After Rough Week 1, Could a 2021-like Season Still Be In Store for OSU?

It’s been a few days, but I still haven’t heard many kind words about Oklahoma State’s Week 1 performance.

Although they were victorious, it’s no secret the Cowboys struggled mightily against FCS foe Central Arkansas in a 27-13 win Saturday night. OSU fans have opened their eyes to why Las Vegas is such a booming city bringing in pro sports team after pro sports team. The odds makers in the Sin City put the Pokes’ win total for 2023 at 6.5, barely enough to keep Mike Gundy’s bowl streak rolling. After what we witnessed Saturday night, maybe you’re starting to think they really do know what they’re doing in Vegas.

I haven’t heard this much panic and overreaction after a poor performance Week 1 since… 2021. Let’s reminisce about that season after a difficult few days for fans in orange. It was the season of a Fiesta Bowl win, inches away from a Big 12 title, a Bedlam dub and “We got a logo, too!” Possibly even the greatest year in Gundy’s tenure, up there with 2011.

Now reminisce of that season week by week. To stay in a good mood, quickly scan over that Week 1, and actually that entire nonconference slate.

The Cowboys kicked off 2021 at Boone Pickens Stadium against Missouri State– another FCS opponent. OSU narrowly escaped an upset to an FCS visitor, 23-16.

Obviously 2020 was a wacky year, but Missouri State was 5-5 the season before traveling to Stillwater. This year’s season-opening opponent, Central Arkansas, was 5-6 last season. Same level of competition, nearly identical previous seasons. Central Arkansas might actually have more veterans and talent.

For OSU at the start of 2021, more quarterback issues. No, there wasn’t a revolving door of three quarterbacks, but starter Spencer Sanders was out because of COVID protocol so Shane Illingworth got the nod. And before we move on and you want to use no Sanders as an excuse, check out that Week 2 against Tulsa with Sanders back, and OSU had nearly the same issues and Sanders’ numbers were actually worse than Illingworth’s.

Illingworth was solid against Missouri State. He finished that game 22-of-40 for 315 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Saturday night, OSU’s three quarterbacks combined for 30-of-48 for 304 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Null.

Like Saturday night, the scary run game is what had OSU fans feeling like Halloween came early then too. It was disappointing Saturday night after there was hope all offseason of an improved ground game. The Cowboys totaled 149 rushing yards, averaging 4.8 a carry. Those numbers were bolstered in the fourth quarter.

But, believe it or not, those stats were much, much worse in 2021. OSU totaled 54 rushing yards that game, averaging 1.9 yards. That was before Jaylen Warren took control of the backfield, with LD Brown getting the start and 15 carries, compared to Warren’s six. I can’t predict the future, but we could look back at this Week 1 as before Ollie Gordon took over.

The foundation of 2021’s success was Jim Knowles’ defense becoming maybe be the best OSU has ever had. I’m by no means jumping the cannon saying those are the expectations for Bryan Nardo and his squad, but the Week 1 numbers were similar. Knowles’ defense gave up three more points than Nardo’s and 336 total yards. The Cowboys allowed 391 total yards Saturday night. Both groups also recorded five sacks.

These games were eerily similar. And so are the feelings we have now and had for the first three weeks (at least) of 2021. The only thing I can’t compare yet is if the teams are similar.

Saturday’s performance didn’t change OSU’s soft schedule for 2023.I do believe Ollie Gordon could be as dominant as Jaylen Warren if given the chance. The rest are questions, though. Could one of these three quarterbacks make the plays when needed like Spencer Sanders? Even when the offense struggles, will it not really matter because of how much slack the defense picks up?

That is all we have right now, though: questions. Saturday night did not give us any answers at all about this 2023 OSU football team. So that means there is a question that can still be asked and is yet to be determined: Could a 2021-like season still be in store for the 2023 Cowboys?

The post After Rough Week 1, Could a 2021-like Season Still Be In Store for OSU? first appeared on Pistols Firing.