Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: Oklahoma State
By David Ubben
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
Record: 11-1 (8-1)
Oklahoma State achieved a ton in 2011, but even the most optimistic will always wonder how much more it could have done. Only .0086 points in the BCS standings separated Oklahoma State from Alabama, the closest margin in the history of the BCS. A 44-10 blowout win over rival Oklahoma, the first Bedlam win since 2002, was enough to win the Big 12 title in convincing fashion, but not enough to convince voters that Oklahoma State deserved to play for the national title, instead of giving the Crimson Tide a rematch with LSU. The loss to Iowa State on Nov. 18 was too much to overcome.
For all the attention given to Dana Holgorsen's exit, it proved to be a non-story. Todd Monken stepped in and helped OSU score 49.3 points a game, nearly breaking Oklahoma's NCAA scoring record from back in 2008. Last season, the Cowboys scored just over 44 points a game. Joseph Randle stepped in perfectly for Kendall Hunter, and Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon were both outstanding, as expected. Combine that with a defense that finished second nationally (behind LSU) in turnover margin, and you get a historic season in Stillwater. The first 11-win regular season ever and the first Big 12 title ever, celebrating it in perfect fashion: With thousands of Cowboys fans who rushed the field at Boone Pickens Stadium after the win over Oklahoma.
Offensive MVP: Brandon Weeden, quarterback. Receiver Justin Blackmon's probably the most "talented" player on the offense, but Weeden is its most valuable asset, the man who makes it all go. His Heisman hopes were dashed by an interception in the second overtime of the Iowa State loss, but he still led the Big 12 with 4,328 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Defensive MVP: Jamie Blatnick, defensive end. Really, really tough call here. OSU didn't have a big-time player on defense, but had a ton of solid ones that could probably earn this award. Markelle Martin, Brodrick Brown, Shaun Lewis and Daytawion Lowe are all on that list. In the Big 12, though, pass rushers are so, so valuable, and Blatnick was the Cowboys' best. He had seven sacks, four more than any other Cowboy, and led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss. That's a lot of time in opposing backfields.
Turning point: The Iowa State loss. Oklahoma State had been perfect to that point, surviving heart-stopping wins over Kansas State and Texas A&M and staying on track for a national title game appearance. Then the 24-7 third-quarter lead evaporated and the Cowboys didn't play again for two weeks. The blowout win over Oklahoma proved it was a bit of an aberration, but those final few moments and turnover in double overtime forever altered the season.
What’s next: Time to rebuild. Oklahoma State's recruited really, really well lately and brings back a lot on defense, but offensively, the Cowboys will have a new look. Blackmon's NFL Draft entrance is a mere formality after being honored as a junior on Senior Night, and Weeden is headed to the NFL. The Cowboys will need a new primary target to step up after Blackmon, a likely two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, is gone, and after a huge Fiesta Bowl showdown with Stanford, will have a quarterback competition on their hands this spring, likely between Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and possibly incoming freshman Wes Lunt, who's still mulling an early entrance to OSU.