STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was a full 32 seconds deep into his opening statement before he got around to complimenting his offense’s performance in a season-opening 58-44 win over Central Michigan on Thursday night at Boone Pickens Stadium.
And still, it felt like the coach took too long.
In those 32 seconds, Gundy discussed his team’s punt coverage, kick returns, penalties and turnovers before finally throwing a bone to sanders/65468964007/” data-ylk=”slk:quarterback Spencer Sander” class=”link “>quarterback Spencer Sanders and the gang.
“Obviously, offensively we played really well,” Gundy finally said at the 32-second mark.
The same amount of time it took the Cowboy offense to score a touchdown in the final minute of the first half. That included a rush of 18 yards by Dominic Richardson, a 42-yard pass from Sanders to Brennan Presley, and — after a pair of CMU penalties — a 1-yard touchdown run by Richardson for a 44-15 halftime lead.
OSU football report card: Defense struggles against Central Michigan, but offense shines
The Cowboys got the ball back to start the second half and needed just 29 seconds to score, going up 51-15.
The quick scoring drives were neither coincidence nor fluke, but a constant theme of the night. The Cowboys said all through August that they planned to play faster on offense.
On Thursday, they proved it.
And that’s not even the most impressive part of the story.
“We can go a lot faster,” Sanders said with a confident grin. “You’ll see. You’ll see.”
Sanders was masterful much of the night, completing 28 of 41 passes for a career-high 406 yards with three touchdowns, plus 57 rushing yards and two more scores.
But his most important piece of the puzzle won’t show up in the stats. He operated rapidly but not hurried. He was calm and in control, making good decisions and accurate throws.
And he’s not alone in believing this offense can play even faster.
“I believe we can go faster,” said Presley, who had five catches for 83 yards. “It was first game, just getting our feet wet a little bit. Just trying to pick up the pace, because you can’t simulate game pace in practice. Nothing’s like a game.
“This was first game, getting kinks out and stuff figured out. I think we’ll be a lot faster going forward.”
OSU’s pace showed in the stats, with long-yardage scoring drives taking very little time off the clock. The Cowboys’ first seven touchdown drives had an average length of 62.7 yards and averaged just a fraction over 65 seconds per possession.
But scoring quickly and playing with a quick tempo aren’t exactly the same thing. OSU just happened to be doing both on Thursday.
“I think we have chances and we have the personnel that we can put in players and go fast,” Presley said. “Also, first game, our conditioning level — you can’t simulate a game. The more games we get under our belt, the better we’ll feel.”
Gundy praised Sanders for his efficiency at such a pace, the offensive line for its pass protection and the receivers for their playmaking ability.
The run game presented a bit of a concern though the usage rate was low. Running backs accounted for just 67 yards on 17 carries, with Richardson leading the way. The junior had 61 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
Gundy seemed to be more bothered by the physicality of the run blocking than the performance of the backs.
Still, none of it hindered the Cowboys’ offensive pace.
Kasey Dunn has been waiting for this opportunity. Issues out of his control led to Dunn’s capabilities being limited in his first two seasons as offensive coordinator, but this year, he sees promise in the collection of talent he has at his disposal.
“It was fun,” Dunn said. “Guys were making plays and some guys took the football and did something magical with it at times. That certainly helps an offense move.”
Last year in particular, when injuries and inexperience at the receiver position forced the Cowboys to focus heavily on running the ball and winning with defense, Dunn knew it wasn’t in the team’s best interest to go faster.
But now, with depth at receiver, an offensive line that showed it is capable in pass protection, and a seasoned quarterback in his fourth year as a starter, Dunn has kicked off the governor and is ready to run.
“That’s how we want to go,” he said. “That’s definitely how we want to play the game.”
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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma State Cowboys, Spencer Sanders can go a lot faster on offense