Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has said since the beginning of the season that Oklahoma State is not going to give up on the run. He has stood by that word and against Pittsburgh the running attack with Rennie Childs' 102 rushing yards and 67-yard big play run showed that improvement was being made.
Even with the 35-24 loss on Saturday in Waco to the Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Conference opener the proof was there again, even more substantial. Freshman Justice Hill had two critical fumbles but Hill rushed for 122 yards and he did both inside and outside on a 38-yard run sprung by a hook block from right tackle Zach Crabtree. Childs and quarterback Mason Rudolph also had big runs during the contest.
Both Baylor and Texas primarily use a three-man front defensively, but there is a difference in the three-men up front as Texas uses 6-6, 254-pound Charles Omenihu at defensive end, 6-3, 317-pound Paul Boyette at defensive tackle and Poona Ford, a 5-11, 303-pound stout nose guard. The pressure point for the Cowboys will be the guard to guard portion of the offensive line with redshirt freshman Marcus Keyes at left guard, junior center Brad Lundblade, and right guard Larry Williams.
"They're very similar to what we've seen in the past," Gundy said of the Texas offensive line. "A lot of their guys up front are strong and they have a lot of speed on the perimeter. They've been this way every year. In the years they've won a lot of games, even going back to when Coach (Mack) Brown was there. The personnel that they play with is very rarely undersized at any position. They're 300-pound guys that move well and that's the situation that we're facing this week."
Gundy expressed his evaluation that Williams and Keyes have helped the Oklahoma State offensive line since they moved into the starting lineup, Keyes over the fall camp and Williams right on the eve of the opener. He also said that duo has a long way to go. I think they both made strides in Waco and hopefully, are ready to make more Saturday morning against Texas.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich knows the two guards, the entire offensive line and the entire offense has a big chore.
"They're very well coached," Yurcich said of Texas. "They have six returning starters so they have experience and some talent. They can rush the passer very well and they're doing pretty well in the sack category. They have a lot of different fronts, a lot of different coverages, different blitz packages as well and they do a lot of things to disguise their looks. It's a challenge going against Texas and everything that they do, so you have to be able to prepare your guys and make sure your package is complete against every situation and every look you're going to get."
Texas wasn't very happy with its defense following the 50-43 loss at California. Head coach Charlie Strong spoke of changes in the open week, so the question begged of to Yurcich, what is he expecting?
"They've been a little bit different," Yurcich started of an answer that implies Texas changes on defense quite a bit. "They'll have a blitz of the week or a package of the week and they'll scheme you based on the game plan. That's what they've shown in the past. You have to be able to anticipate that, look at last year's film and see how they defended us and pick up on things we could do better, and also it's very important to have flexibility within the game plan. To be able to adjust on the run and recognize, communicate the necessary adjustments is really key."
Maybe the most important factor is back to not getting away from the run, and Yurcich went deeper as in not getting away from the run inside despite that stout Texas front.
"They are very good at defending the inside run," added Yurcich. "They're stout up front and their structures and fronts take away a lot of inside runs, whether they are gap schemes or zones. They do a great job from the interior standpoint and where they've been hurt is the outside run, but when you get them stretched, it's time to attack them on the inside. You can't be exclusive or have one dimensional type runs."
You have to be physical, you have to block, and the running backs have to run really hard because behind that defensive front is talented middle linebacker Malik Jefferson.