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[2019] Big XII Network Season in Review: Oklahoma State Cowboys

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Raheem the Dream's senior season was a spectacular one, but Oklahoma State's 8-win season, Sugar Bowl appearance, and year-end ranking were all a team record. And most of the team will be back for 2020...and 2021.

 

Prediction: 4-8 (1-6)

 

Record: 8-5 (4-3)

 

Results

 

at Marshall (W 38-17)
Mississippi State (L 14-28)
Ball State (W 24-21)
at Western Kentucky (W 41-7)
at Texas Tech (W 21-12)

Texas (L 14-20)
Baylor (L 38-45)

at TCU (W 27-23)
Kansas State (W 35-17)

at Kansas (L 28-34)
Virginia Tech (W 27-24)
at Oklahoma (W 35-17)

Sugar Bowl vs. LSU (L 34-37)

 

Offensive MVP: WR Raheem Robinson (obviously): 117 receptions for 1620 yards, 17 TD

 

Defensive MVP: CB Noah Crawley: 7 INT, 3 TD, 32 tackles

 

Top NFLHC Draftee: WR Raheem Robinson, #2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars

 

Top Freshman Recruit: DT Amir Pryor 6-6 312 Fr Empire (Duncan OK) 1.5 of 5.0 [2-Gap]

 

Top JuCo Recruit: ILB Zach Morrison 6-4 245 (Sr) Seminole State College (Seminole OK) 4.0 of 4.0 [mike]

 

Recruiting Ranking: #4 overall (#1 Big XII)

 

Bowl in Review

 

Against one of the best secondaries in the country, on one of the biggest stages that exists, needing every ounce of effort just to keep his team in the game, Raheem Robinson turned in one of the greatest single-game performances in the history of college football to wrap up one of the greatest careers in the history of college football. With 13 receptions, 236 yards, and 4 receiving touchdowns, Robinson put the team on his back and almost singlehandedly carried Oklahoma State to a Sugar Bowl win. But LSU's offense was just a bit too much for the Cowboy defense. The Tigers got rolling from the outset. After Wyatt Abel knocked home a 32-yard field goal to cap off LSU's first drive, Elias Allen-Hollis found Adam Vann deep middle for a 16-yard score to make it 10-0 at the 8:12 mark of the first quarter. But the entire game turned about 45 seconds later. On 2nd and 1 from the 23, Oklahoma State decided to take a shot downfield. Robinson's route was simple: go. He got a step on his man, the safety didn't arrive in time, and Chester Brenner's pass was right on target. Nobody touched him en route to a 77-yard score. LSU scored again on their next drive--another 32-yard field goal--only for Oklahoma State to answer when Robinson spun out of a tackle to turn a 15-yard gain into a 28-yard touchdown and Oklahoma State's first lead of the game.

 

Game on.

 

In the second quarter, both teams would trade scores and missed opportunities. Wyatt Abel hooked a 44-yard field goal, which gave Oklahoma State a chance to extend the lead to 17-13 on a Ralph Hinson 35-yarder. But before the half, Jayden Huff would get in the endzone to take the lead back, and Oklahoma State would go scoreless as Hinson's 57-yard desperation field goal attempt fell well short. The Cowboys would make up for it after halftime. This time, Robinson took a quick bubble screen, got two blocks from Xavier Gant (a pancake at the line and a block downfield), and took it 18 yards for another score. But Allen-Hollis was playing as sharp as ever, and a string of 7 straight completions led to his second touchdown pass of the game and lead change #4 of the contest. Oklahoma State could only tie it up before the end of the third quarter as Hinson connected on a 40-yard field goal to knot it at 27. The same heroes shined once again in the fourth quarter. Allen-Hollis gave LSU its largest lead since the first quarter with his third touchdown pass of the day with 5:28 to play, leaving Oklahoma State in desperate need of a response. Once they marched down to the LSU 10 with just 90 seconds remaining on the clock and a touchdown being a necessity, everybody in the stadium knew the ball was going to Raheem Robinson at some point. But with a perfectly executed rub play, Robinson was still able to get open, and Brenner found him to tie the game up. If they could just hold on here, overtime was coming. But LSU had other plans. Jayden Huff broke off a big run on a draw play, LSU got as far as the Oklahoma State 30, and the Cowboys' attempt to ice the kicker failed. Wyatt Abel's 47-yard blast was a no-doubter, sailing straight through the uprights and winning the Sugar Bowl for the home-state Tigers. But even though LSU won the game, it will forever be a night to remember for Raheem Robinson's legendary performance. 

 

The Good

 

In 2017 and 2018 combined, Oklahoma State won 7 games, 2 of which were conference games. In 2019 alone, the Cowboys won 8 games, went 4-3 in conference play to finish second in the Big XII South, went to the Sugar Bowl for the first time ever, and finished the season as a ranked team for the first time since 2016. A lot of that was due to the incredible play of Raheem Robinson. He had 117 receptions for 1620 yards and 17 touchdowns, all of which rank in the top 2 for a single season in Big XII history. As part of that effort, he became the Big XII's career leader in receptions (330), receiving yards (4517), and receiving touchdowns (42). He couldn't have done that without the play of Chester Brenner, who set Oklahoma State single-season records with 351 completions, 4132 yards, and 31 touchdowns. His 129.7 passer rating was the second-highest in school history after Wayne Schmidt in 2016 (133.3 on 176 fewer attempts). They finished the season 18th in the country in scoring offense at more than 28.9 points per game; they were 14th when adjusting for opponent. They also got a breakout performance from junior college transfer Noah Crawley, a cornerback who snatched 7 passes out of the air and took three of them back for scores. They started 4-1 by winning the games they were supposed to, most notably beating Texas Tech on the road. After a close loss to Texas and a shootout loss to Baylor, they took out TCU, Kansas State, and Virginia Tech. And, of course, they closed their regular season with a 35-17 road upset of 3rd-ranked and previously undefeated Oklahoma, their first win ever over the Sooners.

 

The Bad 

 

Not really all that much to say here. The defense definitely could use some improvement, giving up 23.2 points per game this season to rank 64th in the country. They only gave up 30 points or more three times this season (Baylor, Kansas, LSU), but all three of those games were losses. Those numbers are backed up by their per-play stats: they finished last in the Big XII in completion percentage allowed (66.2%), passer rating allowed (150.4), pass yards allowed per attempt (8.8), and rush yards allowed per attempt (5.0 even). Crawley had 7 of the team's 11 interceptions, and Trevor Orlando and Kahoni Vaaelua were the only other players on that defense who made a significant impact. The defense cost them in some of their "stretch" games--that is, games like Baylor, Kansas, and LSU where they weren't favored but came reasonably close to pulling upsets. They gave up 45, 34, and 37 in those three games.

 

Future Fears

 

Next year begins the post-Raheem era. The offense is going to have to figure out who's going to be their playmaker among the receiving corps, and that probably has to be Xavier Gant for the time being. He was money as an X-factor, but he'll have to shoulder a lot more of the load if he earns the #1 spot next year. Oklahoma State will have to continue to rely heavily on the passing game, because starting runningback Afasa Neru graduates and there really aren't any better options on the roster--which says a lot when Neru finished 10th in the Big XII with just 743 rushing yards, rushed for 76 yards or fewer in every game, and had just 4.15 yards per carry for the season. They also lose their defensive MVP in Noah Crawley, who declared early for the draft after his stellar junior campaign. There's not an easy answer at cornerback for them, either: they have the depth not to suffer too badly, but that leaves them without a single elite secondary player.

 

Reasons for Hope

 

Outside of Robinson, Crawley, and Neru, Oklahoma State returns every single one of their starters. Of their returning starters, all but 4 will return in 2021 as well. This 2019 squad started 7 freshmen, 10 sophomores, 5 juniors (one who declared early), and 2 seniors. Continuity is always good. But not all of those players are going to be starting by 2021, because Oklahoma State just pulled in the #4 recruiting class in the country. The quintet of defensive tackle Amir Pryor, free safety Prince Pruitt, wide receivers Samuel Barfield and Jeremy Bridges, and tight end Mark Westbrook are the cream of the crop at their respective positions. They also landed quality guys at guard, linebacker, cornerback, and runningback in their freshman class, plus two junior college transfers (linebacker Zach Morrison and wide receiver Jay Dunn) who can provide an immediate impact. Factor in Morrison in particular along with plain old regular progression, and the defense should see significant improvement next year with the offense hopefully staying at a top-30 level. Count Oklahoma State among the teams that will be contending for a Big XII title next year.

 

Presented by the Big XII Network

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