all the guys there looking at you in the eye and I’ve always liked that,” Spencer said. “You have to have confidence in the guys up in the box that they can give you good information. ... I think our side of the ball is so much more assignment driven, it’s accountability driven and it’s also intensity and emotionally driven that you have to be on that high all the time. I just like being on the sideline to give them the feel for that.”