Oklahoma State matched the second-largest comeback in program history in its upset of then No. 9-ranked West Virginia this past weekend, and it was thanks to halftime adjustments on both sides of the ball – something that has been a struggle all season.
The Cowboys rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit, outscoring the Mountaineers 31-10 in the second half thanks to the new approach from the offense.
"From an offensive standpoint, it was probably the best that I've been around in a while. Just throwing the game plan away and going to the other sets,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said Monday. “Defensively, it was more technique. Schemes and stuff were OK. We were just getting out of gaps. They adjusted there and settled down a little better in the second half."
Gundy says he doesn’t make suggestions mid-game all that often, which may be why his words of advice were taken more to heart in the West Virginia game.
He approached offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich with a scheme change at halftime in a way that Yurcich could understand and appreciate.
“The most important thing, and I’m not trying to kiss his (butt), but when your head coach comes in there at halftime and has an even demeanor, even-keel and doesn’t get emotional, it allows everybody to think,” Yurcich said Saturday following the game. “It calms down everybody, and you’re able to communicate. So I appreciate that because everybody was frustrated at that point – we knew we could move the ball better, and we knew that the plan needed to be adjusted.
“When you’re an assistant coach, and the head coach has that calmness about him, it allows you to think clearly, and communicate clearly and discuss football and just figure it out.”
The result was 396 yards of offense in the final two quarters – after just 208 yards in the opening half – with a great emphasis on the run game. Behind redshirt freshman running back Chuba Hubbard, as well as taking advantage of mobile quarterback Taylor Cornelius, the Cowboys rushed for 177 yards in the second half – Hubbard getting 13 carries for 87 yards and Cornelius rushing eight times for 81 yards and a touchdown.
OSU also limited its downfield pass attempts against West Virginia’s secondary, with the longest pass completion of the game being a 38-yard pass to Tyron Johnson on a third-and-20 play near midfield early in the fourth quarter.
New approach to penalties
Oklahoma State had been one of the most penalized teams in the NCAA throughout the season, but those numbers have dwindled in the past two weeks.
After a season-high 12 penalties for 133 yards against Baylor, the Cowboys were called for five penalties and 31 yards in Bedlam and just three flags for 35 yards in the upset of West Virginia.
A new approach to referencing penalties may be one of the big reasons for the more disciplined approach by the Cowboys after being flagged for multiple unsportsmanlike penalties against the Bears three weeks ago.
“We’ve categorized them now as not ‘dumb penalties,’ but ’selfish penalties’ and maybe that’s worked,” Gundy said. “If so, we’re going to stick with it this week and for now on, because certainly we’ve been much better.”
Interacting with Busey
Oklahoma State’s most estranged – and strange – alumnus returned to campus this past weekend and made an appearance on the field at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Hollywood celebrity Gary Busey, who was in Stillwater to promote his book “Buseyisms: Gary Busey’s Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” was introduced to the crowd during Saturday’s game against West Virginia and before leaving the field found his way over to the OSU sideline.
The character actor who has appeared in over 150 films and attended Oklahoma State University – quitting school one class short of graduation – introduced himself to Cowboy coach Mike Gundy during the game.
“I didn’t know he was down there,” Gundy said. “Somebody told me he would be here, but I wasn’t expecting him to be there actually when a play was going on. But I guess that’s him.”
Gundy got to experience prime Busey, too.
“It was awesome, because he said, ‘Man, you’ve always been my hero,’” Gundy said. “… It was a little surprising, I will say, but it was entertaining. … I think he was pretty close (personality-wise) to what you see at the movie theater.”
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter @jelmquistSW for updates on Oklahoma State athletics.