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Oklahoma State turns attention to Baylor

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Oklahoma State turns attention to Baylor

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) To a man, Oklahoma State football players insisted Monday they were focused on the Cowboys' next opponent, Baylor. That doesn't mean it has been easy to put aside the disappointment of two days earlier.

Oklahoma State never trailed Oklahoma until the final play of overtime, losing 51-48 on Saturday in the annual Bedlam game. Then, as the Cowboys exited Owen Field, they witnessed a raucous celebration by the Sooners and their fans, the type of outburst usually reserved for a win in a big bowl game or over longtime rival Texas.

``They should have been celebrating,'' running back Joseph Randle said. ``You should celebrate when you get lucky. We feel like they got lucky and, you know, they won the game and we lost, so they deserved to celebrate that win.''

Randle said the way the Sooners celebrated ``means that they felt like they should have lost coming into the game. You know, regardless of rankings and all of that different stuff, they didn't think they was going to come in there and just blow us out. I guarantee you that. We felt like we was going to blow them out, honestly. I felt like, `This was going to be easy.' But it is what it is. We lost. They won. Congratulations.''

Instead of the usual Sunday routine, coach Mike Gundy allowed his players to watch comedy clips of their choice ``and they laughed for a long time'' before settling in to view game film and start prepping for the game at Baylor (6-5, 3-5 Big 12).

``The good thing about college football is you have to get right back at it, whether you feel like it or not,'' Gundy said. ``Our team came over last night and spent some time together and spirits were good by the time they left the facility.''

Oklahoma State (7-4, 5-3) will play its eighth game in as many weeks and Gundy said his players - and coaches - needed the mental break. He said losing to Oklahoma was harder on him and the coaching staff than it was on the players.

``It starts with us,'' Gundy said. ``I'm not even scared to say that that was the first thing that we discussed in our staff meeting yesterday, was that we have to get over it first, and then we have to make sure the players understand, which they do . that if they don't practice well tomorrow, it takes about 30 percent of our chance away from winning on Saturday.''

That doesn't mean it's easy.

``I never get over it,'' Gundy said. ``I'm going to wake up three years from now talking about, or thinking about, this game. Just like I do the Holiday Bowl, just like I did the Cotton Bowl, just like the Texas game from this year. That never really goes away.''

For their part, players said they need to play well against Baylor, which has won three of its last four games. During the past two weeks, the Bears knocked off then-No. 2 Kansas State 52-24, then beat Texas Tech 52-45 in overtime.

Behind quarterback Nick Florence, Baylor averages 575.5 yards per game of offense, tops in the Big 12. Oklahoma State is second at 547.9 yards per game. But while the Cowboys are fifth in total defense, Baylor is last in the conference in that category, surrendering an average of 509.7 yards per game.

Oklahoma State has won six straight and 15 of its last 16 games against Baylor, including a 59-24 romp last year, during which the Cowboys controlled the Bears' eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, and jumped to a 42-0 lead. Oklahoma State held Griffin without a touchdown pass.

``The challenges with Baylor are going to be the same as it's been the last few weeks,'' linebacker Shaun Lewis said. ``We've been playing some of the top offenses in the country the past month, and the expectation is the same. We want to limit the run game and make them one-dimensional. We know coach is going to come up with a great game plan this week.''

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Drafting a first round QB outside of the top two picks has largely backfired

Drafting a first round QB outside of the top two picks has largely backfired

Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes are two quarterbacks who were taken in the middle of the 2017 NFL Draft's first round, and they serve as two recent examples that you don't have to have a pick at the top of that round to land a star passer.

Problem is, they're basically the only recent examples, too.

In the past decade, teams who've tried to find their franchise signal-caller in the first round outside of either the first or second pick have failed time and time again. Since 2009, those prized QBs have mostly been selected No. 1 or No. 2 overall or mined beyond the first round. 

The following list, compiled by Redskins Talk co-host Mitch Tischler, shows how many mediocre to straight-up bad options franchises have found using picks 3-32:

  • Mark Sanchez — 2009 pick No. 5 — 37-36 career record
  • Josh Freeman — 2009 pick No. 17 — 25-36 career record
  • Tim Tebow — 2010 pick No. 25 — 8-6 career record
  • Jake Locker — 2011 pick No. 8 — 9-14 career record
  • Blaine Gabbert — 2011 pick No. 10 — 13-35 career record
  • Christian Ponder — 2011 pick No. 12 — 14-21-1 career record
  • Ryan Tannehill — 2012 pick No. 8 —42-46 career record
  • Brandon Weeden — 2012 pick No. 22 — 6-19 career record
  • EJ Manuel — 2013 pick No. 16 — 6-12 career record
  • Blake Bortles — 2014 pick No. 3 — 24-49 career record
  • Johnny Manziel — 2014 pick No. 22 — 2-6 career record
  • Paxton Lynch — 2016 pick No. 26 — 1-3 career record
  • Patrick Mahomes — 2017 pick No. 10 — 13-4 career record
  • Deshaun Watson — 2017 pick No. 12 — 14-8 career record
  • Sam Darnold — 2018 pick No. 3 — 4-9 career record
  • Josh Allen — 2018 pick No. 7 — 5-6 career record
  • Josh Rosen — 2018 pick No. 10 — 3-10 career record
  • Lamar Jackson — 2018 pick No. 32 — 6-1 career record
     

That list is one the Redskins — who own the 15th pick in the 2019 draft and who are beginning to be linked heavily to Kyler Murray — should pay close attention to.

The 2018 class is too young to judge, and as mentioned earlier, the 2017 class is providing quality returns. But none of the other names on that list have turned into anything useful, not to mention anything resembling special.

Of course, if you go back farther into the past, you'll find that QBs like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were snagged during the meat of the first round, so it's not impossible. However, the last 10 years have shown it can be very difficult to nail a pick in that range.

The logic feels simple: The truly elite talents, such as Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, are snatched up immediately. The QBs who are found in the mid- to late rounds, meanwhile, are given more time to develop and/or find themselves on rosters that have been built up more.

Those non-elite first-rounders, on the other hand, are generally caught in between: not skilled enough to help turn around a team singlehandedly but, because they're high investments, they're forced into those tough situations and end up floundering.

There's no doubt that the 'Skins need a new hope under center. Where they should commit to that hope, though, is something that must be considered.  

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Dozier and Long a match made in launch angle heaven

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USA Today Sports

Dozier and Long a match made in launch angle heaven

Brian Dozier came to a realization following his rookie season in 2012. Why not hit the ball more often in the air and accentuate a strength? Instead of drilling to fix a weakness -- like opposite-field hitting or even ground ball rate -- choose to club away, in the air, to the pull side, as often as possible.

No en vogue terminology explained Dozier’s pursuit of six years ago. Omnipotent terms like “launch angle” remained shrouded and in development. Dozier didn’t need a phrase. He just needed to do what worked more often.

The idea took with career-altering results. Dozier hit 18 home runs, then 23, then 28, then 42. Pull-side fly balls turned him into an All-Star and commodity at second base. His new one-year deal with the Nationals brings him a hitting coach who is elated by the idea of hitting up and over.

Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long is the effervescent patriarch of launch angle. “We want to hit it over the shift,” Long will tell anyone willing to listen. Do damage, hit bombs, whatever slang term is preferred. Just hit the ball in the air. On the ground equals outs. In the air produces runs.

Melding a second baseman in search of a reboot after a down year with a hitting coach who is going to trumpet a cause the infielder already backed could be a powerful formula.

“When I changed my approach at the end of 2012 going into 2013, there was no launch angle, any of that stuff, but looking back at it now that’s kind of exactly what it was,” Dozier said Tuesday on a conference call. “We just didn’t have a name for it. “[It’s] recognizing your strength and doing everything you can to be really good at your strength rather than try to tweak weaknesses and stuff. And one of those strengths for me is hitting the ball in the air to left field, left-center field. Once I kind of got that part of it, I really enjoyed doing that. It’s going to be a fun year with a hitting coach that kind of sees the same thing, whether your strength is hitting the ball in the air or hitting the ball the other way, I believe in really honing into your strength and really running with that. Some guys’ strengths aren’t hitting the ball in the air, which is fine.”

The numbers coinciding with Dozier’s rise from eighth-round pick to among the league leaders in homers from 2014-2017 are stark. His fly ball rate increased year after year until peaking in 2016 at 47.7 percent, the same season he hit 42 home runs. His 120 OPS-plus in that span showed what kind of work he performed in Minnesota’s cool and spacious Target Field.

However, 2018 brought a significant recession when an April bone bruise in his left knee hindered him throughout the season. Tuesday, Dozier explained the importance of load bearing and stability from his front leg in order to execute his upward swing. Instead of landing on the front of his foot, the knee bruise pushed him back to his heel, opening his hips early. Grizzly results followed: 21 homers, a .215 average, sub-.700 OPS.

Dozier said Tuesday his knee is healed. Finally receiving a break from baseball following the World Series allowed him to recover. That’s also when he had to decide his future. Dozier wasn’t sure how the market would react to his down season following years of being one of the heaviest second base bats in baseball. He said he received multiple offers -- some providing more years and money than the Nationals’ one-year, $9 million deal he settled on -- before selecting Washington. Conversations with his ex-Minnesota teammate Kurt Suzuki, in his second stint with the Nationals, and former Washington outfielder Josh Willingham, who played with Dozier in Minnesota, too, helped sway his decision.

“It just seemed like a really good fit,” Dozier said.

That is applicable to this coming partnership between Dozier and Long. In the air, often and to the pull side. It’s a subtle pairing that could help Dozier return to the 30-home run mark, and the Nationals to receive inexpensive bop from an infield spot.

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