STILLWATER — In the days following the Savannah State stomp, one popular question focused on the lack of playing time by the Cowboy starters.
Was it enough to properly prepare them for Arizona?
No matter how many plays or quarters or days OSU spent going against Savannah State, would it help? Could it help? Absent any real resistance, what was there to be learned?
“Taking nothing away from Savannah State,” said Cowboys offensive lineman Jonathan Rush, “it seems like anything you dial up against them works.
“And so you don't get to actually see where you are.”
Savannah State provided opportunity for OSU players who seldom get to play, with various deep reserves and walk-ons seizing major field time and providing memories for them and their families. That's a positive.
But the game didn't prepare the Cowboys in any way for what was to come at Arizona.
A reason for losing? Not at all.
But a reason to rethink ever scheduling a team such as Savannah State again?
“That's not an excuse, that's when you're trying to look down the road,” said OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “If we had this to do over, what would you do?
“That doesn't mean we want to play Alabama first game next year in Dallas. But, you're saying maybe a little bit more of a challenge. That's what coaches do. That's coaches trying to solve the puzzle to how we can be better next time, because the idea is to win on Saturdays.”
And right now, the Cowboys are 1-1 on Saturdays, with an asterisk attached to the 1 in the win column: Savannah State.
OSU had its way all right, rolling 84-0 over Savannah State. And almost everyone in a Cowboy uniform found a highlight, whatever that's worth.
“What does success do for you? Well, it gives you confidence,” Monken said. “What does failure do? It forces you to look at it and compete.
“Failure is not fatal, but, ‘Here's what we did. Here's what they did. Here's what they exposed to us.'
“They didn't expose anything to us. Yeah, we felt confident.”
That confidence eventually faded in Tucson, lost in a mistake-marred loss that included four turnovers, many dropped passes and missed tackles and a school-record for penalty yards, all contributing to a 59-38 thumping.
“That's still no excuse,” Rush said. “The team before should never dictate how you do the next week.”
Dictate, no. But such an opener should at least be beneficial.
“It wasn't a true tuneup,” said Cowboys defensive coordinator Bill Young.
In contrast, Arizona was pushed in its opener by Toledo, winning in overtime after scuffling offensively with mistakes and missing two short field goals. By the time OSU arrived, they'd addressed those weaknesses and made the proper fixes on the way to a relatively clean game and a major upset.
“Every game, somebody does something to you, something new,” Monken said. “And then you go, ‘That was pretty good. Here's how we have to adjust to it.'
“When you don't get that … If we don't play better this week, then that wasn't an issue, it just means we aren't playing worth a darn. If we do better this week and don't have penalties and turn it over, then that will maybe be something.”