Sunday Review: Run Game Is Better

What did we learn from Oklahoma State's season-opening victory over Southeastern Louisiana?

Coming out of the 61-7 win by the 19th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys over Southeastern Louisiana I'll be the first, maybe the 1,001st, to say that you can't tell a whole lot. The game got sideways early starting with the muffed punt that Madre Harper alertly jumped on in the end zone for a touchdown.

From that point on the gifts were earned as you could see defensive end Cole Walterscheid strip the ball from the Lions quarterback to set up the second score. Later it was Devante Averette in the early third quarter again stripping the ball and then did a heckuva move to tap the ball and keep it in play and allow Ramon Richards to catch the toss and run it into the end zone. 

I had reported many times during camp and leading up to the opener and even in my key matchups and prediction for the game that I thought the Oklahoma State defense was improved, had a chance to be dominant, and could easily be the heavy portion of this team. Honestly, they were all that and more. Now, the competition was such that they should have been. The defense set up one score and got another. In the first half, first- or second-team defenders held Southeastern to 74 yards as a third-team defense came in during the second quarter and allowed the 51-yard touchdown drive.

Three fumbles forced and recovered by the defense. There might have been an interception and pick six too. New graduate senior cornerback Lenzy Pipkins had a run through on an out route in the second quarter that if he had started it one step earlier would have been a pick and an untouched run to the end zone instead of an impressive break up.

There were three sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Sophomore defensive tackle Darrion Daniels may have had the hit of the game when he got blocked but still freed up and came hard down the line to spin D'Shaie Landor for no gain and an impressive spin around big hit tackle.

Chad Whitener had some impressive stops. Inside, Vincent Taylor was active and Walterscheid, Jarrell Owens, and Trey Carter made good plays from defensive end. Jordan Burton, Kevin Henry, Averette, Justin Phillips, and even freshman Calvin Bundage made plays at linebacker.

It is hard to be unhappy with the defense.

On offense, Mason Rudolph showed a propensity to rescue plays as his first touchdown pass came on an improvised reverse out after Barry J. Sanders went the wrong way for the play fake. Give Sanders credit as he made a good block allowing Rudolph to hit the open Jhajuan Seales. Rudolph's last touchdown pass was another improvised effort that may have been even more impressive than the earlier one.

Cowboy back Blake Jarwin had a big catch, and Austin Hays had several impressive move-the-chains receptions. I thought freshman Dillon Stoner showed up well with his two catches. James Washington had a couple of uncharacteristic drops. The first had the ball behind him a little. The second was a tad too high but really should have been caught. Washington will be fine.

What everybody wants to know about is the offensive line. I thought the first group was pretty good as there were some really good holes. Southeastern Louisiana did not load the box as much as first thought. They really came back and copied some of the rush three, drop eight looks that opponents used against OSU late last year and with Mississippi in the Sugar Bowl.

On the first series that ended in a punt, Chris Carson had an eight-yard carry on a draw and credit Cowboy back Zac Veatch with a springing block on the play. The next series, freshman Justice Hill had a seven-yard carry where there was a unified surge by the offensive line. On the 14-yard touchdown run by Carson, Zach Crabtree had a big block on the right edge as Carson worked his way over and displayed some tough running to push into the end zone.

On the biggest run play of the day for Rennie Childs, a 25-yard carry, Crabtree was in play again, this time pulling from right to left and opening up the hole, one of the bigger holes on the day. On Barry J. Sanders' one-yard touchdown run, check out Brad Lundblade as he mashes the nose guard into the end zone and really punishes him.

Victor Salako at left tackle played well and watch Marcus Keys because he is truly a difference maker and is so consistent at blocking his man, at least he was on Saturday.

Overall, I thought that Hill had the best initial explosion and was consistent in his six carries for 33 yards. Carr led the rushers with six carries for 42 yards and he used his explosion and speed for a 26-yard gain, the longest of the day as he went behind the right side.

Sanders had just the four carries but showed up on his reception and punt returns. I thought Carson and Childs both ran well. I don't think anybody separated from the pack of the five backs in the opener.

There were 24 carries in the game by running backs and they gained 114 yards. That comes out to 4.75 yards a carry, much of that in the period of the game where the OSU starters were in and so were the Southeastern first teamers. That is an improvement even when comparing to the Central Arkansas game last season, a team of similar ilk when the Cowboy running backs averaged 4.58 yards per carry with 29 carries for 133 yards. It's not huge and, honestly, it is far from a real evaluation, but it is the start.

Central Michigan will represent a jump in competition and last year the Cowboys rushed for 153 yards on 35 carries (all rushers) and averaged 4.37 yards a carry. The barometer of improvement will continue to next Saturday.

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