Warren is OSU’s early season MVP
“We didn’t plan on rushing it (59) times. I think sometimes when you’re calling plays and you see things, they scare you.” Mike Gundy OSU coach
STILLWATER — Legendary Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders visited the locker room after the No. 18ranked Cowboys’ 24-14 win over No. 24 Baylor on Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“I took him in there to meet the running backs,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “Jaylen Warren looked like he met Santa Claus. You should’ve seen his face.”
It’s a fitting analogy, because Warren is the gift of the season — one the Cowboys didn’t even know they needed, but he continues to help them win games.
Warren rushed 37 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns, scoring the gameclinching TD with a 4-yard run on fourth-and-1 with 2:10 left in the game. Warren is a big reason why the Cowboys are 5-0 this season.
“I love having him running the ball,” OSU receiver Tay Martin said. “We feed off each other, so I like the fact that he’s able to get five yards, seven yards a whack.
“I’m grateful to have that kind of running back.”
Warren wasn’t quite getting seven yards a whack, but it felt that way, especially on a night like Saturday when the passing game was hit-and-miss — and the misses were disastrous.
OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders was 13-of-23 for 182 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 76 yards, but threw three interceptions. One pick was a deflected pass off a receiver’s helmet, but the other two appeared to be poor throws.
“He had some errant throws tonight, and he knows that,” Gundy said of Sanders.
“We’ve just got to stay with him. We’ve got to try to minimize those mistakes. And he misfired on some throws. There were some other ones that we had that we could’ve hit that he was a little high on tonight.
“We’ve got to play better at that position than he did tonight when it comes to turning the ball over. He still made a lot of plays running, like he does. And he’s a dangerous player. But we’ve got to minimize those mistakes.”
Sanders’ struggles led to some hesitancy in OSU’s play-calling, leaning more on the run and less on the pass.
“I think we might’ve gotten concerned with him over-firing some throws,” Gundy said.
“We didn’t plan on rushing it (59) times. I think sometimes when you’re calling plays and you see things, they scare you. Then you’re in the game, your defense is playing really good, so let’s just make (Baylor) win the game. Let’s not lose the game. And that happens sometimes. I’ve been in that position as a play-caller.”
The Cowboys rushed for 220 yards on 59 carries.
OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said he wasn’t nervous about throwing the ball after the early interceptions.
“I don’t know how often I get nervous,” Dunn said. “More aggravated as anything else. We came in at halftime and I think we had 260 yards of offense and 14 points. I wanted to go, ‘What the hell happened? How do we only have 14 points?’
“It’s one of those things where you just don’t feel like you can necessarily toss it all around the field. We still tried to push it down the field. We threw some big balls in the second half. But three picks, we’ve got to be careful.
“A luxury of having a great defense, you don’t have to push it sometimes and this was one of those times.”
Warren, a fifth-year senior transfer from Utah State, ran with the violent style that OSU fans have come to know during his emergence as the early season MVP of these Cowboys. Warren has rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games.
“I was impressed with him,” Baylor linebacker Dillon Doyle said.
“We knew what he was coming into the game. He’s a one-cut guy, he gets upfield fast. If you’re displaced, he’ll punish you for it.”
Having Warren as the safety net for the offense is a big reason for the Cowboys’ 5-0 start.
Now, with a week off before playing at Texas on Oct. 16, OSU needs to settle into a consistent rhythm in the passing game.
“We’ll be fine,” Gundy said. “We just got out of sync a little bit. And then when we weren’t throwing the ball as effective as we needed to, it makes you a little nervous.”