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Sunday Review: Offensive Line Play Solid

Robert Allen's video review from Oklahoma State's 49-31 victory over Texas shows that there were plenty of positives to take away from the victory.

Four Unsung Blocking Heroes on First Touchdown

I always love to spotlight unsung and unselfish play on a touchdown, especially a rushing touchdown. You think as long as the offensive line means business and the running backs are worth their salt then the run game will go but it takes all 11 players on offense to make the run game go, at least go big, for momentum building chunk run plays like the Cowboys first touchdown against Texas on Justice Hill's 30-yard run, which by the way was the first of 10 chunk plays of 20 yards or more against the Longhorns.

On that play, Cowboy back Zac Veatch is lined up as a wing and he goes forward to get a rolling block on the linebacker, Victor Salako does a good job of pinching in the outside lineman in a four-man Texas defensive front, Jalen McCleskey gets his block out in the slot, and wide receiver Jhajuan Seales obliterated the corner to give Hill the lane up the field where he only had to beat a safety coming over near the 10-yard line. It was great team work and unless you dissect the play you don't realize all that went into the success. 

Offensive Line Solid Game; Salako Shaky Early

I'm getting a little fed up with Oklahoma State fans that refuse to open their eyes and see what is happening on the offensive line. Early in the game, especially the first series, quarterback Mason Rudolph had to do some dancing and quick moving in the pocket, including reverse spinout, to avoid sacks. Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu and Fox Naashon Hughes were giving left offensive tackle Victor Salako trouble.

Salako was leaking some on that first series, but he cleaned it up pretty fast. He also had a holding penalty early that was smart in it kept Rudolph from getting blasted. There were also situations throughout the game where the coverage was good and Rudolph was pressed to improvise because of it, instead on coverage sacks, of which there was one, call them coverage scrambles. 

Now, the middle of the offensive line was solid throughout the game. For those fans that like to make center Brad Lundblade their whipping boy, stop. Lundblade has put together back-to-back really good games. Start with the snaps. Texas had three bad snaps and they were costly, at least two caused bad plays or a penalty (illegal snap) that contributed to a three-and-out. Lundblade is awesome with the snap duties.

The combination of Poona Ford and Paul Boyette inside had three tackles and one tackle for loss. One play in the third quarter, a 23-yard run by Justice Hill, the guard-center-guard combination of Marcus Keyes, Lundbalde and Larry Williams executed as good a wall off of an interior line as you will ever see and they pushed the defensive front some four yards downfield in the process. That was just the prettiest of a lot of well executed plays by the offensive line and the middle of the line.   

Taylor's Day More Than Blocked PATs

The three blocked extra points by the Cowboys were impressive, and Vincent Taylor, who got a helmet sticker from ESPN's College Football Final for his pair of blocked PATs, was deserving. His perfect option pitch to safety Tre Flowers on the two-point defensive conversion off the first block was awesome. Taylor is a Hurricane Katrina refugee who would up in San Antonio and went to Madison High School. In middle school he was with current teammate and eventual Converse Judson High School standout Tre Flowers. 

"That was our middle school connection, me and Tre," Taylor said when asked if he ever played any option quarterback. "Me and Tre worked on that in middle school. I never played any quarterback, but if coach Gundy wants to put me in the backfield, then I'm ready for that." 

Taylor was referring to the Cactus Bowl a couple of seasons ago when defensive tackle James Castleman both scored a rushing touchdown and caught a pass out of the backfield for a big gain against Washington in OSU's 30-22 win.

Gundy will leave him where he is for now because the production in more than the blocked kicks, he has three this season. In the Texas win, Taylor finished with three tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hurry. He also had several plays where his penetration into the Texas backfield ran the quarterback or running back right into another Cowboy defender on the outside. His sack was a meeting at the quarterback with defensive end Vili Leveni.  

Barry J. and Lacy Blocks Key for Washington Score

Just like the blocks on the first touchdown run by Hill, the second touchdown on a pass from Rudolph to James Washington for a catch and run of 54 yards to the score was highlighted by a pair of blocks. This time credit Barry J. Sanders with the first block at about the hash as Washington crossed the field following the catch and then as he turned up the north sideline for the score he was freed by a block from Chris Lacy. Later in the game Lacy was the beneficiary of the some big blocks on several hitch and deeper routes to him. 

Texas Touchdown Passes Directly Tied to Big Running Backs

If you were ever looking for an example of how a running game that is in the process of gashing a defense can lead to big plays in the passing game then all you needed to see was the Texas offense in the first half. The touchdown pass from Sahne Buechele to Dorian Leonard that got reversed and placed back at the 2-yard line correctly and the touchdown pass from Buechele to tight end Andrew Beck for 39 yards both caught the safety too far up to help on the play as Jordan Sterns was the man getting caught with his eyes in the Texas backfield. But how could they not have been as Texas ran for 205 yards on 28 carries in the first half. 

If you needed any further evidence of one part of the offense feeding the other then the halftime ultimatum of defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is all you need. "Stop the run, the power, zone and stop the load and you win this game," Spencer told his defense.

Welcome to a Bigger Role Keenen Brown

The injury to slot receiver Dillon Stoner caused Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to put on his creative cap along with the offensive staff of Kasey Dunn, Marcus Arroyo, Jason McEndoo, and Greg Adkins. They came up with several answers to fill in for Stoner, who had played in every game. One of the solutions was Keenen Brown. Yes, Brown had moved to Cowboy back from receiver because of his blowing up in the weight room and his added size. 

However, Brown is still a receiver at heart and runs good routes and has good hands. While he may not be as fast as Stoner, he is still tough to bring down at 6-3, 242 pounds. He showed some of that and he showed some speed on Saturday. His blocking has improved and he looks like a potential major contributor throughout the rest of the season. 

Blitz Pick-ups

Most of the Cowboy backs and running backs are pretty good at it, but Justice Hill, the freshman, is still learning how to pick up opposing blitzes. It is not as easy as it looks as Saturday the Texas Longhorns defense was bringing blitzes from all corners, the middle of the front and from all positions. Some came at the snap and some of the most effective blitzes were delayed. I counted Texas blitzing from seven different positions on the field. 

Defensive Line and Linebacker Thinning Out

The Oklahoma State defensive line is thinning out. All the tackles are still around making for a lot of potential depth, but with defensive end Jordan Brailford out and not likely back soon with a leg injury and Jarrell Owens missing virtually all of the Texas game with a slight injury there are two tackles doing double duty at defensive end. Vili Leveni and Trey Carter are listed as defensive tackles as they are both athletic and quick enough to play some end and they are doing that right now. Leveni started opposite Cole Walterscheid, who is having a strong season. Tralund Webber, a junior college standout from Blinn C.C., is also getting a lot of snaps.

At linebacker, "star" linebacker Jordan Burton may miss some time. Kirk Tucker played some there against the Longhorns and freshman Calvin Bundage played most of the second half at the key position and held up pretty good with three tackles, all unassisted. 

Zach Crabtree is Leading

I only saw two plays in the entire game where it was obvious that offensive tackle Zach Crabtree made either a physical or mental bust. He is consistent and he is mobile for being 6-7, 310 pounds. He was often out on the perimeter on some of the screens and quick game passes. 

What I like most is that when an Oklahoma State player from Rudolph to freshman running back Justice Hill went out of bounds on the Texas sideline Crabtree was there to either pick them up, give them an escort out of enemy territory, or both. You want Zach Crabtree on your side. 

McCleskey's Play is Shining

When Jalen McCleskey goes home to take time off he plays football. That's right. McCleskey's father, J.J., is known throughout Louisiana as the former University of Tennessee standout and member of the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints in the NFL. He teaches skill position football to a lot of the top young players in the state, and that would include Jalen. A football player that thinks as well as physically reacts, Jalen was awesome against Texas and his moves and increased strength were needed in the 36-yard and 52-yard touchdown passes against Texas.

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