Rarely does the term “schemer” serve as a compliment.
And frankly, Oklahoma State's offensive coaches would prefer it not have to apply to them.
Yet if the headset fits …
“For the last three weeks, we've become schemers, based on personnel,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, alluding to the rash of injuries that has robbed OSU's attack of playmakers. “There's some adjustments going on.”
Wideout Tracy Moore, the closest thing the Cowboys have to a red zone receiver, remains out with no timeline for a return. Isaiah Anderson, the team's best deep threat, returned Saturday but didn't catch a pass and might have appeared mostly as a decoy. Running back Jeremy Smith played and was productive, yet in a limited role, not yet seeming ready for a heavy workload.
At quarterback and several receiver spots, the Cowboys are counting on relative newbies to carry on the personality of superb spread offense.
And so far, it's working.
Outside of a rainy, weather-delayed day at Kansas, OSU has pushed the pedal with regularity, ranking No. 1 nationally in total offense and No. 6 in scoring despite all their maladies and mishaps.
Games that looked scary the last two weeks — Iowa State and TCU — produced laughers by the fourth quarter.
The names have changed, with Josh Stewart and Charlie Moore and Blake Jackson now filling the roles of primary targets. The quarterbacks have changed, too, from Wes Lunt to J.W. Walsh and now back to Lunt again.
The song remains the same.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken called it a tribute to the character of the Cowboys. And there's plenty of truth in that.
But it's a tribute, too, to the schemers.
Monken and his offensive aides are moving players all around, finding ways to force feed the few remaining reliable playmakers.
Against TCU, Monken even dipped into his bag of tricks for three gadget plays — a reverse, a flea flicker and a halfback pass — each providing excitement, with two going for big gains and the other producing a touchdown nullified by an unnecessary hold.
“We ran some different plays,” Monken said. “And that's what you have to do, you've got to be creative.
“We've got to find ways to utilize our players.”
Last year was so much simpler, with Brandon Weeden at the controls and Justin Blackmon the focal point for OSU and every opponent, accentuated by the likes of Josh Cooper and a two-pronged running game and more.
“Last year, we had guys bouncing around and it was, ‘Here we go,'” Monken said, rapidly snapping his fingers.
Monken hesitates to point to the injuries as a crutch to this seasons uneven play, although they can't be set aside, either.
“I hate to put it all the way on that. That's not what we do around here,” Monken said. “But we're scrambling to get guys in the right spot that give us the best way to win.”
Monken said the schemers have tossed out all sorts of ideas and possibilities, even considering a return to huddling, in an effort to make sure all the young players understand where they're supposed to be and what they're supposed to do.
“You've got to figure out a way to win,” he said.
Lately, they've been doing that.
Now, can they do it on the road, at No. 3 Kansas State?
The schemers — and that's a compliment — are already fast at work.
“I was told a long time ago, you don't have to be the best team in the country on a given day, you just have to be the best team on the field any given day,” Monken said. “There's a million ways to win a game. Let's just figure that out.
“Let's just go play our butts off at Kansas State and see what happens.”