STILLWATER — Who figured the Cowboys would miss Bill Young more than they would miss Brandon Weeden?
Or Markelle Martin and Jamie Blatnick more than Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper?
Not that Weeden and Co. wouldn’t have come in handy Saturday night in the desert, where Arizona torched OSU’s defense and delivered a 59-38 upset.
In a shootout like this, Weeden2Blackmon would have been awfully valuable. So would have avoiding so many penalties.
Maybe it doesn’t rain much in this corner of America, but Arizona Stadium flooded with yellow flags, virtually all of them thrown against the Cowboys.
But the most stunning development from an orange perspective was OSU’s defensive collapse.
The Cowboy D was supposed to be better than in 2011, when it was good enough to ride shotgun en route to a Big 12 championship.
And with Young, the OSU defensive coordinator, back in Stillwater recovering from a medical procedure, the Cowboys never came close to stopping Rich Rodriguez’s offense.
Mike Gundy didn’t want to hold the defense responsible. He was willing to spread the blame around. Starting with himself and his staff.
“If you want to see how good you coached, just turn on the tape,” Gundy said. “If you want to see how good you played, just look at the scoreboard.
“Poor coaching, poor playing. Bad combination.”
Gundy wanted to dwell on the penalties — 15, for 167 yards worth — and you can’t blame him. Get this. All 15 were major violations. No offsides. No false starts. No delay of game.
All 15 were personal foul or holding or block in the back or interference. And they were spread around. Five against the offense. Seven against the defense. Three against kicking units.
“Really comes down to undisciplined football,” Gundy said. “Just being out of control.”
But even accounting for all the penalties, the OSU defense was a no-show.
Arizona quarterback Matt Scott, who spent four years waiting for his chance, carved up the Cowboys. He completed 28 of 41 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Scott also rushed for 55 yards on 19 carries.
Scott led an offense that produced six touchdowns and three field goals. Not bad for a team that scored 17 points in regulation against the mighty Toledo Rockets a week ago.
Worst of all, OSU didn’t produce a takeaway. Turnovers were the Cowboy D’s calling card in 2011, but none came Saturday night. With co-coordinator Glenn Spencer calling the defense, OSU appeared bewildered to stop RichRod’s spread attack.
This wasn’t so much a physical problem as a schematic issue.
“I was in charge,” Spencer said. “It didn’t work … it’s not pretty.”
After a stop on ‘Zona’s first possession, OSU wilted. The Wildcats scored on five of their next six possessions, and it could have been worse, since ‘Zona thrice settled for short field goals.
When Arizona opened the second half with a five-minute drive to a touchdown, the Cowboys were down 30-14, and this one looked like a rout.
Wes Lunt rallied the Cowboys, but the task was too much for the OSU freshman quarterback. When State finally clawed within 37-31 early in the fourth quarter, a well-timed, third-down Arizona blitz prompted Lunt to float a prayer that ‘Zona cornerback Jonathan McKnight intercepted and returned 48 yards for a touchdown.
But the tale was told before that. The Cowboys could not stop Arizona.
“Unfortunately in college football today, there’s a lot of that going on,” Gundy said.
When OSU drew within 30-28 with 4:54 left in the third quarter, ‘Zona answered with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
The Wildcats did it with a variety of weapons. Scott’s deep ball to Austin Hill for 44 yards, tailback Ka’Deem Carey’s 15-yard burst up the middle, Richard Morrison’s nine-yard gain off a swing pass and Scott’s 8-yard touchdown run off the shotgun option.
Just like that, OSU momentum was gone. It went like that all night for the Cowboys.
“When you have a quarterback that can scramble like that and turn nothing from something, there’s going to be plays made,” said Cowboy cornerback Justin Gilbert.
Lunt was no Weeden, but he wasn’t half bad for a freshman quarterback making his real debut. Savannah State doesn’t count.
Lunt threw three interceptions, but only McKnight’s take-it-to-the-house pick was Lunt’s fault.
In some ways, this game was a good sign for OSU. There is no doubt about the quality and potential of its quarterback.
But that defense is another story. The Cowboys won’t have a memorable season with defense like this.
Martin, the hard-hitting safety from a year ago, and Blatnick, the fierce pass-rushing end, can’t return. They were seniors. Come back soon, Bill Young.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.