Soft non-conference schedule has not done the Cowboys any favors

For the second straight season, OSU has played a dud game coming off its annual blasting of a Division I-AA opponent.
by Berry Tramel Published: September 29, 2013

Mike Gundy likes a soft non-conference schedule, and he's not afraid to admit it. Says he wants a schedule that best sets up the Cowboys for Big 12 play.

Right goal. Wrong tact.

For the second straight season, OSU has played a dud game coming off its annual blasting of a Division I-AA opponent. Last year, Arizona cooked the Cowboys 59-38 after OSU toyed with hapless Savannah State 84-0. Saturday, OSU lost to weak West Virginia 30-21; the Cowboys' previous game was a 59-3 shellacking of Lamar.

It's no crime to lose a conference road game. It happens to teams better than OSU. But it's a shame to lose to a team that played no better than did the Mountaineers.

West Virginia's defense was solid, but the Mountaineer offense was meager. Quarterback Clint Trickett threw two interceptions and completed just 48 percent of his passes. West Virginia running backs gained 66 yards on 29 carries.

No way should the Mountaineers win a game with that kind of offensive production.

But they did. Maybe the Cowboys aren't nearly the team we thought they were. Or maybe OSU hasn't made the September progression quality teams should make.

Here are two examples of OSU's schedule doing the Cowboys no favors:

* OSU was all-world in red-zone offense coming into this game, having scored on all 15 possessions inside opponents' 20-yard line.

Saturday, trailing 24-21 but with a second-and-goal from the West Virginia 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys came away with no points. A pass fell incomplete, Jeremy Smith was stuffed on a run and Ben Grogan missed a 23-yard field goal.

But that red-zone excellence was a mirage. OSU ran three plays total inside the Mississippi State 10-yard line. Three plays. All other goal-line offense was staged against Texas-San Antonio and Lamar.

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