Many credit the Arizona’s 59-38 victory to Oklahoma State itself, painting a picture that the Cowboys handed the Wildcats the win on a golden platter by not just shooting themselves in the foot, but by taking the gun from their own holster and blowing their own brains out.
In part, OSU most certainly helped Arizona out by coughing up 4 turnovers and 167 penalty yards (a school record). But make no mistake–the Wildcats earned this win more than the Cowboys gave it to them. Here are some things to remember about the game that has tended to be overlooked or forgotten by the media:
1. Field Goals Are Earned, Not Given
Last week, John Bonano missed two crucial chip shots that almost lost Arizona the game against Toledo. This week Bonano rebounded in a big way, hitting 3 out of 3 field goals, one of them from 46 yards away. That would be 9 points that were earned, not given.
2. These Turnovers Were Earned, Not Given
Sure, Oklahoma State had four turnovers. But Joseph Randle’s fumble did not simply drop out of his hands, it was stripped. Interceptions are not interceptions unless they are actually caught by the defender, and two of them were difficult grabs made off of a tip. The third interception (a pick 6) was made because freshmen quarterback Wes Lunt made the horrible decision to throw the ball–a horrible decision that was forced by Arizona’s well timed blitz.
3. Arizona’s Offense Was Earned, Not Given
Oklahoma’s defense has 8 returning starters, and coming into last week’s game, they were no amateurs. Though some personal fouls helped and kept drives alive, keep in mind that 4 out of 6 of Arizona’s touchdown drives required the Cats to go 66 yards or more (66, 75, 75, 75). When Oklahoma rallied in the 3rd quarter to bring the game within two, Arizona responded by going 75 yards in 5 plays in less than two minutes. Earned, not given.
4. Good Tackling is Earned, Not Given
I haven’t seen an Arizona defense tackle this well since the Desert Swarm years. It appears that the Wildcats have elected to play a bend-but-don’t-break scheme that prevents the big play and forces opponents to earn points the hard way by driving down the entire length of the field in short chunks. This scheme requires good tackling.
Under Stoops, Arizona’s defense played the same style, except they broke all the time due to crummy tackling–our players did not know the concept of wrapping up. Not so under RichRod. The Wildcats stuck Oklahoma State players dead in their tracks all night long, stopping OSU on a critical 4th and 1 and again on the very next drive on a critical 3rd and 1–the second time, OSU elected to punt. They frustrated running back superstar Joseph Randle to 123 hard earned yards on the ground and no touchdowns–his longest run went for 14 yards. Not a single OSU play went for over 50 yards, the longest being a 42 yard pass to Josh Stewart.
5. Good Coaching is Earned, Not Given
Throwing Mike Gundy out of his gameplan can only be done by superior coaching, which RichRod accomplished doing. Consider this: a fourth of OSU’s entire ground game came in the Cowboys’ first two scoring drives, giving them an early 14-0 lead; had they stuck more to the ground all night, this may have been a much closer game.
But, an effective bend-but-don’t break defense combined with an effective scoring offense will create frustration and impatience in the opponent–it wil make them feel as if time is running out. In the second quarter and down by only 2, Gundy acted as if it were the fourth quarter and the final drive of the game, electing to go for it on 4th and 1 at OSU’s own 47. His failure to convert set up great field position for Arizona that would create another touchdown for the Cats before the end of the half.
OSU ended up airing the ball out 60 times with a freshmen quarterback, electing to run the ball on only 32 attempts (Arizona ran it 49 times and passed it 41). They would not have done this had they not felt rushed, and you can thank RichRod and crew for making them feel that way.
6. Making no Mistakes is Earned, Not Given
Oklahoma State had 4 turnovers. Know how many the Wildcats had? Zero, zilch, nada–goose egg. They also played disciplined, allowing only 27 yards in penalties. That’s all I really have to say about that.
7. OSU’s Personal Fouls Against Matt Scott
Ok, yeah, those were given, pissing Matt Scott and crew off enough to make OSU look silly.