STILLWATER — Mike Yurcich's debut season as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator largely mirrored the Cowboys' overall path during the 2013 season.
Extended promising stretch throughout the middle.
Two thuds at the end.
It was an uneven overall body of work in Year 1 for Yurcich, who made the giant leap from coordinating Division II's Shippensburg University to directing a Cowboy squad expected to pile up yards and points with regularity.
But many have a short memory. Which means those last two performances in Bedlam and the Cotton Bowl will likely linger into the offseason and the 2014 campaign.
For large stretches in that home loss to OU, the Cowboys abandoned a rushing attack that produced 144 yards and two touchdowns from Desmond Roland. Clint Chelf and the OSU pass game was inconsistent throughout, until a late fourth-quarter touchdown drive that would have been the game-winner had the Cowboy defense held up in the final minute.
Then the Cowboys sputtered for three quarters in the Cotton Bowl against Missouri, especially on third down (9-of-22). The Tiger defense stuffing Jeremy Smith for a loss of two yards on a third-and-1 run up the middle in the third quarter best exemplified the Cowboys' struggles to convert on third-and-manageable.
In Bedlam, Yurcich had to game plan against Mike Stoops. That's a challenging coaching matchup for any rookie at this level.
But with nearly a month to prepare for the Cotton Bowl, OSU's game plan, from a creativity standpoint, more closely resembled Bedlam than the ones that seemed to bring new wrinkles with each week as the Cowboys' captured seven consecutive victories.
OSU did not take Auburn's zone-read route to try to attack Missouri's defense. In fact, the Cowboys did not use the quarterback run game much at all, until Chelf sprang free for a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and then another key 23-yard scamper just before the late fumble that turned into Missouri's clinching score.
Rather, the Cowboys clearly tried to get Josh Stewart involved early. Not a bad plan, considering Stewart is OSU's top playmaker and particularly dangerous in space. But Stewart was also still clearly hobbled by injuries, sporting a heavily bandaged left ankle and a clunky brace on his right knee.
The final two games certainly do not tell the entire story of Yurcich's first season.
He and coach Mike Gundy sorted through a sometimes-messy quarterback situation, with J.W. Walsh replacing Chelf two series into the season opener against Mississippi State before Chelf retook the job following two first-half interceptions by Walsh against TCU on Oct. 19.
That change spearheaded several personnel switches midway through the season, with Roland moving into the featured back role and the offensive line settling on its best combination.
Throughout OSU's seven-game winning streak to get back into the Big 12 title race, Yurcich appeared to be growing in game planning and play-calling, while players were growing in execution.
Chelf ran plays under center near the goal line. Tight ends made an appearance. Kye Staley and Stewart got the ball on direct handoffs.
The Cowboys scored at least 42 points in four of five games from Oct. 26 through Nov. 23, with Yurcich maintaining a balance between believing in the Cowboys' system and making the key — and sometimes difficult — adjustments.
“Things weren't always gravy,” Yurcich said. “There's been some ups and downs. A testament to our seniors. A testament to our playmakers who continue to be team guys.”
The highlight, of course, was OSU's 49-17 clobbering of then-No. 4 Baylor, led by Chelf's historic performance (19-of-25, 370 yards, four total touchdowns).
Yet that all seems like long ago today, following those two defeats to close the season.
Even before the Cotton Bowl kicked off, Yurcich took some time to publicly reflect on his first season.
Now it's time to move forward. And Yurcich said continued communication with his staff and players will be the most important key as he transitions into Year 2 of coordinating the Cowboys' offense.
“It's a two-way street now,” Yurcich said. “There's a lot of knowledge, and when all of those thoughts and ideas are shared, I think it makes for a better situation.
“More understanding, more awareness. I think those are very important things for any organization.”