The Oklahoma State football team returns to Stillwater tonight to play in Boone Pickens Stadium for the first time since Nov. 15, which ended in a 28-7 loss to a mediocre Texas team.
This game won’t likely tell us much about this Cowboy team, which is somewhat of a mystery after last week’s lackluster 24-13 win over Central Michigan. Still, there are plenty of things to be looking out for this evening, as the game should at least provide a measure of insight into Mike Gundy’s squad.
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Mason Rudolph’s Home Debut
It never occurred to me until just before the season opener that Rudolph’s entire college career thus far had been spent on the road, including the bowl game. With that said, the home crowd will finally get to show it’s appreciation to somebody we’ve been watching from afar since last season.
Rudolph is yet to have a bad game, even though last week’s performance was the most uneventful so far. Even so, Rudolph was poised and accurate, and was also able to show us what he could do with his legs. Look for Rudolph to absolutely pick apart the Bears with ease tonight, providing a nice pad for his season stats.
The Running Game/Offensive Line
I’m including these together because the running game’s lack of effectiveness since last season can be largely tied to the struggling offensive line. Coming into the season, there was plenty of hype surrounding Chris Carson, along with freshman Jeff Carr. Carson started off slow in the first half of last week’s win, but was eventually able to break free more often in the second half. Carr caught a pass in the backfield, and returned a few kicks. Today’s game should set the stage for Carson and Carr to show off some of their moves against inferior competition, which will hopefully go a long way in helping their comfort level with the college game.
The offensive line protected Rudolph well last week, but seemed to have trouble somewhat breaking Carson free. Central Michigan actually has a decent rush defense, so that’s at least mildly understandable. If they fail to make holes against Central Arkansas today, you can officially be worried.
Ben Grogan/Nick Sinor
Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys kicker Ben Grogan (19) prepares to kick during the game against the Missouri Tigers in the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Missouri won 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Grogan was 22-28 on field goals in 2014, and that was with a nagging hip injury. The junior kicker began the 2015 season healthy, and also by equaling 1/3rd of the amount of his misses in 2014 in one game alone, going 1-3 against Central Michigan. One of those was a 26-yard attempt. Hopefully Grogan can get back on track this week.
Meanwhile, on the punting side, freshman Nick Sinor had an excellent collegiate debut, pinning punt after punt within the 10-to-20 yard line of Central Michigan, sometimes with pressure from all sides. He probably won’t get many punts in today, but if he does, we could get some clarity on if last week’s outing was just beginner’s luck…or not.
The Cowboys are still a young team, and depth is a concern at certain positions. Other positions it’s not at all. Regardless, the second half of tonight’s game should give us some solid viewing for players second and third down on the depth chart, especially on defense. While next week’s matchup against UTSA might initially look like another crappy non-conference game, it’s actually not. The Roadrunners took Arizona down to the wire last week, and play Kansas State today. Tonight’s game with Central Arkansas is the Cowboy’s lone opportunity to give out some crucial playing time to players that might be needed later in the season due to injuries or the like.
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