It's a pressure point that goes both ways this week as Oklahoma State and Baylor will both look to run the ball but the big chunk plays that both offenses feed off of for high emotion and momentum often come through the passing game.
Baylor quarterback Seth Russell has a big arm and some lightning quick receivers in the prolific K.D. Cannon and former track standout Chris Platt. This week the Bears welcome back suspended (mistreating a dog) receiver Ishmael Zamora. You have to hope the Cowboys secondary are all dog lovers. I honestly, believe they are.
This is the offensive version of pressure point and the Bears, who had three new starters in the secondary last week at Rice, have one of the best defensive backs in the Big 12 in strong safety Orion Stewart. Stewart has 10 tackles and two picks on the season, that is two of the three Baylor interceptions. Deep safety Davion Hall has started all three games and has 20 tackles and the other interception by the Bears defense.
In the Rice game, Travon Blanchard, an experienced junior, started at the nickel back in the Baylor 3-4-5. Sophomore Verkedric Vaughns and senior Tion Wright started at the corners. The Bears secondary is good but they will have to deal with a group of Oklahoma State receivers that broke out eight ways to Saturday to kind of take liberty with a common phrase.
James Washington caught nine passes for 296 yards and a pair of touchdowns to win national and Big 12 honors for the weekend. There were still big plays to pass around for Chris Lacy, Austin Hays, Jalen McCleskey, and the hero at the end in senior Jhajuan Seales.
"We are as talented as anybody on the perimeter and those guys are going to make plays," offensive tackle Zach Crabtree bragged when asked. "They make plays every game. I have all the faith in the world in those guys. We all do."
Head coach Mike Gundy talked about the importance of the other guys besides Washington. Gundy elaborated on how when you have a stellar receiver you have to have those other guys to keep defenses from working a bracket around Washington. Someone else that understands that is quarterback Mason Rudolph.
"I think he's really progressed, even though you saw him make those same kind of plays during his freshman year," Rudolph said of Washington. "He's gotten stronger, added some weight and really worked on the finer details of his game. He's a guy that's hungry and is always looking for that one or two percent to make himself that much better.
"I think seeing him out there makes us much more balanced," Rudolph answered when asked about the receivers as the group and Seales in particular. "He makes defenses respect both sides of the field. It just makes the whole field much more balanced, and it's not just those two guys (Washington and Seales). The whole group with (Austin) Hays, (Jalen) McCleskey, (Dillon) Stoner and all those guys are doing a great job and just making plays."
With Baylor's experience and play-making ability in the secondary you have to hit all over the field. You have to look for the best windows and you have to take great care of the football. Rudolph will remember from his very first college start in the rain in Waco at the same McLane Stadium that interceptions fuel the Baylor offense, but those long passes that the Cowboys used to bury a stout defense last Saturday in Pittsburgh are needed to fuel the Cowboys offense.
Crabtree's job is to protect Rudolph so he can use his arm to connect with those receivers in order to attack the perimeter. Just as he has confidence in the receivers, Crabtree is really solid on the quarterback and knows he has come a long way since his first trip to Waco.
"Just more experience, obviously," Crabtree started with his reasoning. "He's grown in some areas, but he is just a more mature player. He has a different mental approach now. He's grown up in some areas. He's just older, I guess. As we get older, we get wiser. He's just all around gotten better as a player."
Rudolph will need to be better, as will those receivers, and Baylor needs to feel they are under attack on the perimeter on Saturday night if the Cowboys are to fly home happy from Waco. Of course, this week on the perimeter, the pressure goes both ways. We'll discuss that Tuesday night with our defensive pressure point.