Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has been telling a story a lot this week about how his 12-year-old son Gage was with him at the office on Sunday watching video on the computer of the Cowboys 49-31 win over Texas. You see Gage has his own football games on Saturday, so he doesn't always get to see all of the Oklahoma State games in person.
Gundy said his son was watching one of Justice Hill's big runs and instead of commenting on the run he pointed out to his dad the block that Chris Lacy made putting a Longhorn defender on the ground. Gage Gundy said Lacy was really sticking it to Texas. His dad said on his radio call-in show on Tuesday evening it looked like Lacy wanted Texas to know what they missed by not recruiting him.
The Lacy story is just an example of how Oklahoma State's run game has come around because of a lot of factors. It also is an aspect of the Cowboys attack that needs to be in high gear on Saturday. Iowa State has weapons on offense and between the two quarterbacks that are playing, three quality receivers that are making plays, and Lawton-native and Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year last season at running back Mike Warren, the Cyclones can score some points.
On defense, they can't stop the run, at least they haven't stopped it so far this season. Northern Iowa rushed for 256 yards, Iowa only gained 212 yards, TCU ran for 237, San Jose State got 208, and Baylor hit the mother-lode with 475 rushing yards. Iowa State is 123rd in the nation in rushing defense allowing an average of 261 yards a game.
"There's no such thing as a trap game. We have to play every game like it's our last," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich responded when asked if Iowa State was a trap game.
No, it's a momentum game for the team, for the offense, and for the running attack that has been yearning to bust out and is very close after having three 100-yard plus rushers in a row, the last two weeks Justice Hill.
"Another tremendous game, obviously, statistically. He still has room to improve, still has a couple of bad reads in there and can even get better," Yurcich said of the freshman runner and two-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week. "He has a tremendous work ethic and did a great job protecting and securing the football, so I'm excited about him and how much more he can grow and how much better he can become. It's very encouraging.
"You have to play your best ball, and that's the goal – to prepare yourself regardless of who you're playing," Yurcich continued. "It's a challenge to bring out the best in everybody as individuals and then collectively as a whole."
Nowhere is that confidence building game by game more than in the offensive line where center Brad Lundblade accepted congratulations and agree that the often criticized guard-to-guard area of the offensive line had their best game of the season against Texas.
The confidence gained from mashing an opponent is there for the taking this Saturday as Iowa State's defensive line has been a major issue in stopping the run, but Lundblade prefers to focus on what he and his offensive line teammates can do and not what troubles an opponent has been having.
"You can't treat anybody lightly," Lundblade said of Iowa State. "We feel like these last couple games we've really been able to get into a rhythm running the football. As an offensive lineman it's a lot of fun to play downhill, get guys moving, and make holes for those guys. It's a lot of fun.
"Anytime as an offensive lineman that we can open up holes for those guys and create big plays it's a lot of fun. I think (Zach) Crabtree is right on point. We have always been confident, but to get into a rhythm the last couple games and really open up holes and see big runs is a lot of fun," Lundblade added.
Fun is running the ball over and over again and knowing the defense can't stop it. It's the kind of fun Oklahoma State hasn't experienced for awhile. They have been close, but this Saturday would be a good time to jump that confidence up to a whole new level.
The opportunity is there, but they had best prepare for it and seize it. Iowa State is looking to change its fortune and Oklahoma State would represent a trophy win for new head coach Matt Campbell and his staff. If the Cowboys run the ball at will that win will have to wait and the Cowboys confidence in running the football won't.