Oklahoma State's string of three straight 10-win seasons ended with a 7-6 thud in 2018. The Cowboys began the year 3-0 -- rising to No. 15 in the AP poll after trashing No. 17 Boise State 44-21 in Stillwater -- before bumbling through the program's worst Big 12 season since 2006, Mike Gundy's second season as head coach.
The Pokes played well against the Big 12's best teams, upsetting Texas and West Virginia in Stillwater and coming on errant 2-point pass from doing the same to Oklahoma in Norman. But those performances made the Cowboys' struggles against the Big 12's middle class all the more confounding. A team with Oklahoma State's talent should have gone 4-1 against the likes of Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU; instead, the Pokes went 1-4.
Why did the Cowboys underperform? They could have played better defense, sure. (Oklahoma State finished ninth in the Big 12 in scoring defense in conference games.) They could have protected the ball better. (OSU was minus-9 in Big 12 games, tied for last in the league.)
Fixing those issues would have certainly helped, but the head man says they were just symptoms of a larger problem.
“The first reason that we won only seven games was me,” Gundy told the Tulsa World. “I went back and self-scouted myself, and I was to blame for the majority of it. Because of the way that I handled the team. The majority of it was me. Most of the years, I’ve done a pretty good job. Last year, from Jan. 1 until our bowl game (on Dec. 31), I didn’t do a good job.
“You could say that 20% of it was on (assistant coaches) and then 20% on the players. The other 60% is on me. I didn’t do a very good job of managing the people that I had in the organization — the players and the coaches. And that’s the result you get.”
The World reported, through sources, that Gundy has been more engaged around Oklahoma State's football offices thus far in 2019. Another thing that could help a quarterback rebound in 2019: continuity at quarterback. Oklahoma State lost 4-year starter Mason Rudolph after the 2018 campaign and replaced him with Taylor Cornelius, a fifth-year senior who sat and waited his turn. Cornelius performed capably during his one season in the spotlight, and his 144.69 rating certainly wasn't bad, but it was fifth in the Big 12 and 25 points behind Rudolph's mark in 2017.
Oklahoma State is expected to start Spencer Sanders this fall, a redshirt freshman and the highest-rated quarterback recruit to sign with Gundy's Cowboys. A flourishing Sanders, a new offensive coordinator in Sean Gleeson and a focus, energized Gundy could lead to a Cowboy rebound in 2019.