SCORNED DOG

Tay­lor Cor­nelius isn’t the prob­lem for this mid­dling Ok­la­homa State squad

The Oklahoman - - COWBOY PREGAME - Jenni Carl­son jcarl­son@ ok­la­homan.com

MAN­HAT­TAN, KANSAS — Dis­ap­pointed play­er­sleft the field last Satur­day in Still­wa­ter­with heads hang­ing and shoul­ders slump­ing. Ex­cept for one. Tay­lor Cor­nelius stood on the Boone Pick­ens Sta­dium turf, fac­ing his team­mates and look­ing them in the eye. He high-fived hands. He slapped shoul­der pads. He had ev­ery rea­son to hang his head and slump his shoul­ders, too— run­ning for your life all day while still throw­ing for four touch­downs and nearly find­ing a way to over­come a supremely woe­ful per­for­mance by your of­fen­sive line and your de­fense re­ally takes it out of you— butin­stead, he was an en­cour­ager. He was a leader. And this is the guy that some Ok­la­homa State fans want to blame for­what ails the Cow­boys this sea­son? Give me a break. In what has quickly be­come a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son, or­ange bloods are search­ing for an­swers. It’s per­fectly nat­u­ral. But Cor­nelius isn’t the prob­lem. In fact, the quar­ter­back is among the least of OSU’s is­sues. And yet, you don’t have to look far or lis­ten long to find plenty of fans who be­lieve Cor­nelius is the root of all ills. Twit­ter. YouTube. Ra­dio shows. All are filled with laments about the for­mer walk-on turned starter. Just a few days ago, some­one on a live on­line chat asked my fel­low colum­nist Berry Tramel if Cow­boy coach Mike Gundy re­al­ized how “silly” he looks when he talks about not want­ing to play Spencer San­ders, a true fresh­man, af­ter the Cow­boys have been beat in two of three games by true fresh­men quar­ter­back. I’ll tell you what’s silly— think­ing that San­ders is the an­swer be­cause your team got beat by other true fresh­men. For starters, Texas Tech and Iowa State have bet­ter of­fen­sive lines than OSU.

That gave Alan Bow­man and Brock Purdy a much bet­ter chance for suc­cess.

Do Cow­boy fans re­ally want to see San­ders, a guy who tore his knee not once but twice in high school, run­ning for his life like Cor­nelius has been?

Do they re­al­ize that San­ders is four inches shorter and37 pounds lighter than Cor­nelius?

Do they un­der­stand the phys­i­cal and men­tal­beat­ing that could be in­curred?

Some fans want to com­pare this sea­son to 2014, Cor­nelius play­ing the part of Daxx Gar­man and San­ders that of Ma­son Rudolph. Com­par­ing Cor­nelius to Gar­man is kooky talk. Cor­nelius is so much bet­ter than Gar­man that it’s al­most laugh­able. But just to prove it, here are some num­bers:

•Gar­man: 226.8 yards pass­ing per game and 54.9 per­cent com­ple­tion rate.

•Cor­nelius: 304.2 yards and 60.7 per­cent.

•Gar­man: 12 touch­downs and 12 in­ter­cep­tions in nine games.

•Cor­nelius: 16 touch­downs and six in­ter­cep­tions in six games.

Now, San­ders might well be the next Rudolph, and like Rudolph in 2014, we might well see San­ders be­fore this sea­son ends. But re­mem­ber that Rudolph was an early en­rollee; San­ders was not. Re­mem­ber, too, that Rudolph was only 32 of 60 for 554 yards, four touch­downs and three in­ter­cep­tions in his first two games. He wasn’t a world-beater right away.

Good chance San­ders wouldn’t be ei­ther.

Even if he was, I’m still not sure why so many have got­ten so hung up on Cor­nelius. The of­fen­sive line? Sure. The de­fen­sive se­condary? Yes. The need to find more ways to get the ball into Jus­tice Hill’s hands? Sign me up for that.

But quar­ter­back play? Nope.

“He’s got­ten bet­ter ev­ery game,” Gundy said of Cor­nelius ear­lier this week.

Has he been flaw­less? Of course not.

But no quar­ter­back is. Ma­son Rudolph wasn’t. Kyler Mur­ray isn’t. Drew Brees. Baker May­field. All of them make mis­takes.

Tay­lor Cor­nelius does,

too.

But far be it from me to un­der­stand why so many Cow­boy fans have him on so short a leash. This is a guy who bought in to be­ing a Cow­boy so deeply that he not only paid his own way for sev­eral years as a walk-on but also stayed around for four years be­fore get­ting his shot. He put his head down and went to work. He pulled him­self up by his boot­straps.

He was loyal and true. As I watched Cor­nelius en­cour­ag­ing team­mates af­ter the game last week, then lis­tened to him a lit­tle while later tak­ing blame for pretty much ev­ery­thing — af­ter he said Ty­lan Wal­lace’s spot-on, deep-ball drop was quar­ter­back er­ror, I fully ex­pected Cor­nelius to say he botched that punt snap and failed to block those blitzes, too— I couldn’t help think this should be a guy Cow­boy fans rally be­hind.

He is not per­fect, but he is not a prob­lem ei­ther. Jenni Carl­son: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or jcarl­son@ok­la­homan.com. Like her at face­book.com/Jen­niCarl­sonOK, fol­low her at twit­ter.com/ jen­ni­carl­son_ok or view her per­son­al­ity page at newsok.com/ jen­ni­carl­son.

[OK­LA­HOMAN IL­LUS­TRA­TION; PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS]

Ok­la­homa State quar­ter­back Tay­lor Cor­nelius has com­pleted 60.9 per­cent of his passes this sea­son with 16 touch­downs and six in­ter­cep­tions.

[PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Ok­la­homa State quar­ter­back Tay­lor Cor­nelius tries to es­cape pres­sure from Iowa State’s Greg Eis­worth (12) and Lawrence White (11) dur­ing the Cy­clones’ 48-42 win in Still­wa­ter on Oct. 6.

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