The Oklahoma State Cowboys suffered their second loss of the 2012 college football season this past Saturday against the Texas Longhorns. During the first four games of the Cowboys’ season, there have been some very interesting statistical trends that have developed.
The young quarterbacks have looked stellar, Joseph Randle is a flat-out stud and the defense is the definition of up, down and all over the place. This is an important season for the Cowboys, and so far they have proven that they have the talent to continue to the upswing of this program.
In this slideshow, I will outline some of the interesting statistics of the season so far. Many of them are downright shocking in either a good or bad way.
After leading the nation in this statistic last season, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are falling woefully behind in it this season. Currently they have forced four turnovers and committed eight of their own. That is a turnover margin of minus-4 for the entire season and minus-1 per game.
That puts the Cowboys at about 95th nationally, which is startling given how much talent they have returned on the defensive side of the ball. Granted, the offense has committed too many turnovers (four against Arizona alone), but the defense is nowhere near its turnover-forcing pace of last season or even the season before. It is not too late for the team to turn it around, but the Cowboys must start quickly.
Through basically two full games played, redshirt freshman quarterback J.W. Walsh has a quarterback rating of 181.2, which ranks him at No. 4 nationally. The only players who have a better one right now are Geno Smith of West Virginia, David Ash of Texas and Aaron Murray of Georgia.
To see Walsh play this well, especially after losing the starting job back in the spring, is massively impressive. And not just for the player, but also for Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken. They have proven just how good they are with quarterbacks.
Another surprising stat is how the Cowboys really have not missed a beat without Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden. Last season, the Cowboys ranked third in the nation in total offense, averaging 545.8 yards per game. Through the first third of this season, they lead the nation with 659 yards per game. The second closest team to them is Baylor, who barely tops 600 yards per game.
This Cowboy offense is on its way toward becoming legendary, especially given what they are doing on the ground. Not only are they averaging about 360 passing yards per game, but they are also topping 300 yards per game rushing. No one else in the country can boast that type of balance.
Many expected Tracy Moore to be the No. 1 receiver on this Oklahoma State team after the departure of Justin Blackmon, especially considering that he was the leading statistical receiver returning from last season. However, Moore has been a pretty clear picture of inconsistency thus far.
He did not play in the first game of the season. Then he caught eight passes for 104 yards and four scores against Arizona. He followed that up with just three catches for 22 yards against Louisiana and six catches for 93 yards against Texas. Moore is a big-time weapon and he will be one of the top receivers on the team, but it is looking like he will not be able separate himself as the clear No. 1 guy.
Anyone who watched the Oklahoma State-Texas game now knows this: Joseph Randle is a very good football player. While running the angriest he ever has in his career, Randle gashed the Longhorns for 199 yards and two scores. For the season, Randle has accumulated 534 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
While he is not on pace to match the 24 touchdowns he scored in 2011, he is on pace to top the 1,216 yards he rushed for during that season. If he continues at his current pace, he will top 1,500 rushing yards without even going to a bowl game. Needless to say, Randle will be shooting up Heisman lists and NFL draft boards if he reaches those numbers.
The Oklahoma State receiving corps has been extremely balanced during the first third of the season, which can be construed as a good thing or a bad thing. It is good if it means that defenses cannot key in on one player, but it is bad if it means that there is not a star there to step up in the clutch. I would say it is a good thing for Oklahoma State at this point.
The Cowboys currently have four players with at least 11 catches, and they have three that have over 200 yards receiving. Josh Stewart, Blake Jackson and Tracy Moore have been the three biggest targets so far, with Joseph Randle and Isaiah Anderson also catching their fair share of the passes. Needless to say, it will be impossible for any defense the Cowboys face to shut down the passing attack by focusing on just one player.
When you find out that your team is starting a true freshman at quarterback, you tend to expect very little from that player. The reasons are the speed of the game and the time it takes to develop the skills and mental fortitude to play the game at a high level. Wes Lunt has surpassed expectations.
He has really only played between one-and-a-half and two games, but during that time he has shined as a future star. Right now, he has thrown for 588 yards, with 436 of that coming in the one complete game he played in. He has completed 68 percent of his passes (higher than Brandon Weeden’s percentage in 2010) and has shown a good knowledge of the offense so far. It is likely that he will be a star in the Big 12—and nation—when next season begins.
Much has been made of the two-headed monster the Cowboys have at running back in Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith. However, Smith is now the third-leading rusher on the team behind Randle and third-stringer Desmond Roland, who has Smith beaten by eight yards on four fewer carries.
To be fair, Smith has struggled with injuries, but it is still impressive for Roland. It was worrisome when last year’s third-string running back Herschel Sims was kicked off the team, but Roland has proven that the Cowboys have depth at the position. Expect him to keep getting carries, especially if Smith continues to be injury-stricken.
The Cowboys have a high-octane, up-tempo offense that has been very successful. So, it makes sense that they would be very good at converting third downs. It turns out, they are among the nation’s elite at it. They have converted 58.9 percent of their third downs on offense, which is good enough to make them the second-best at it in the nation.
Both J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt have consistently made big throws on third downs, and Joseph Randle has really been able to move the chains on the ground as well. But even though the Cowboys are No. 2 nationally in this area, they do not lead the Big 12 Conference. The West Virginia Mountaineers have the top spot, converting 60 percent of their third downs.
The pass defense heading into the 2012 season was supposed to be a strength. The Cowboys were returning three out of four starters in the secondary, including corners Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert. However, the team has struggled to defend the pass, as was most recently shown against Texas.
The team ranks 56th in the nation in pass efficiency defense after being much closer to the top last season. Gilbert was particularly ineffective against Texas, and it appears that the loss of safety Markelle Martin to the NFL has hurt the defense much more than most of us expected it too. The secondary is still very talented with Gilbert, Brown and Daytawion Lowe, but they must begin to play better and force turnovers.