Football

Schedule Challenges: Gundy’s Triplets

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The Cowboys have the triplets on offense and are primed to win a championship.

No, this isn’t an article about professional football, America’s Team, or any of the Dallas Cowboys greats of the 1990s. These triplets are a few hours north of the Metroplex in Stillwater.

Quarterback Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard, and receiver Tylan Wallace are back for the 2020 season for Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys, and the trio has OSU as one of the top contenders for their first Big 12 championship since 2011.

Before hosting Oklahoma State in 2019, Texas head coach Tom Herman likened defending the trio to the “scariest environment imaginable” as detailed by Oscar Choi in the movie Armageddon. Texas was able to fend off the worst damage from Wallace, Sanders, and Hubbard last year, with Sanders’ legs being the aspect of the Cowboy offense that hit Texas the hardest.

Sanders took over as OSU’s quarterback following a pre-season battle with Hawaii transfer Dru Brown. Sanders performed well out of the gate, completing almost 80 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and over 100 yards rushing in his debut versus Oregon State.

Though Sanders hurt Texas on the ground to the tune of 109 yards and a touchdown, that was the only aspect of the Cowboy offense that succeeded against Texas on a regular basis. Short fields caused by turnovers often provided Oklahoma State with better field position than what their own offense was able to accomplish.

Sanders was 7-3 in the regular season before missing the last few games with a thumb injury. He returned for the Texas Bowl versus Texas A&M, but was limited to 3 rushing yards since Brown took most of the snaps in the loss.

His limited track record shows promise, like setting a new mark for freshman passing yardage at OSU. So do the accolades: Sanders won Big 12 offensive freshman of the year and was honored with the Russell Okung Award, given annually to the most outstanding OSU newcomer.

But of the three main cogs of the Cowboy offense, Hubbard might the most recognizable name. He lead the country in rushing yards with 2094, rushing yards per game with 161.1, and tied for third in the nation with 21 rushing touchdowns. His breakout season earned Big 12 offensive player of the year honors and resulted in an eighth place finish in Heisman Trophy voting.

Hubbard’s chances for similar success are of course dinged with the loss of two starter-caliber offensive linemen to the Portal before the season’s first snap, but there’s no doubt his own skill will be able to somewhat remedy the issue.

Plus, Big 12 defenses will still need to account for the threat of Wallace on the outside. Texas bracketed the 2018 Biletnikoff finalist during their matchup in 2019, keeping one of the nation’s best downfield playmakers out of the end zone. Other teams weren’t so lucky when he was on the field.

In the first eight games, Wallace caught 53 passes for 903 yards and eight touchdowns. One team, Baylor, held him under 80 yards. He was on track for another standout season before an injury in practice kept him out for the rest of 2019.

He returns healthy, likely for his final season in Stillwater. The same goes for Hubbard.

Add in Sanders and Oklahoma State still has the “scariest environment imaginable” for one more year, with hopes of a Big 12 championship resting on the trio’s shoulders.