STILLWATER, Okla. – After a whole offseason of anticipation, receiver Isaiah Anderson couldn’t believe it was already time for him to be finished playing in the season opener for No. 18 Oklahoma State.
With a minute or two left in the first quarter, receivers coach Kasey Dunn walked over to him, shook his hand and told him he was retired for the evening. The Cowboys were well on their way to an 84-0 rout of overmatched Savannah State, and it was already time to show mercy.
Anderson only got to be on the field for about 25 snaps, and he said Monday that “it didn’t even seem like that when I sat down.”
“I at least wanted to play the first half,” Anderson said.
Starting cornerback Brodrick Brown didn’t even get that much playing time, getting yanked after just over a dozen snaps. Starting tailback Joseph Randle carried the ball only six times, piling up 107 yards and two touchdowns.
The degree of difficulty, and the workload, is about to go up for all of them.
After a walkover of a first week, the Cowboys (1-0) hit the road to face Arizona (1-0) this Saturday night.
Oklahoma State has rolled to easy wins against the Wildcats each of the past two years, winning the 2010 Alamo Bowl 36-10 before recording a 37-14 victory last season in Stillwater. There are plenty of changes for this year’s game, though.
Freshman starting quarterback Wes Lunt will be playing in his first college road game for Oklahoma State, and it will be against a different Arizona team in its first season under Rich Rodriguez.
Lunt played only four offensive series against Savannah State, completing all 11 of his passes against relatively little resistance. Coach Mike Gundy said several times that his players were never “stressed” in the game against a team that was 4-72 against Football Championship Subdivision competition over the previous decade.
“It always concerns us because as a coach, you want to get your players enough work to where you feel like they’ve advanced in different areas and gotten prepared for the next week but you don’t want to get them too much work to where they stress their bodies, they stress their legs or could have at times been vulnerable to some sort of an injury,” Gundy said.
“We would have liked to have more work. It didn’t work out that way.”
Still, Gundy preferred being able to pull his starters before the end of the first quarter as opposed to leaving them in late into the fourth quarter on a night when the temperature on the Boone Pickens Stadium turf was estimated to be 127 degrees. The air temperature at kickoff was 102 degrees.
“(The players) would have to feel better now than they did a week ago about executing and getting the ball in the hands of the right guys,” Gundy said. “But I think they’re smart enough to know that we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and we have a ways to go, and they understand the game that they were in and I believe they have a good feel for who we’re playing and what the challenge is this week.”
To a man, Oklahoma State’s players and coaches admitted there wasn’t much to be gained from the Savannah State game beyond the basics of whether everyone lined up correctly and knew the plays.
“It don’t really do much when you go against a team like that,” Randle said. “We just try to get ready for a better opponent this week.”
Arizona needed overtime to beat Toledo 24-17, but produced 624 yards of total offense and had two touchdowns negated by penalties in Rodriguez’s debut. It was the second most total yards in school history.
“You can’t take them lightly,” Brown said. “You’ve got to be on top of your game. They could have a big play at any moment.”
That’s the challenge for the Cowboys this week, preparing to play a full game at full speed after an opener when they had to punch the accelerator and then almost immediately slam on the brakes.
Gundy said there are still plenty of question marks on his team, which featured 10 new starters from last season’s Big 12 championship squad. For instance, he said, starting defensive tackle Calvin Barnett performed well in 15 or so first-quarter snaps but will he still be playing at the same level if he has played 55 snaps by the third quarter in 90-degree Arizona heat on Saturday night?
“We don’t know how good we are yet, and we won’t know for about a month,” Gundy said. “We’re going to have a good challenge this week and then the teams we play are quality teams. Arizona is very capable of being in a bowl, (Louisiana) Lafayette was in a bowl and I think they’re better this year than they were last year … and then getting into league play.”