Column: OSU's new offense should incite optimism moving forward


Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders scrambles out of the pocket during the Oklahoma State vs. Oregon State football game on Friday, August 30, 2019, at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.

I, like everyone else outside of the program, woke up Friday morning without a clue as to who Oklahoma State would start at quarterback in the Cowboys' season debut on the road against Oregon State later that evening.

OSU coach Mike Gundy kept silent all offseason on who would be the Cowboys' starting signal-caller in 2019.

But as I struggled to stay awake, well past 1 a.m. Oklahoma time on Saturday morning, I watched a confident Spencer Sanders seated on the OSU sideline with a big smile on his face as different teammates strolled by to pat him on the back, and one thought echoed in my brain: Sanders balled out in OSU's season opener.

Questioning why he didn't start last season is pointless and extremely pessimistic.

Sanders, now a redshirt freshman, has a slightly concerning injury history, OSU's offensive line was significantly bad last season and Corn Dog was apparently good enough to account for five touchdowns against No. 6 Texas, among other things.

Last season is in the past, but Sanders looks more than ready to be the guy this year after leading the Cowboys to a 52-36 victory in an exceptional late-night debut.

OSU fans have reason to be excited.

Sanders understandably needed a little time to settle in and look comfortable running the offense, but his overall performance was commendable. Throughout the first half, I thought to myself that he seemed a little more comfortable running with the ball than throwing it, and I was concerned about his ability to make big throws down the field.

But as the game went on and the Cowboys established their pace and superiority over the Beavers' defense, Sanders thrived as a part of the new-look OSU offense.

Sanders really doesn't look like he'd be that fast, but his burst of speed in open space was simply fun to watch in his first collegiate start. He nailed his label coming out of high school as a "dual-threat" quarterback. He hurdled and shimmied his way around Oregon State defenders in electrifying fashion.

Coaches and fans don't usually find themselves thrilled to see their quarterback hurdling defenders or taking some of the hits Sanders took in week one, and maybe learning how not to get hit will be a part of his learning process as a young quarterback. Every time Sanders took off and ran with the football, I subconsciously reminded myself of Dru Brown's value as OSU's experienced backup.

I feel bad for Brown, who came into Stillwater two summers ago with over 5,000 collegiate passing yards to his name. He waited his turn last season and could never snag the starting job. Maybe the timing just wasn't right, but one thing is clear: Sanders is better, and he should definitely be the starter.

Redshirt sophomore running back Chuba Hubbard looked phenomenal. His unique combination of jaw-dropping acceleration and an ability to carry tacklers while finishing strong runs justifiably has OSU fans excited for his debut season as the Cowboys' lead rusher. Rushing behind the new and improved offensive line, Hubbard could be primed for a historic season if he can stay healthy.

Returning All-American wide receiver Tylan Wallace was quiet early in the game as his quarterback settled in and the Cowboys found rhythm running the ball, until he exploded for two receiving touchdowns in the second quarter. The second of Wallace's two scores generated national attention after he flawlessly torched his defender with a double move before once again showcasing his superb ability to jump up and secure the football at its highest reachable point by "mossing" a pair of Beaver defenders who were in double coverage.

The Cowboy offense put on an exciting showcase and its personnel should promote optimism moving forward.

The Cowboy defense? Different story.

A win is a win at the end of the day, and the Cowboys beat the Beavers handily. But OSU's young defense played not so well at times, and it might be a reason for concern because Oregon State honestly isn't very good.

Former safety Malcolm Rodriguez thrived in his debut at linebacker, and he helped the FS1 announcers get through the telecast by letting them reference his high school wrestling career each time he slammed into an opposing ball carrier at the line of scrimmage.

Rodriguez' transition to linebacker highlights OSU's current lack of depth at the position, but Calvin Bundage's eventual return should help smooth things out.

The Cowboy defense looked shaky at best. The unit is young, but particular struggles against Oregon State could foreshadow issues against better offenses down the line.

OSU's play in its season debut should spark excitement and confidence for the season. The Cowboy offense looks to have a swagger that it simply didn't have last season, and it has the personnel to play at a speed OSU hasn't really been able to play at for the past decade.