Cor­nelius im­prov­ing

Tulsa World - - Game­day - Bill Hais­ten 918-581-8397 bill.hais­ten @tul­saworld.com Twit­ter: @bill­hais­ten

Cor­nelius, OSU's in­ex­pe­ri­enced se­nior QB, were to fal­ter dur­ing the first half of the Boise State con­test? How might Cow­boy coach Mike Gundy and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Yur­cich re­spond?

If the sec­ond pe­riod wasn't bet­ter than the first, would the coaches send backup Dru Brown to the field?

In a high-stakes game, against a 17 th-ranked Boise State team that in four days evolved from a 2½-point un­der­dog to a 2½-point fa­vorite, Cor­nelius was given the op­por­tu­nity to swim or sink.

He thrived, although it looked dif­fer­ent than ex­pected, and the 24thranked Cow­boys recorded a 44-21 state­ment vic­tory at Boone Pick­ens Sta­dium.

In one quar­ter, Cor­nelius mor­phed from a Cate looka­like to a Collin Klein clone.

For sev­eral days, in whis­pers that em­anated from Still­wa­ter, there were in­di­ca­tions some­thing spe­cial might be in­stalled for the Boise State date.

How would that look? Would it be a spe­cial pack­age for Brown, the grad­u­ate trans­fer from Hawaii?

Or maybe some­thing that would in­volve fresh­man QB Spencer San­ders? None of the above. The low-tech wrin­kle sim­ply was an em­pha­sis on Cor­nelius as a ball­car­rier. He would read the de­fense, he would tuck the foot­ball and he would go.

It was the kind of stuff you would have seen in Cor­nelius' pre­vi­ous foot­ball life, when he played against Texas Pan­han­dle Class 2A com­pe­ti­tion.

The 41-yard, two-touch­down in­volve­ment of Cor­nelius in the run game could be la­beled the Bill Sny­der Spe­cial. Gundy's uti­liza­tion of Cor­nelius re­sem­bled what Sny­der did with Klein, Kan­sas State's big, phys­i­cal quar­ter­back in 2010-12.

“I think (Cor­nelius) is com­fort­able run­ning the ball,” Gundy said. “He gets into the flow of the game, right? Like a 3-point shooter in bas­ket­ball. He hits a cou­ple of 3s and gets hot. He's played three games now. He's get­ting a lit­tle bet­ter each game.”

At 3-0, the Cow­boys open Big 12 play by host­ing Texas Tech next week.

At 2-1, Boise State ar­rived in Still­wa­ter with smooth se­nior Brett Ryp­ien and a 38-2 ad­van­tage in ca­reer quar­ter­back starts, but OSU an­swered that deficit with a com­plete per­for­mance that in­cluded a sev­en­sack af­ter­noon for the de­fense, two punt-blocks and three field goals from spe­cial-teams units, and 123 rush­ing yards from Jus­tice Hill.

OSU first-year de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Knowles cur­rently is a $600,000 as­sis­tant coach. By this time next year, he might be an $800,000 staff mem­ber.

A lot of prov­ing re­mains to be done, but Knowles' de­fense is trend­ing in the best pos­si­ble di­rec­tion.

If win­ning is all that re­ally mat­ters, Cor­nelius is trend­ing just as im­pres­sively.

As the Cow­boys are on the brink of break­ing into the na­tional Top 15, there are av­er­ages of 590 yards and 52 points per game. Cor­nelius has com­pleted 64 per­cent of his passes (one per­cent­age point be­low Ma­son Ru­dolph's 2017 suc­cess rate).

Be­cause Cor­nelius was in­ter­cepted three times be­fore Satur­day, there might have been doubters within the fan base. The Boise State game at­ten­dance was about 2,000 shy of a sell­out.

Af­ter the 1-of-5 start against the Bron­cos, Cor­nelius es­tab­lished a bet­ter groove. He con­nected on nine of his fi­nal 11 pass at­tempts.

“What­ever the game plan is, I'll do it. It doesn't mat­ter to me,” Cor­nelius said in ref­er­ence to his 16 rush­ing at­tempts and hav­ing been hit harder than he's ever been hit be­fore.

“We don't want him tak­ing un­nec­es­sary hits,” Yur­cich said, “but we have to take ad­van­tage of his skill set and tough­ness.

“With him, we knew his tough­ness. That's a hard thing to sim­u­late. You never want to sim­u­late that in prac­tice. But there was never any (pos­si­bil­ity) that he would turn it down. We had full faith in him.”

There's some­thing to be said for en­dur­ing a few bruises and hav­ing a phys­i­cal in­vest­ment in an im­por­tant vic­tory. The sat­is­fac­tion level sky­rock­ets.

How­ever, while the re­sult was pos­i­tive, and while Cor­nelius seemed to have emerged in one piece, there has to be this con­sid­er­a­tion: OSU can't uti­lize its quar­ter­back this way ev­ery week. It's too risky.

Maybe Ok­la­homa State doesn't need a 16-carry con­tri­bu­tion to beat Texas Tech or Kan­sas, but Gundy and Yur­cich liked what they saw Satur­day. The Cor­nelius run-game com­po­nent is a vi­able, valu­able op­tion, and it was an un­ex­pected fac­tor in the vic­tory over Boise State.

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