October 8, 2013
STILLWATER — Throughout the spring and fall camp, the chatter from the Oklahoma State players and coaches was about how new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich was going to make a Cowboy no-huddle attack that was already fast run even faster.
About how the time elapsed between each play hovered around eight seconds. About how everyone — including the offensive linemen — was in tiptop shape and ready to wear defenses down. About how the Cowboys would benefit from the extra official added for Big 12 games whose primary responsibility is to spot the football.
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So far this season, though, that plan for speed hasn't exactly transpired as a consistent, full-throttle machine. Instead, OSU has used a more situational approach, with last week's narrow win over Kansas State providing a prime example.
The Cowboys went slow for much of the game, but turned on the jets for their game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, needing just 1:56 to zoom 75 yards down the field in six plays.
“When they get you on the move, the better they go, the faster they go,” Wildcat coach Bill Snyder said. “I can't speak for Mike (Gundy) and his people, but when they're moving the ball, they're gong to go faster. When they're not, they're going to try and slow it down a bit and try to pick and choose the right things.”
So why the change in tempo?
Gundy first pointed to a receiving corps that has been hit with recent injuries, as Blake Jackson, Austin Hays and Blake Webb were all held out against the Wildcats. Those receivers often have the farthest to run on each play and, thus, need to be part of a revolving rotation when going up-tempo.
The Cowboys didn't have that luxury Saturday.
“The tempo is not as easy for us when we don't have as much depth at the wide receiver (position), just the history of what we do here on offense,” Gundy said. “A few years ago, when we had all those wide receivers before Hubert (Anyiam) and those guys got hurt, that year we were playing fast all the time.
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“And then last year we had some issues with injuries and so we had to slow down. And we had a few guys out now.”
Elements of what has been an erratic OSU offense, such as incomplete passes, can also disrupt flow and a plan to play fast. And the Cowboys' defense needing to match up against K-State's methodical, plodding pace may have impacted how up-tempo OSU went when it had the football.
OSU's win against Texas-San Antonio, where J.W. Walsh sharply completed 24 of 27 passes, showcased the Cowboys' potential for a rapid pace, as three consecutive touchdown drives took fewer than two minutes off the clock.
And that beautiful game-winning drive against K-State certainly showed what this offense could be.
But just how often will OSU ramp up the pace the rest of the season? We'll see.