The question has become all too common for the Cowboys: “What is going wrong on the road?”
Not even two-plus seasons of practice — OSU is now 1-20 in its last 21 Big 12 road games after Saturday's Bedlam loss — made the answer any easier for junior Markel Brown.
“I have no idea,” Brown said, “some kind of spell on us or something.”
Well, the Cowboys often do take on some zombie form in enemy arenas …
If only it were so simple.
At least then the Cowboys would have an explanation. And maybe a spell-breaker could be summoned or some magic elixir ingested that would snap the Pokes from this ongoing episode of Walking Dead, The Road Show.
Except there is no outside influence to blame.
This is on the Cowboys to fix. And fast.
And there are no easy answers.
Questions, however, we've got those.
And some of them aren't just aimed at OSU's road woes, but the vibe overall, which suddenly doesn't provide the same buzz with time expanding since the early momentum inspired by wins over Tennessee and North Carolina State.
Will the real Le'Bryan Nash please stand up?
In the last two games, coaches have tried to get Nash more engaged and involved early on, with his starts — good or bad — typically tied to how he goes the rest of the game.
Saturday, those efforts seemed to be to the Cowboys detriment, as Nash's engine failed to fire and the offense grew stagnant and OSU fell behind — the worst scenario for a team trying to breakthrough on the road.
“It was a big factor,” Brown said of the early deficit. “They set the tone for the game. We didn't respond. They came out, put pressure on us and played way harder than us. And it affected the game.”
The work to try to get Nash going is understandable. He's a talent. And it's clear to see in spurts, like a brief stretch of the second half Saturday, when he showed a rare explosiveness, taking the ball to the hole and posting up smaller Sooners. But it didn't last, as it seldom does.
Travis Ford faces some tricky handling of this former five-star recruit, especially with the energetic and athletic Brian Williams due back from injury soon.
Midway through his second season, Nash should be able to get himself going.
Should OSU change its approach on the road?
The common denominator in each of OSU's road losses: foul troubles.
At Virginia Tech, four Cowboys finished with four fouls and the Hokies scored 27 points on free throws in an 81-71 win.
At Kansas State, OSU's starting post players, Philip Jurick and Kamari Murphy, got into early foul trouble, allowing the Wildcats to dominate the paint in the first half.
At OU, Marcus Smart — the Cowboys' most important player — was saddled with foul concerns throughout, limiting his minutes and his impact on the game.
In opponents' arenas, where calls typically go the other way, should OSU adjust its physicality?
“You don't want to lose your aggression,” Cobbins said. “Fouls are going to happen. But we've got to be cautious of timely fouls. I think that's what it is … when not to foul.”
Should the Cowboys consider pressing more on defense?
Of course, this goes against the previous suggestion, although not entirely.
When OSU has pressed teams this season, it has produced turnovers, including Saturday at OU and last week at Kansas State. With turnovers come fast-break points and easier offense.
Depth is a concern for the Cowboys, but Williams is on his way back and Marek Soucek should be close to returning from a knee strain. So it'll be interesting to see if the Cowboys turn up the heat more and more.
Might a small lineup suit the Cowboys best?
When the Pokes have recently gone small — with Smart, Brown, Phil Forte, Nash and Cobbins or Murphy — the offense has opened up, allowing for drives that play to the strengths of Brown and Smart and also allow for kickouts to Forte on the perimeter.
It's not a great rebounding lineup, but the Cowboys haven't excelled on the boards anyway.
And it's a lineup that suits more pressing, particularly when Williams returns.
With the Pokes scuffling in the half-court offense with a more conventional lineup leaving the lane congested, maybe small ball is the best ball for OSU's athletes.