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Sunday Review: Blocking, Tackling Were Superb

Oklahoma State was outstanding on both sides of the ball as the Cowboys manhandled the TCU Horned Frogs.

There was a lot to like and not much to cuss or even discuss following Oklahoma State's 31-6 win over TCU on Saturday. You could always criticize the fumble that set up TCU for the first score of the game. Believe me, Barry J. Sanders feels bad enough about that as all you have to see in review is how he lost the ball and then the fight he had in trying to get it back. The football is a funny shape and that can cause problems at times.

The quarterback run game was an issue as Kenny Hill rushed for 91 yards on eight carries while losing 12 yards. His longest run of 40 yards set up TCU for a late first half scoring opportunity that inexplicably the Horned Frogs forgot about him and got too cute with the "wildfrog" formation and Kyle Hicks throwing a pass on fourth down as the Cowboys got the stop. Chalk that up to poor strategy more than great defense. Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer doesn't care, he'll take it either way.

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The best of the Cowboys win came with primo tackling on defense, a quick study and understanding of gap responsibilities and run fits in the new 3-3-5 scheme the Cowboys are employing more and more, and some hustle and well-timed blitz calls. On offense, the blocking was excellent, Mike Yurcich made some excellent calls, and there were some good hustle examples as well.

Tackling was outstanding as there were a few misses, particularly trying to get Kenny Hill down in the backfield but while he escaped one or two there was on all but one play where he was trapped a third and fourth guy to finally get him down. A great example was early in the third period as Spencer dialed up a corner (Cowboy) blitz and Ramon Richards streamed in and blew up the play but missed the tackle that defensive end Tralund Webber finished Hill off. Richards had two tackles that were downfield but did save touchdowns.

In the first half a good pass rush buzzed Hill a bunch and after a few misses defensive tackle Mote Maile and linebacker Justin Phillips picked up the sack credit. The tackling in the open field was good as TCU had few yards after the catch and outside of Hill's 40-yard quarterback keeper they had 38 carries for 105 yards, an average of 2.8-yards a carry.

Run fits and gap control was also a major influence in stopping TCU from doing much on the ground. The Cowboys have always used some three-man front but usually in specialty down and distance situations and not wholesale like they have the last two weeks. However, the defensive linemen, particularly inside didn't enjoy the three-man front and the 3-3-5 as much as the linebackers and secondary. The reason is a three-man front invites lots of double team opportunities and Texas Tech took advantage of them, TCU did some but also ran and chased linebackers too.

The Cowboys run defense fits and covering all gaps was a beautiful thing to watch as inside the tackles or on slow developing run plays there was nothing to be had. Chad Whitener, sore the last two weeks, set the tone with a tackle on Hicks for a three-yard loss on the first play of the game. Oklahoma State had eight tackles for losses and many of those came on first down runs setting up behind the chains scenarios for TCU offensive coordinator and play-caller Doug Meacham.

There were some really good hustle plays throughout the game and some big hits like the Jordan Sterns early hit on John Diarse on a crossing route. Diarse dropped the ball and, believe me few would have caught that ball after being hit like that.

Spencer seemed to dial up some blitzes on third downs that applied pressure when pressure was needed. The blitzes were called and executed without leaving open seams for TCU to take advantage of.

On offense you can start with the blocking as it was good throughout the day. The offensive line was solid and had very few misses, but the first big run by Justice Hill saw Zac Veatch come up the middle in front of Hill and lay out a linebacker. Veatch had a busy day blocking.

On the 19-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, wide receiver Chris Lacy, who had a big enough day catching balls as he had four receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown, came from outside in to tie up a safety and take him out of the play, so after the last tackle he ran through, Chris Carson could kind of high step it into the end zone.

Mason Rudolph's 12-yard touchdown run was littered with good blocks that created the lane that Rudolph shot through untouched for the score. I like watching young Marcus Keyes as he is really improving week to week and taking on some good defensive tackles.

Give Yurcich credit for a tremendous game plan. Let's start with the draw play. TCU is an aggressive pass rush team as they are second in the Big 12 in sacks and they bite hard on pass look. Yurcich had several draws in the game plan including quarterback draw. The draw play averaged over 10 yards a carry in the contest including big runs by Hill, Carson, and Childs. It was masterful and so was the timing of the calls.

Yurcich also had some sneaky good route combinations that he pulled out including a flare and vertical combo to the right side as Jalen McCleskey lined up outside and came back toward the quarterback. Rudolph pump faked McCleskey and went deep to Lacy, who hauled in the pass and then dragged a defender another 10 yards before going down at the TCU 2.

Finally, hustle played a role on offense with several blocks and possession of the ball on the final touchdown drive as Carson lost the ball going down on a two-yard run but center Brad Lundblade followed the play and was there to jump on the ball when it squirted free.

Everybody seemed to stay healthy except for a slight ankle injury to star linebacker Kirk Tucker and he should be fine for the next game against Oklahoma in two weeks.

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