By now, we’ve dissected a lot of elements of Oklahoma State’s poor offensive performance against West Virginia.
J.W. Walsh was erratic throwing the ball. Jeremy Smith was stuffed. Receivers had key drops. The play calling was suspect.
But let’s look at first-down production, which can either spark an offense or handcuff it by putting it in tough spots on second and third down. Hat tip to my partner, John Helsley, for this suggestion.
First and 10 own 25: Walsh hands to Smith, who is stuffed by linebacker Jared Barber. Center Jake Jenkins missed a block, and Barber shot right through to get Smith after a gain of one yard. Second and 9.
First and 10 from own 44: Walsh fakes to Smith, then tosses a bubble screen to the right to Jhajuan Seales, who gets upfield for a gain of 9. Second and 1.
Drive result: Punt. A holding call on what would have been a first-down run by Smith on the play following the Seales catch set the Cowboys back.
First and 10 from own 15: Jet sweep to the right to Stewart, who gains nine yards. Second and 1.
First and 10 own 29: Walsh fumbles the snap and falls on it for a loss of two. Second and 12.
Drive result: Touchdown. The next play, Walsh found Stewart on the inside screen, which Stewart took 73 yards to the house. We gave Marcell Ateman props for the key block downfield that helped finish off the score, but Tracy Moore and Jenkins deserve credit for the initial blocks that sprung Stewart in the open field.
First and 10 own 49: Walsh throws wide to Moore, who fell down on his route. Second and 10.
Drive result: Pick-six. Walsh floated a ball in between Brandon Sheperd and Blake Jackson on the next play, and Ishmael Banks snagged it, got up the sideline and dove just inside the pylon for the 58-yard score.
First and 10 own 20: On the zone read, Walsh fakes to Smith and keeps it up the middle for a gain of seven yards. Brandon Webb had the key block on the play. Second and 3.
Drive result: Punt. Smith was dropped for a loss of one on second down, then Walsh was pressured and tossed an incomplete pass on third down.
First and 10 from own 30: Roland breaks a 22-yard scamper, by far the Cowboys’ best run play of the day. Roland got through the left side, and fullback Jeremy Seaton had a solid block on the play. First and 10.
First and 10 from the West Virginia 49: Roland takes a handoff up the middle for two yards. Second and 8.
Drive result: Punt. Walsh tossed two consecutive incompletions.
First and 10 from own 25: Roland tries to bounce out to the right but is dropped for a loss of one. A defensive lineman got past right tackle Daniel Koenig for the initial contact.
Drive result: Punt. Another incompletion for Walsh on third down, making six straight misfires.
First and 10 from own 9: Smith tries to run to his left, but he’s swarmed for a loss of two yards. This was a good example of the defensive backs “firing,” as Seales and Stewart could not block their guys as they immediately bit on the run. Moore also had trouble with Doug Rigg, who was one of the guys who got to Smith first. Second and 12.
First and 10 own 30: Smith takes a handoff, runs to his right, loses a yard and fumbles. Grisbhy totally whiffed on his attempted block on lineman Will Clarke, who was the first guy to get in the backfield.
Drive result: Turnover.
First and 10 own 24: Walsh hits David Glidden on an underneath pass for five yards. Second and 5.
First and 10 own 34: Walsh throws an incomplete pass to Seales, who broke inside when the pass went outside. Clear miscommunication there. Second and 10.
First and 10 West Virginia 44: Walsh pumps, then hits Stewart near the sideline for a gain of 15 yards. First and 10.
First and 10 from West Virginia 29: Walsh keeps on the zone read for a gain of two yards. Second and 8.
Drive result: Touchdown. Walsh found Moore down the seam on the next play for a 27-yard score, capping the Cowboys’ best drive of the day (8 plays, 76 yards, 2:21)
First and 10 own 9: Walsh fakes the handoff and bounces out to his right for a gain of one yard. Second and 9.
First and 10 own 31: Roland takes handoff up the middle for four yards. Second and 6.
Drive result: Punt. This is the possession where Walsh severely underthrew a wide open Moore deep downfield.
First and 10 own 41: Walsh throws a short sideline pass to Seales for a gain of two yards. Second and 8.
First and 10 from West Virginia 47: Walsh goes play-action, scrambles to escape the sack and runs to his right for a gain of four yards. Second and 6.
First and 10 from West Virginia 27: Smith tries to go outside then cuts back to the middle and gains one yard. Second and 9.
Drive result: This possession stalled after that big fourth-down conversion pass to Seales. Ben Grogan then missed a 44-yard field goal.
First and 10 own 42: Smith stuffed in the middle of the field for no gain. Barber and KJ Dillon both got through holes to get to Smith near the line of scrimmage, while Seaton went out to block a different linebacker. Second and 10.
First and 10 from West Virginia 38: Smith takes a handoff up the middle for a gain of three, one of his more productive runs of the day. Second and 7.
Drive result: Touchdown. Seaton got past a linebacker and snagged a 30-yard score.
First and 10 own 33: Walsh goes play-action and throws an incomplete pass to Stewart. The ball appeared to have been deflected. Second and 10.
Result: Punt. Two more incompletions for Walsh followed for the three-and-out.
First and 10 own 32: Walsh fakes to Stewart and runs to his left for one yard. He tried to cut back, but could have used some blocking help from Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore. Second and nine.
First and 10 own 46: Walsh goes play-action, rolls to his right and tosses a pass to a wide open Seales. Seales dropped it. Second and 10.
Drive result: Punt. This was the drive where Walsh again tried to launch a deep ball to Glidden (or Blake Jackson, who was more open) and couldn’t get it there.
First and 10 own 30: The Cowboys’ attempt at trickeration, where Walsh got the ball to Charlie Moore, who avoided disaster by throwing the ball away. But OSU was called for an ineligible man downfield penalty. First and 15.
First and 15 from own 25: Walsh completes an outside pass to Moore for a gain of eight yards. Second and 7.
Drive result: Punt.
First and 10 own 20: Smith takes handoff up middle, slips and is stuffed for no gain. Second and 10.
First and 10 own 32: Walsh scrambles and tucks and runs to his right, gaining two yards. Second and eight.
Drive result: Punt.
First and 10 from West Virginia 44: Walsh goes play-action and tosses to a wide open Stewart downfield, who drops the ball. Second and 10.
First and 10 from West Virginia 13: Roland takes a handoff toward the left side, then cuts back for a gain of six yards. Parker Graham had a nice block on the play. Second and 4.
First and goal from the West Virginia 3: Smith takes a handoff up the middle and is stood up at the goal line. Jenkins and Travis Cross created a good initial hole.
Drive result: You know what happened next. Fade. Smith dropped. Clank.
First and 10 from own 15: Walsh hands to Stewart, but the play is negated because of an illegal block by Tracy Moore.
First and 17 from own 8: Walsh scrambles to his left and picks up four yards before going out of bounds. Second and 13.
Drive result: Punt. This is the drive where Walsh nearly hit a streaking Seales, but the ball went just off his fingertips.
First and 10 own 25: Walsh dumps a pass off in the middle to Stewart, who gains four yards. Stewart was then helped off the field.
Drive result: Interception. Walsh rolled out and overthrew Tracy Moore on the next play.
Here are some final totals
Run plays: 22
Pass plays: 10
Negative yards: 4
0-4 yards: 20
5-9 yards: 6
10+ yards: 2
Incomplete passes: 4
Walsh scrambles: 3
In conclusion: The Cowboys didn’t put themselves in second-and-short or second-and-manageable very often, which can put a lot of pressure on a quarterback who doesn’t have a dynamite arm. And even in times where OSU did get a good chunk on first down, Walsh’s inconsistency and the run game’s inability to get going sometimes even stifled those drives. The zone read plays were far more successful than the designed run plays. Mike Yurcich has gotten a lot of criticism in the aftermath of the loss, and he certainly deserves to shoulder a chunk of the blame. It will be interesting to see what he, Joe Wickline and Co. dial up against Kansas State, given the deficiencies (Walsh’s arm, the offensive line troubles) that are only fixable to a certain extent. But OSU — from a play calling and execution standpoint — needs to help itself on first down.