OSU-Iowa State: Matchups & Prediction

Current Oklahoma State offensive tackle Charlie Johnson probably hasn't missed his old position of tight end. If Johnson were still there he'd be less noticeable than he has been at tackle so far this season. There were complaints a year ago that Les Miles, a former tight end coach at the Dallas Cowboys, let Billy Bajema and Johnson's talents go wasted. Bajema, now with the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL had just 20 receptions and Johnson added just five for a total of 25.

The plan was for talented redshirt freshman Brandon Pettigrew and sophomore Paschal Smith to have a greater impact in the new spread offense. Pettigrew is considered athletic enough to split out of the spread formation. Through six games the duo has combined for just seven receptions for 87 yards. Blocking has been their biggest contribution.

"A lot of it stems from how they do blocking," said tight ends coach Doug Meacham. "We've kind of struggled early in our blocking and we are starting to get more confidence in our blocking and what we do up front. Some of that goes unnoticed at times. That and catching the football, and running around. The running game has done better because of what we've done on the ground. I think we're doing a better job blocking and that spills into our receiving game as well."

Last week Pettigrew had a couple of catches, and says he has gained confidence and is ready for a greater role catching passes.

"Defintiely, for me it's (confidence) building," said Pettigrew. "I'm trying to work harder and harder everyday to do what I can to help the offense. Not just me but all the tight ends."

"When you're young like Brandon every rep is important, and now he's starting to see things on film that will help him on the field," Meacham said when asked about Pettigrew.

With the revolving door at quarterback, and it looks like Al Pena will make his second start, the tight ends could provide a warm security blanket for Pena and for the injured Bobby Reid when his foot injury allows his return. Pettigrew is 6-5, 255 and Smith is 6-4, 270.

"When you see a big target, a guy that can swallow the ball up with his body, post up, and move the chains it is a security blanket for them (quarterbacks)," said Meacham.

" I definitely see us becoming a more important part of the offense," added Pettigrew. "More of a bigger factor because we are learning more with all these routes. We are learning more and more and starting to get into a groove."

While the tradition doesn't match that of "Tailback U" there is a strong tradition for tight ends at OSU from Ruben Gant through Barry Hanna to Alonzo Mayes to Marcellus Rivers. Pettigrew and Smith each have a chance to become a part of that tradition, but you have to throw them the ball. Ames, Iowa may be a good place to do it.

OSU–ISU Key Matchups
OSU Defensive Line vs. ISU Offensive Line

This is straight out of our meeting with Cowboy defensive coordinator Vance Bedford - he believes Iowa State has talent, but more than that a strong work ethic on the offensive line. The defensive line from XLK (Xavier Lawson-Kennedy) and Ryan McBean inside, to the defensive ends have to win one-on-one battles and stop Cyclone running backs Greg Coleman, Jason Harris, and designated touchdown scorer Ryan Kock before they get started rolling downhill. They also need to make Bret Meyer throw the ball early, or at least on time, when he does he will throw some to the other side with a 7-to-5 interception to touchdown ratio. Let Meyer dictate the process and he is capable of chewing a defense up. Hands up are also a good idea as many of Meyer's throws are of the short variety out to the flat. The Cyclones are looking to get into a rhythm of four yards a play. When they get into that pattern they will gradually chew you and the clock up.

OSU Cornerbacks vs. ISU Wide Receivers
It goes back to the pattern of four yards a play, with wide receivers like 6-5 Todd Blythe, 6-4 Jon Davis and 6-1 flanker Austin Flynn. They all know they will have the height advantage and they will run those flat routes, reach up and make the grab. If you tackle them it is a four-yard gain. But if you miss they will go for 15 or 20 yards, if not more. The corners, at the minimum, must make the tackles and keep Iowa State to four yards. A better option is to get up and knock the ball away. Daniel McLemore has proven very good at timing hits, and at 5-7 that may be his best option as a speeding bullet to the midsection. The best of all options is to catch a lazy throw and pick it off. Miss the ball and miss the receiver and the Cowboys are in trouble.

OSU Running Game vs. ISU Defensive Front
Iowa State is pretty good against the run as the Cyclones allow just 106 yards a game rushing. Oklahoma State is running the ball much better the past two weeks and now averages 152 yards a game. Tailback Michael Hamilton is really improving as he looked the best of the season last week with 12 carries for 97 yards, including a spectacular 38-yard run. OSU isn't good enough to beat anybody strictly through the air, so they will have to run the ball. All things being equal, especially turnovers, the team that comes closest to its average - Iowa State on rushing defense and OSU on rushing offense - will likely win the game. There matchup is a good barometer of how the game is going at any point in the contest. Running the ball takes the pressure and heat off of Pena at quarterback.

D'Juan Woods vs. ISU Cornerbacks
The Cyclones are a man-to-man team for the most part with cover one, cover two and cover four making up the majority of calls in the secondary. DeAndre Jackson and LeMarcus Hicks are solid players, but D'Juan Woods is anxious to get deep again. If he has the chance to go mano-a-mano with either Jackson or Hicks it could be interesting. A home run ball or two would be very nice to get on the road. Woods is capable, so if Iowa State plays plenty of cover one look out.

Two key areas for Oklahoma State to show improvement in are rushing defense and turnovers. Take even the blowout loss last Saturday to Texas A&M. If OSU cut down the rushing yards in half from 399 yards to 200, and then cut down the turnovers from seven to two that game becomes a close contest with the Cowboys having a chance to win. I believe both teams will help accomplish the first objective. Iowa State, even with an athletic quarterback in Bret Meyer, doesn't run the ball as well as Missouri or Texas A&M. The Cowboys, especially if they get linebacker Lawrence Pinson back in the middle, will shore up their run defense. The second objective is up to the Cowboys, and in particular quarterback Al Pena. Pena says he learned many lessons from the tape of the A&M game. If he did then turnovers should be under control. A third and important factor is getting off to a good start and developing some confidence for the rest of the day. If the Cowboys turn around those three areas then they could have a nice celebratory ride home. I predict a game that comes down to the wire.
Oklahoma State 27, Iowa State 24

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