LUBBOCK, Texas - The Oklahoma State football team knew it was a game-changing play.
It needed a first down to keep the drive going and make it a one-score contest.
Strangely, Chuba Hubbard jogged off the field as backup LD Brown took his place in the backfield next to Spencer Sanders. On that play, Brown made sure the Cowboys didn’t regret taking it's Heisman candidate off the field.
Brown broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and was off. On his first carry of the day, he plowed through the Texas Tech defense for a gain of 22 to convert the third down. Brown flexed and pumped his fists, silencing Jones AT&T Stadium. The momentum of the game started to shift.
On the next play, it screeched to a halt.
Brown whiffed on a block and Sanders was sacked. He fumbled, giving OSU it's fourth turnover up to that point.
The momentum swing never came.
The series summed up OSU’s 45-35 loss in Lubbock.
The Cowboys made plays. Jordan McCray’s 73-yard score. Trace Ford’s huge sack on fourth down to give the offense the ball back. Hubbard’s superhuman effort on a one man 46-yard touchdown drive.
They had plenty of chances to get back into the game after falling behind 20-0 early on, but inconsistency and mistakes kept them from ever digging out of the hole.
One step forward, two steps back.
“We couldn’t get out of our own way,” coach Mike Gundy said. “Sometimes that happens. We instigated a lot of it. We were getting ready to make it a one score game and we fumbled. It just didn’t work out.”
The Red Raiders could’ve piled it on OSU more than they did. Tech overthrew an open touchdown, dropped another and ran a baffling fake field goal attempt to leave points off the board.
But almost every time they got an opportunity, OSU couldn’t capitalize.
Sanders hit the first big speed bump of his young career.
It was a rough outing for the redshirt freshman. He had 290 passing yards and two touchdowns, but he had three interceptions and two fumbles. Five total turnovers put his team in a difficult situation, especially considering the defense didn’t force any to even the playing field.
“It’s nobody’s fault but mine,” Sanders said. “I had five turnovers. Not the offensive line, not the receivers, not the defense. I did. Spencer Sanders had five turnovers. You can’t do that. I just gotta do better.”
Sanders’ protection wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t the only reason for his subpar day. He made some mistakes that first-year quarterbacks tend to make.
His shiftiness makes him tough to tackle, but he relied too much on his legs to try to make plays. Holding onto the ball too long resulted in his first fumble. He made a bad attempt at a back shoulder throw in double coverage for an interception.
Sanders and the offensive lines struggles’ didn’t allow OSU to make the big plays it’s known for.
Sanders is extremely tough on himselfm but he plans to put this performance behind him and make sure he doesn’t make the same mistakes.
“I’m always 10 toes behind these guys,” Sanders said. “No matter what battle or war we go through. Even if they’re wrong. I’m gonna fight until you put a bullet in my head. That’s my team.”