In the first 22 games of Joseph Randle's college career, he did not lose one fumble.
In his last five games, Randle has lost five fumbles. Six, really, but his fumble inside the red zone against Savannah State was negated because of a defensive penalty.
How big of a concern are these fumbles from arguably one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the country?
OSU coach Mike Gundy said during his Monday press conference that despite Randle being a great player — he's a preseason All-Big 12 selection — if he keeps putting the ball on the turf, the Cowboys will have to play somebody else.
“It's not anything personal,” Gundy said. “Joe needs to be in our offense. Joe's versatile — he can block, he can catch, he can run. He makes plays. He's experienced, he's tough, he's been a good leader. But if he puts the ball on the ground, he can't play. It's that simple.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken would not go as far as to say Randle now has a reputation as a “fumbler,” but echoed that it is an issue.
“It's hard to say he's a fumbler,” Monken said. “Joe's cost us at times, though, with fumbles, as (quarterbacks have with) interceptions or I have with poor calls. To put that on him probably is a little strong, but it is something that all of our backs (need to work on). The bottom line is if you turn the ball over, you're not going to win.”
MONKEN WOULD PREFER LUNT NOT ENTER RECORDS CHASE
Just two games into his career, Cowboys freshman Wes Lunt has the fourth-best passing game (436 yards) in OSU history and a tie for the school record for attempts (60), all compiled in Saturday's loss at Arizona.
But Monken hopes Lunt's not heading for some trend.
“I hope that doesn't continue,” Monken said, “that means we're behind a lot. I don't see us wanting to throw it that often.
“So I hope that's not the case. If he breaks a bunch of records, we're in bad shape.”
The heavy throw total wasn't at all the game plan, but a necessity when the Cowboys fell behind. At that point, there was no easing Lunt through his first road game.
“We tried not to do that,” Monken said. “We tried to run it, play-action it, keep things fairly simple. But when the game's in the balance …”
That said, Monken said he isn't afraid to turn Lunt loose, especially if enemy defenses dictate such an approach.
“The good thing is, his whole high school life he threw it for a living,” Monken said. “It's not like he's out of his element just dropping back and throwing.
“And it's not hard to see he has an unbelievable demeanor and a pocket presence. And he's very accurate.”
FINDING OSU'S PUNT RETURNER AN ADVENTURE
Finding the Cowboys' replacement for Josh Cooper at punt returner has been a bit of an adventure.
Prime candidate David Glidden has been hurt since the end of the spring. Josh Stewart couldn't hold onto the ball in the spring finale. Charlie Moore, Ashton Lampkin and Caleb Muncrief were late additions in the role during the preseason, with Moore coming out as the No. 1 returner.
“Sometimes I didn't know,” Gundy said. “They'd send somebody out there and I thought, ‘Oh, well that will be neat. We'll get to watch them.' It's just been quite a ride.'”
Moore, Lampkin and Muncrief all returned at least two punts against Savannah State, but Moore was the only one to do it at Arizona. And Moore simply did not look comfortable in his three returns for nine yards, often letting the ball bounce in front of him and essentially diving on it.
Glidden could return from injury as soon as this week.