STILLWATER — Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich stood before a crowd of reporters during the first week of spring practice in March and was asked about the personal flavor he planned to bring to the Cowboys' potent offense.
“I'm not looking to tweak anything,” he said then. “We've been very successful here and I'm learning this offense. The tweaks for me may come down the line, may not ever happen.”
Oh, they've happened.
Not a complete overhaul, such as ditching the Air Raid spread for the Wing-T.
But Yurcich has mixed in several wrinkles during the past month. Running plays under center near the goal line. Reintroducing tight ends. Giving fullback Kye Staley carries.
As a once-sputtering Cowboy offense has really begun to churn down the stretch, averaging 47.8 points over their last five games, it appears that Yurcich has found his footing, too.
“I don't know where it starts and where it ends,” Yurcich said of how he adds new elements to the game plan. “There are so many conversations that are had and so many ideas are brought up in the staff room. You go over them and you think about everything.
“A lot of things are thought of never come to the surface. You really try to play to your personnel strengths, and I think that's a lot of what we are right now.”
Before Yurcich could play to his team's personnel strengths, the Cowboys needed to get the right personnel in place.
That started against TCU on Oct. 19, when OSU made several offensive line shifts and switched from quarterback J.W. Walsh to Clint Chelf in the second quarter. The next week at Iowa State, Desmond Roland took over the starting running back job.
That trip to Ames was also the first time the Cowboys ran plays under center, producing a Roland touchdown run. At Texas Tech, an under-center play resulted in a rollout passing touchdown from Chelf to Jeremy Seaton, while Zac Veatch frequently entered the game at tight end.
But Saturday's domination of Baylor featured arguably the most creative plan, with the Cowboys pulling out two-tight-end sets with Veatch and Seaton and using a decent dose of Staley, who picked up seven carries and scored two touchdowns.
“He spreads the ball out,” Roland said of Yurcich. “No one knows who's gonna get the ball the next game. Last week, it was Kye. The week before that, it was the receivers. We passed a lot (against Baylor), and we rushed a lot the previous three games, so you never know.
“I think that's the key to our success on offense so far.”
Yurcich praised Veatch and Seaton for the toughness they brought Saturday, and Staley for being an effective runner. Roland added that Staley had been clamoring for carries for weeks, but the fullback's slow start due to injury largely prevented that until Saturday.
So why bring these wrinkles in now?
Yurcich said matchups for specific games, of course, are a big factor. But he also wants to offset the tendencies opponents could see on film at this point in the season.
There's also a natural development process, both for the Cowboys and Yurcich himself in his first season.
Yurcich received plenty of outside criticism after OSU's stunning 30-21 loss at West Virginia on Sept. 28 and second-half struggles in a 33-29 comeback win against Kansas State the following week.
And he recognized it.
“When you're not rolling and you're not clicking, you definitely know it as a coach,” he said. “There's no question about it.”
But now OSU has found an identity on that side of the ball, ranking second in the Big 12 and 12th nationally in scoring offense (41.2 points per game) while surging up to seventh in the BCS rankings and putting itself in position to capture its second conference title in three seasons.
Cowboy coach Mike Gundy stressed through the rough times that he hadn't taken an increased role in play-calling. And he stressed earlier this week that, while he offers input from time to time in the offensive game plan, the vast majority of these tweaks have come from Yurcich.
With a bye this week before Bedlam, could we see more wrinkles against the Sooners?
Yurcich, naturally, wouldn't offer any clues.
“I don't know how much we'll change,” Yurcich said. “We've gotta make sure we're playing within our system and we're executing the plays that we have all year. It really hasn't changed much.”