Let’s talk about Chuba Hubbard. And a little about Braydon Johnson.
OK, OK, we’ll chat up OSU’s defense a bit, too.
Maybe that will kindle up some warm thoughts about this Cowboys season as we stride into the long winter ahead.
Saturday night’s 24-21 loss to Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl will likely leave OSU football fans feeling much like the bulk of this season.
Oh, sure, 2019 wasn’t all bad. Eight wins, and some good ones, although my take on the Big 12 is that it was a down year across the board for the conference. The dynamic offenses that once carried the league’s swagger have taken a holiday, at least outside of Norman where premium veteran quarterbacks keep walking through the door on cue.
We’ll hear that defenses are catching up, but that’s coach-spin. Offenses have taken a step back.
And that goes for OSU, too.
Chuba Hubbard was a joy to watch in his sophomore campaign. Hubbard thrilled with regularity, ultimately breaking the 2,000-yard mark against A&M, posting his 12th – and 11th straight – 100-yard rushing game of the season. He kept us entertained.
But Hubbard, for all his greatness, couldn’t carry the full weight of this offense, and this season. Not with Tylan Wallace missing with injury. Especially not with Spencer Sanders gone for Bedlam and the bowl game.
With the triplets compromised, OSU’s playmaker depth was exposed as lacking.
And that was seriously apparent again Friday night.
Hubbard got his – 158 yards on 19 carries – leaving us all wondering what’s next, hoping he’ll return for another fall in Stillwater, although that seems unlikely. Johnson offered hope for the future, with a career-high five receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
But Dru Brown was ordinary and so were the rest of the receivers. Sanders was little more than a decoy, apparently still limited by the thumb injury that required surgery. And the Cowboys offense was pedestrian. And who ever thought we’d say that about an OSU offense, well at least outside of the Twitter-sphere, where they forget it’s about the Jimmys and Joes, not the Xs and Os.
And the Cowboys, in the end, just didn’t have the hosses.
They started strong, taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. But A&M won the adjustment game, and the Cowboys didn’t score again until just 1:04 remained.
The defense kept OSU close, getting plenty of stops and two turnovers. And that unit offers real hope for 2020, with all but one starter from Friday night returning.
Special teams were a dud, again, with poor punting and two missed field goals weighing heavily in the end.
But it’s the scuffling offense that we’ll remember and wish to forget the most. And that’s the hardest thing to digest in this era of thrill-a-minute OSU football.
It should be better next year, perhaps dramatically better if Hubbard and Wallace choose to return. A sophomore Sanders should thrive. The offensive line returns some key pieces. And young playmakers who didn’t quite gain traction this season should be in a better place.
But this season… is hard to describe.
Not a dud, not with eight wins and a bowl bid. Not quite disappointing; the injuries were crippling, and transition at other key spots proved slower than anticipated.
Bring on 2020.