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Having Two Talented Quarterbacks Forces Iowa State to Plan for Both

With an extra, unplanned open week, Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders has had ample time to get back to full health. However, the play of Illingworth this season has forced Iowa State to have to prepare for two different quarterbacks.

STILLWATER – No one could’ve predicted the quarterback situation for Oklahoma State to start the season. Spencer Sanders goes down with an injury on the first drive into the opening game of the season against Tulsa, starts the second drive and then is out, and true freshman Shane Illingworth took over the game in the second half and led the Pokes to a victory.

Since that day, Sanders has remained on the sidelines with the ankle injury he sustained in the season opener and Illingworth has helped lead the Pokes to a 3-0 record with wins over Tulsa, a tough West Virginia team and an impressive 47-7 win over Kansas.

The Cowboys have had two open weeks in a row, one scheduled and one unplanned due to an outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases within the Baylor program over the past two weeks. With the extra time, it’s allowed Sanders to get his ankle completely healthy, causing many people to wonder which quarterback are Gundy and Co. going to trot out there against Iowa State this Saturday.

“We’re in good shape,” said head coach Mike Gundy, playing coy, during the weekly Monday Zoom call with the media. “We’ve got three guys that are healthy and practicing. So, we’re in just as good of shape as when we started the season. We’re alternating reps and we might play both [Sanders and Illingworth], I’m not sure right now. We continue to get them quality work and Spencer’s healthy; obviously, Shane’s played pretty good. I’m just glad to have a couple of guys that can play.

“I’ve had some years around here where I was down to my third-team guy in the middle of the season. We’re just thankful we’ve got a couple guys we trust that can get out there and play, and we’ve got Bullock back as the third. He’s gotten some quality reps so we’re in pretty good shape at the quarterback position.”

Pokes Report’s Robert Allen believes, and I do too, that Spencer Sanders will start the game against the Cyclones. Even Illingworth has said multiple times during the multiple episodes of the ESPN documentary ‘Our Time’ that Sanders is the quarterback. It was Sanders that had earned that status going into the season. Despite Illingworth's experience these past three games, Sanders has started 11 games and has an 8-3 record as a starter. There is no suspense now, if the offense were to struggle, Illingworth is a known talent at the position. 

There’s bound to be some reservations about Sanders as he hasn’t played more than a handful of snaps this season and Illingworth was at the helm of three victories, but I don’t think there’s a doubt that Sanders is the quarterback moving forward. However, what the situation of having two athletic and talented quarterbacks has done has created more work for Iowa State their defensive unit.

“I think for them it certainly sounds like they’re healthy as they’ve been to start the season,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said of the OSU quarterbacks. “I think both quarterbacks have shown to be really efficient in their offense. Obviously, Spencer Sanders is an elite talent and somebody that has been in [OSU’s] system now for a year and a half. I really think the young man [Shane Illingworth] that came in, the freshman that came in to play for them already has done a great job. Big arm, has got the ability to make all the throws and distribute it to all their playmakers. I don’t know if it really changes who they are offensively and I think both quarterbacks have already proven to be really efficient and really effective in their offense.”

Oklahoma State will host Iowa State this coming Saturday, Oct. 23 with kickoff slated for 2:30 p.m. CT on FOX.