OSU-Pitt: Offensive Pressure Point

Oklahoma State will need to find a way to run the ball against the Pitt Panthers on Saturday.

When Oklahoma State has been at its best offensively the Cowboys have been in the neighborhood of being a balanced offense. There were a couple of seasons under the play calling of head coach Mike Gundy that the Cowboys offense was almost exactly balanced.

Zac Robinson was a dual threat quarterback with an arm that got him into the NFL and the athleticism that kept defenses on guard and provided openings for both the run game and running backs and the passing game. Last season, in lieu of a conventional run game, senior quarterback J.W. Walsh would come in for short yardage and score zone situations and use his legs to help keep defenses off balance.

Mason Rudolph is mobile, but not a dual threat guy. Frankly, he is too important to risk potential big hits landing on him. The offensive line needs to do a better job of keeping him from taking hits in the pocket.

"We have to run the football," head coach Mike Gundy said Monday. "We have to run the football in order to set up the other things we do on offense."  

I would agree and judging by my radio show and the TPT text (Triple Play Texters) lighting up my phone during the show, many of you agree with the head coach. 

Last Saturday, Gundy explained that the run game was given up on too early. Oklahoma State had 70 offensive plays, 45 passes or run passes like jet flips and screens and then 25 true running plays or sacks, there were four of those. The total rushing was 58 yards, but was misleading with minus-29 yards in sack yardage.

Justice Hill had five carries for 31 yards. Chris Carson had a lost yardage play that was not his fault and had eight carries for 27 yards. I thought both those guys deserved more carries, and in hindsight so did offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. 

"Just impatience on my part," Yurcich said immediately after the game. "You know, just seeing guys open and wanting to give them the ball. Just trying to be aggressive and we have to be patient. We're playing some high safety looks, and we just have to do a better job staying patient."

Gundy said the feeling that Yurcich and the offensive staff had was that Central Michigan and quarterback Cooper Rush were controlling the game and the clock by driving and holding onto the ball for long periods of time on their drives. It makes the other side antsy and leads them to try to force the issue for explosive plays, which for OSU are more apt to come in the passing game. 

Quarterback Mason Rudolph is like Gundy, who said he thought the run game was better but it just didn't get enough opportunity.

"It's a week­ by­ week improvement. I think those guys have come a long way from last year and they continue to improve and we've got a couple of young guards in there," Rudolph said focusing on the offensive line. "They're tremendous, physical guys and will continue to grow every week. There's an experience component there with those new guys. As a unit I think they've done great and will continue to improve and be just fine."  

As I reported on Sunday in my tape review I saw nine busts on the offensive line, one was most of the line and it was the Carson run play for a loss that was mentioned earlier in this story. The others were sacks, a pressure, and three run plays, but the blocking was good for a number of run plays. We know that the young freshman Justice Hill looked pretty good.

"He's a great athlete," added Rudolph of Hill. "The first time I saw him, it was one of those 'wow' moments. He's just a really athletic guy and a really nice guy. He's a calm and confident dude. He did a great job of absorbing information and putting it to use in camp. I'm really excited about his development."

I am too. I am also excited about the other backs and each week finding one or two of them to stand out and get more carries and pick up some significant yards. It's too early in the season to abandon the run especially when some of us think there are signs that it really is getting better.  

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