RA's Analysis: 'Rushing' To Judgment

OSU lost to Texas 38-35 in heart-stomping fashion for a variety of reasons, one being what the head coach has repeated the past several weeks. There was the missed field goals, missed opportunities on offense, and giving up big plays on defense. However, the Cowboys lost control of the game because they couldn't run the ball.

Despite racking up 300-plus rushing yards against Texas Tech, Nebraska and Kansas State the Cowboys still had not proven they could run the football when the other team was expecting it. A lot of teams run the football well, but championship teams run the football when everybody in the stadium, including the opposing defense, is expecting it. Teams that are bound for conference championship games and BCS bowl games can tell the defense where they are going to run it and then punch them in the mouth and do it.

"Our offensive line is just playing average," said Gundy repeatedly the past several weeks to media that refused to believe it.

"Coach, how can you say that?" asked reporters that simply looked at numbers like the 329 yards against K-State or the 317 yards at Nebraska. Heck, the 200 yards on the road and in defeat at Texas A&M looked pretty salty as well.

"We are still not good enough to run the ball successfully when they are expecting it," Gundy said as recently as last Monday in previewing the Texas game. "We're getting there and we're going to continue to work on it."

It must stink to be so prophetic. I know it does because the hurt in Gundy's eyes matched that of his players. This loss cut deep.

First, it felt so different from the past meltdowns against Texas. In the previous Longhorn comebacks the tide turned much earlier. In 2004 with the touchdown drive right before halftime that gave Texas momentum going into the halftime locker room. In 2005 it came early in the third quarter when "Superman" Vince Young went 80 yards before Donovan Woods came down after biting on the pump fake.

This time, carrying a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter it felt like Texas couldn't get it. There was no early celebrating and no quitting, but there was a comfortable confidence that this one would stay bright orange rather than turn dingy brown. It did turn and a big reason it turned was Oklahoma State couldn't run the football.

There are many people out there that think yards are yards. They're not, check Texas Tech's record. They win a lot of games, but not the championship variety and not against the better opponents. Passing yards are pretty and they provide points, but rushing yards control a game.

The greatest coach of all time, Vince Lombardi, built his dynasty around one play, the Packer sweep. Teams knew it was coming, but they couldn't stop it. Run the football whenever and wherever you want and you will win championships, provided you are decent enough in the other areas like defense, special teams, and on offense, have a decent passing game. With an unstoppable running game, you control the clock, the chains, the scoreboard, the football world.

Dantrell Savage is a great back that makes a lot of yards when they aren't there. Kendall Hunter is good, and the once forgotten Keith Toston is very handy now that he's back to holding on tight to the ball. None of them can do it without blocking. The Cowboys ran for 116 yards in the first half against a defense that has averaged allowing only 94 yards rushing in complete games. They added 219 yards passing for a halftime total of 335 yards.

However, in the second half while the passing yards stayed virtually the same with 211 yards, the rushing yards shrank down to a paltry 48 yards. Give the Texas defense credit, they deserve it. It wasn't for lack of trying, but a young offensive line, three sophomores, a first-year starting junior, and a lone senior, isn't there yet against a team like Texas. With a 21-point lead going to the fourth quarter an unstoppable running game guarantees victory.

Quarterback Zac Robinson had a school record 430 yards passing in the game and tight end Brandon Pettigrew had what every fan seemed to want, a career-high with eight catches for 87 yards. Those are great, but another 100 yards rushing and the Cowboys are still tied for the Big 12 South lead and in complete control of their championship destiny.

So as you continue to discuss areas you want to see the Cowboys improve in -- defense, special teams, etc. -- go ahead and include that offense. The numbers are good but a few more tough yards on the ground will make the difference down the stretch.

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