Sunday Rewind: Tough Times For The Offense

"We don’t run the football well enough to put ourselves in a position to extend leads. We’re throwing the ball very average. Our protection is not worth bragging out and our run blocking is just kind of average," Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said after the 27-20 win over Kansas on Saturday. "We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us."

Yes the Cowboys do. The real amazing aspect of the offensive game on Saturday in Lawrence is that there were not more penalties for delay of game because often fan-criticized offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich could have easily struggled with coming up with play calls.

The offensive line is having issues run blocking. There were only about a third of the actual called runs (30 it appeared) where the ball carrier cleared the line of scrimmage without being hit or dodging a defender. On the 31 pass attempts by Daxx Garman there were four sacks and three hurries in addition to a forced fumble and five scrambles that did not count as pass attempts. Garman got beat up pretty good.

The Cowboys and Yurcich ran through a decent part of the repertoire that the offense has in its ready playbook for this season, including zone runs, draws, quick pitch, screens, sticks, outs, posts, verticals, flea flicker, and a few more. It's just never pretty when the blocking doesn't hold up and when the quarterback doesn't get through his reads in a faster fashion.

I've seen posts asking for Sione Palelei to come out of redshirt at running back and for freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph to start warming up his arm. The truth of the matter is you can put a lot of good players out there but without a better performance from the offensive line it won't matter.

The emphasis going forward, for now, needs to be on runs that the line blocks best for and that will be quick hitters because slow developing plays right now are a kiss of death, giving the defense time to blow them up. Screen plays could be invaluable as they are the anti-venom to pressure. After seeing the Kansas plan on Saturday the future opponents will be using plenty of it with linebackers and even walking in some safeties. An opposing defense would be foolish not to.

Pass plays with quick progressions for the quarterback to zip through will help as well. You can still throw it deep but mix it up with strong run looks and also some max protect personnel groups that include full house (diamond) backfields or tight ends included.

It also is apparent following Saturday in Lawrence that Tyreek Hill is now going to play almost exclusively at receiver. I like that move as it gives him a better chance for home-run plays than he has at running back.

On the radio broadcast during the Kansas game, I presented early some strategy against the Jayhawks pressure. I call it "run-pass conflict reversed." In "run-pass conflict," as described by our buddy Todd Monken, former OSU offensive coordinator and now head coach at Southern Miss, the offense has the defense so mixed up that they are guessing whether they will run or pass.

In 'run-pass conflict reversed," you let the defense dictate what you do. In run situations, where they crowd the box and bring pressure, you pass and when they back up on second- and third-and-long situations, then you run.

Keep an eye on blitzes like on that third-and-six in the first quarter at the KU 33-yard line on Saturday. KU came with a combination blitz off the edge on each side of the defensive line and Yurcich had a zone call up the middle that popped Roland into wide open spaces for a 33-yard touchdown run.

When you cannot dictate the terms of how you move the football and right now Oklahoma State cannot even come close, then you have to really allow the defense to dictate the terms and take advantage of what they are doing and where they are coming from. A play that anticipates and whether it is a run or a pass goes at where the blitz came from can become a huge explosive play.

It is a lot harder to call plays in "run-pass conflict reversed" but it may be the only way to collect enough explosive plays to win a game against the likes of TCU, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma.

This week against TCU it will be really hard and require some film study for quick decisions and checks. TCU head coach Gary Patterson's 4-2-5 defense really employs an eight-man box with a six-man look as the weak and strong safeties are out of the box but close enough to close quickly.

The defense employs plenty of stunts to further complicate the job for the offensive line. In coverage, Garman will see zero and one, but also the TCU 2-Read, a coverage where the free safety declares a read side and on that side the corner and safety invert responsibilities and allow the free safety to take deep responsibility. A run into that coverage could be productive. X's and O's will be important, but an offensive line that has a sudden and dramatic jolt of improvement would be much more welcomed.

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