OSU-Pitt: Defensive Pressure Point

The Oklahoma State front seven, including middle linebacker Chad Whitener, will be challenged by the Pittsburgh running game featuring James Conner.

The funk has permeated all of Stillwater and Payne County as Oklahoma State fans are still teetering between incensed and wanting to file an injunction at the courthouse to that victim feeling and wanting to seek counseling for being mentally abused by the combination of MAC officials and a Big 12 replay crew.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, the defensive staff, and the Cowboys defenders cannot waste time this week on hurt feelings or anger at targets they can't hit. They can focus any anger and all their preparation on targets they can hit and ones that will darn sure hit them.

"We've got a good football team that will be in here Saturday," Gundy said on Monday of the unbeaten Pitt Panthers, who vanquished their arch-rival Penn State 42-39 last Saturday playing at the same time Oklahoma State had its controversial loss to Central Michigan. "In preseason and as we've looked at them a little bit, we've felt like they're a team that should be ranked in the top 25 with what they have returning.

"They have two running backs, a quarterback, a number of defensive guys, several potential NFL players. Their kicker is back. They've got a good kicker. They have a good coaching staff, a very sound football team. They've played well so far this year, so it will be a real challenge for us in a lot of different areas. Obviously we're going to have to stop the run because they're going to want to run the football with their coach's history. We kind of know what our past is and the direction we're going, so we've got to have a good week of practice and play well on Saturday."

Gundy has had some of his best weeks as head coach preparing after losses and driving straight into good opponents. This scenario qualifies, for sure.

The pressure point on defense aims at an Oklahoma State strength with the defensive front – those six defensive tackles that can all play, young athletic defensive ends, veteran and energetic linebackers like Jordan Burton, Chad Whitener, and the extra effort Devante Averette.

Oklahoma State is 19th in the country in rushing defense allowing 77 yards a game. Pitt is 44th in rushing offense at 213.5 yards a game. Pitt has added some jet action and some triple-option action with the shovel pass as an option. However, make no mistake, Pitt lives and dies by running the ball right at you with the intention of bloodying your nose and making you roll over and submit to getting beat by their power. They beat Villanova 28-7 in the opener and then last week hammered Penn State. They run at you to demoralize your defense. 

"Robert, they're going to run the football," added Gundy. "That world they live in, they pride themselves in it. I've lived in the world with Les (Miles). 'We're going to knock you off the ball, we're going to pound you, we're going to hurt you.'

"They want to run the clock and I think they were 117th last season in the country in plays per game, meaning tempo. That's the world they live in and they are pretty good at it. Their backs are good, the quarterback is more than capable, and they have two linemen that I think will be in the NFL."

"From what I've seen watching them on video, they are a very physical team," middle linebacker Chad Whitener added. "James Conner is a very physical back, one cut and then he'll run you over. They have big, physical linemen. They do what they are built to do (run the football)."

In this day of more finesse and so much spread, no-huddle, tempo, air-raid, and attack the perimeter style of football does anybody remember good old-fashioned physical football? I guarantee you that less than half the teams in the country still use the "Oklahoma drill" in practice. Oklahoma State calls it the "Cowboy drill" where a blocker and ball carrier line up against a defender inside two blocking dummies creating a small alley. A good drill to prepare for this week. 

I love to watch this style of football. In my day it was pretty fun to play as a linebacker. How about the Cowboys? How about the modern day linebacker? I like Whitener's answer.

"I'm excited about it. I'm really looking forward to getting my nose in there and striking people," Whitener said. "I think it will be a really fun game for me just going and running around and hitting. That's why you play football."  

It's also why all of us should look forward to watching on Saturday.

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