The national narrative off Oklahoma State’s fascinating so-close shove of No. 1 Florida State won’t sit well with Cowboys fans.
OSU remains relevant, ready again to contend in the Big 12 and beyond after going toe-to-toe with the college game’s perceived giant?
The message instead, repeated in papers and on blogs and fronting websites across the country:
FSU wasn’t hungry enough.
FSU wasn’t ready enough.
FSU wasn’t interested enough.
And maybe there’s a bit of truth in that, any of that.
But maybe, just maybe, these youthful Cowboys won’t be taking that anticipated step back. They certainly didn’t Saturday night, not even after falling behind 17-0. Not ever, pushing and fighting to the end of the 37-31 loss.
The Cowboys didn’t fear Florida State. And they have no reason to fear anyone else.
So the narrative inside the OSU program will be much different in the days and weeks ahead, because plenty of once-pending questions returned compelling answers Saturday night. Some issues remain, and need to be addressed.
Yet one fascinating night has swung the perspective on this Cowboys season, from rebuilding to ready – ready for whatever and whoever.
What was learned and what lingers:
Kicking concerns. No, an entire offseason of work and attention didn’t fix OSU’s special teams, which were in the crosshairs of all three losses a year ago. And again against FSU. The fallout: a missed 42-yard field goal; two botched punt snaps that led to Seminoles touchdowns.
“Our inability to punt the ball like we need to,” Mike Gundy said, “based on just proper execution, is what… really what cost us the game.
“And so we’ll get that cleaned up.’
Which Walsh? J.W. Walsh remains a polarizing quarterback, frustrating at times, fantastic other times. He’s got his weaknesses. And strengths. And we often see them both in full display every game. Now, can Cowboys coaches put him in position to parlay the strengths into a consistent winning formula?
Go-to who? For all the talk about OSU’s stable of receivers, the search is on for a go-to guy when a play is absolutely needed. Walsh factors into this with his limited arm strength. But Walsh could be aided, too, by a receiver who goes and gets the ball.
Yes to youth. Since January, the loss of 28 seniors and several other major contributors has dominated OSU’s storyline. Much was dedicated to the woes of youth.
Against the Seminoles, it was more like the “Whoas” of youth. The kid Cowboys flew around the field, making some mistakes, yeah, but also revealing of enhanced speed and skill.
And they’ve only just begun, with room for much improvement ahead.
Get your Freak on. Tyreek Hill is the real deal. On a stage with the current Heisman Trophy holder, Hill was the most exciting player, producing 278 all-purpose yards.
“He was one heck of a football player,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said after the game. “We recruited that young man. We knew how good he was.”
And there’s a sense that we ain’t seen nothing yet.
O-Line, OK. Among the major concerns of OSU’s coaches in the opener was how a reconstructed offensive line would hold up, with two sophomores and a redshirt freshman making up the right side of the line. Once the line settled in and settled down, it more than held its own against a formidable FSU defensive front. Depth remains an issue, but the offensive line appears to be OK.
DL(ightful). What the national pundits are probably underestimating most with these Cowboys is the depth and quality of the defensive line. OSU must always prove itself beyond the borders – no Cowboys made All-Conference – but these guys have long outperformed the recruiting rankings which fuel popularity. Emmanuel Ogbah announced himself as a rising star, harassing Jameis Winston all night. James Castleman, Jimmy Bean, Ofa Hautau and others controlled the trenches opposite a Seminoles offensive line with five seniors and at least three projected first-round draft picks.
No limitations. Most preseason projections had the Cowboys winning seven or eight games. And four contests (FSU, at Kansas State, at Oklahoma and at Baylor) were pegged as sure losses. Nothing is sure anymore, except that the Cowboys are equipped to compete – and win – any Saturday.