Arizona State Falls to Oklahoma State 27-15

There was a disparity between Arizona State and Oklahoma State when the two teams met on Frank Kush Field Saturday night. 

Not in talent. Not in effort. But in execution. 

I would find it hard to believe anyone walking out of the building after Oklahoma State’s 27-15 win would feel there was a significant drop-off between the Cowboys wearing white and the Sun Devils wearing black. 

The most dominant player on the night was B.J. Green, tallying three tackles for loss and two sacks. 

Cameron Skattebo was solid, running for 62 yards and a score on 14 carries. 

The biggest play of the night, a 65-yard touchdown from Jaden Rashada to Elijhah Badger, was for the home team.

Oklahoma State narrowly beat out the Sun Devils in yards, first downs and time of possession. 

There’s not a lot whole lot you can do when a team is just outmatched in talent. There’s not a lot you can do when a team is just sleepwalking and going through the motions. That was not the case for the two teams that stepped on the field Saturday.

ASU’s offensive line’s structural integrity is being held together with bubbalicious and good faith. Impact transfers Ben Coleman and Aaron Frost have yet to take the field for ASU. Contributors Isaia Glass and Cade Briggs did not dress out on Saturday due to injury. Emmit Bohle left the field on a cart after suffering an injury. 

Despite the unit’s depth being tested early this season, the unit did not look overmatched by Oklahoma State. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. 

Did they get run off the field? Hell no. 

Head coach Kenny Dillingham won’t use that as an excuse, but to think missing five starter-quality lineman wouldn’t impact the offense is absurd.

“Nobody cares about your circumstance so we have to go back to work,” Dillingham said. “Play the guys that are going to play and put together the best plan around them.”

The Sun Devils turned over the ball on downs three times, with two of the following drives resulting in Oklahoma State touchdowns. If just one of those converts, maybe the result is different. Dillingham pointed out that the math supports the decision to go for it on 4th down.

They just couldn’t execute. 

After holding Oklahoma State to zero rushing yards in the first half, the Cowboys were able to grind out 113 yards and a score in the second half. Still, most nights you would take giving up 113 yards on the ground to a Power 5 team.

If ASU cleans up a small aspect here and there on offense, maybe the defense is off the field and a little better rested in the final minutes.

The fact that the difference came down to execution is the reason Sun Devil fans simultaneously can look at this as a silver lining and the most frustrating part of the night. 

But maybe fans – and Dillingham – can look across the field and see a future for Arizona State. Mike Gundy is in year 19 as head coach of Oklahoma State, his alma mater. He’s 158-75 and has appeared in 17 bowl games in his time at head coach. 

Gundy stepped into a better position than Dillingham currently is in. He served as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator under Les Miles for four seasons before taking over the program.

The Cowboys were 7-5 in 2004. Miles left for LSU, with Gundy ready to take over after ramping up for a full Olympic cycle getting to know the program.

Gundy did not have to deal with an impending NCAA report, a bowl ban or a depleted roster when he took over as head coach like Dillingham is. But Gundy still struggled early in Stillwater, going 4-7 in his first year and then back-to-back seven-win seasons. 

He then rattled off 41 wins over the next four years including a Fiesta Bowl win in 2011.

This was relayed from the seasoned vet to the first-year head coach prior to Saturday’s game.

“I think that was his message to me: Don’t waver.” Dillingham said after the game. “Don’t worry about the results right now, worry about the process. If you stay true to the process, the results will happen. I really appreciate that message from a guy who has done it a long time, who has been really successful.”

There’s a reason Gundy is the exception and not the rule when it comes to college coaching. 

But, at least on Saturday, the desparities didn’t come down to talent or effort.