Scary? Absolutely, as the Oklahoma State Cowboys take their unbeaten 3-0 record against somewhat suspect competition, although check out the fact that Central Michigan went to Syracuse and lost 30-27 in overtime in the Carrier Dome and remember that before setting up their showdown of unbeaten's this coming Saturday and hosting ESPN Gameday, the Arizona Wildcats had to fight and scratch to hang on and score two defensive touchdowns to take out UTSA 42-32.
Okay, enough for the defense of the Cowboys nonconference schedule. The chore now is keeping the sleeping giant down in Texas. It has been a long slumber for the Longhorns bu they showed signs of waking up under head coach Charlie Strong last week in coming back from 21 points down in the late third quarter and and fourth quarter on the legs of run/pass redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, the same Jerrod Heard that succeeded current Oklahoma State short yardage and score zone quarterback J.W. Walsh in playing for Walsh's dad, John, at Denton Guyer High School.
Walsh helped tutor Heard and he may have pulled an Apollo Creed and taught this young Rocky too good. Last week Heard destroyed the Texas single game total offense record with 527 yards. There were 364 yards through the air with Daje Johnson and Armanti Foreman each with big catches.
On the ground there was a polarizing 163 yards that almost always saw Heard coming back through the middle of the field and a vacated extended box that he used to gather himself and plot his moves downfield. It was space to help Heard create more space and that dangerous and often times no man's land needs to be patrolled and kept from becoming a staging area for big runs by Heard.
It starts up front, according to head coach Mike Gundy and Cowboys sack leader Emmanuel Ogbah.
"It changes your rush lanes and your contain lanes a little bit," the Cowboys head coach analyzed. "At times, you have to have somebody responsible for him. He's obviously very active. We haven't gotten that far, though. We just got started. By the middle of the week, we'll have a plan in place. We'll do everything we can to try and contain him and try to limit some of the big runs and big plays that he's been able to get."
"I need to be under control and not get too far upfield," Ogbah added. "I did that a couple of times in the opener at Central Michigan and I need to be under control and watch the space that we (defensive end Jimmy Bean) allow the quarterback."
Heard is bound to leak out but as opposed to the outside that he often used against Cal last Saturday I think it will be lanes up the middle that he will find against Oklahoma State. Defensive tackles Vincent Taylor, Motekiai Maile, and Darrion Daniels are athletic and will have a chance, but the linebackers from Ryan Simmons and Chad Whitener in the middle to Seth Jacobs and "star" Jordan Burton need to keep an eye toward the box.
Tre Flowers is the Cowboys strong safety and as much as he would like to crash that party in the extended box, he knows he can't.
"I have to stay disciplined and like Coach (Glenn) Spencer says I have to stay on my receiver and keep my eyes right," Flowers said. "I know that he may not stay back there long and may run out but I have to wait until I am sure that he is downfield and running."
In the end that is what makes it very difficult. Texas will run good tacklers out of the play with routes. If those good tacklers don't cover then it's a burn through the air although Heard still lacks real sharpness and accuracy in his downfield passing. If those tacklers stay locked on then the roller coaster begins once Heard tucks the ball and looks for daylight, often in that vast middle area that we have dwelled on.
"What's scary about this situation is that you could have it all right, you could have that extra guy, but it's always tough to have that extra guy," defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. "If you're trying to have an extra guy for the quarterback, than you're giving up something else. There are no guarantees that you can make a play, which is scary. The guy can beat you at any time. He could make you look foolish."
The goal is not to look foolish and the even greater goal is to not let Heard go off and help the Horns wake up with a win over the Cowboys. A huge key to that is not to leave that hole in the middle of the defense.