OSU finds itself in a season of shifting story lines. Offense is out and defense is in. Kicking is down and kick returning is up. Injuries and inefficiencies leading to shuffling faces in various places. Six games have taught us a few things. And left us questioning things …
Three things proven
1. Dynamic defense. OSU is for real on defense. Getting aggressive clearly agrees with the Cowboys, highlighting their speed and freeing playmakers to react. The result: an attacking, swarming unit that is halting offenses and collecting takeaways. OSU is hardly recognizable, in a good way. “We are winning different here than we have in a long, long time, but that's OK,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.
2. The receivers need the ball. Josh Stewart was the best player on the field in Saturday's 24-10 win over TCU. And he's one of the best in the Big 12. And he's one of many quality playmakers in the receiving corps. Tracy Moore. Jhajuan Seales. Brandon Sheperd. Charlie Moore. And more, when they're healthy. With a scuffling running game and a shuffling offensive line, OSU's best weapons are the receivers. Get. Them. The. Ball.
3. The kicking game is scary good … and bad. Two of the biggest plays from Saturday were returns: a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown by Stewart and a 50-yard kickoff return by Sheperd that set off OSU's clinching TD drive. Those two, and Justin Gilbert, are constant threats to create sudden change in a game. Yet as good as the Cowboys are in those phases of special teams, along with punt and kick coverage, their kickers are a concern. Punter and kickoff specialist Kip Smith left Saturday's game with an ankle injury and a prolonged absence would create major problems. Freshman Ben Grogan remains unreliable on field goals of almost any range, making just 6 of his 12 attempts so far.
Threee things pending
1. Quarterback conundrum, the sequel? Actually, since the spring of 2012, the sequels are too many to count. And here we are again, after J.W. Walsh was yanked in the second quarter against TCU, with Clint Chelf going the rest of the way. Who starts this weekend at Iowa State? Who knows? Not even Gundy, it seems. Not yet.
2. Is Rennie Childs the answer at running back? The true freshman from Houston definitely put a positive spin on the offense with his second-half play against TCU. He ran hard. He showed a burst. He moved the chains. Sure, it was a small sample size. But he left Cowboys fans wanting more. We'll see how Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland respond, but Childs figures to be a part of the plan going forward.
3. Can the offensive line be fixed? Several Cowboys hinted at positive changes along the offensive line coming out of the latest bye week. We got a glimpse — but only a glimpse — against TCU, with Chris Grisbhy sliding from guard to right tackle, Daniel Koenig moving from right tackle to left tackle and Parker Graham moving inside to guard ... for one series. Grisbhy, recovering from a virus that led to a 103-degree temperature during the week, was weak and couldn't continue, forcing Brandon Garrett into extended action. So Joe Wickline's latest experiment is incomplete.