OSU Provides Challenges on the Ground

Surprisingly, this Saturday's contest at Kyle Field is for sole-possession of first place in the Big 12 South. David Sandhop of the Aggie Websider looks at the match-up and discusses the underrated OSU Cowboy rushing attack and how the running game will likely decide this battle for first place

While the focus for the media and the Aggie faithful this week has been on post-game conference comments, VIP letters, and the status of head coach Dennis Franchione, the fact remains that Texas A&M has a football game to play this Saturday. Actually, it's a very important football this Saturday. In fact, it's for sole possession of first place in the Big 12 South.

The Aggies host the Oklahoma State Cowboys and their high-flying, high octane offense. With the strange events in the Big 12 last weekend which resulted in both Oklahoma and Texas sharing the cellar, this Saturday's contest at Kyle Field will determine the early leader in the south division. The loser likely falls out of contention for the title and falls to the middle of the pack.

On paper, the match-up looks to be a shoot-out, with the Cowboys equally successful on the ground (241 yds/gm) and through the air (231 yds/gm) and scoring 88 points in the wins over Texas Tech and Sam Houston State. The Aggies are averaging 425 yards a contest thanks to the dominant rushing attack that is ranked No. 5 in the nation at 267.8 yards a game.

When people think of OSU's offense, the first person that comes to mind is preseason all-American Adarius Bowman. The second person people think of is highly-touted quarterback Bobby Reid. However, Reid has been benched in favor of Zac Robinson, who ironically came into last year's A&M game after an injury to Reid and proceeded to throw three touchdown passes. The quarterback situation has caused a lot of talk and controversy in Stillwater, but that spilled into the national media spotlight when Mike Gundy went on a Dan Hawkins-like tirade about the media's portrayal of Reid and the reasons surrounding his demotion.

But what hasn't been discussed is the Cowboy running game, which has quietly rolled up big numbers and is ranked No. 8 in the nation in yards. Yes, Bowman is a big weapon, and his 31 catches and four touchdowns reflect his playmaking ability. However, Oklahoma State is averaging 231 yards and getting production from the combo running back team of Dantrell Savage and Kendall Hunter.

Although he's missed a couple of games, Savage has 300 yards and is averaging right at 100 yards an outing. Savage came into last year's A&M game and rushed for 134 yards on only 13 carries in what would be his first 100-yard effort of his collegiate career. Hunter has certainly picked up the slack, having gained 359 yards and averaging a bloated 7.6 yards/carry along with three touchdown runs. Throw in Robinson's 253 yards on the ground and the Cowboys have three legitimate running threats that the Aggie defense must find a way to slow down.

Of course, the Aggies have their own three-headed rushing monster in weapons Jorvorskie Lane (62.0 yds/gm), Michael Goodson (67.0 yds/gm), and quarterback Stephen McGee (82.4 yds/gm). Unfortunately, OSU has only given up 100 yards per contest so far in 2007. In their loss at Georgia, the OSU defense did an admirable job limiting the Bulldogs to just 142 yards on the ground. Their weak spot on defense is in the pass, where they give up 342 yards a game. Of course, those numbers are skewed by the pass-happy Red Raiders who collected a whopping 646 yards through the air.

The Aggies will certainly test the OSU rush defense early and often despite the numbers on paper, so that looks to be a big match-up of this game. However, what may prove to be the biggest match-up of the game is the unnoticed and under-appreciated OSU rushing game against the Aggie front six. If the Cowboys can run successfully on A&M, then that sets up the high octane, yet erratic passing game with Robinson and Bowman. However, if A&M can stuff the run and force Robinson to pass from behind the chains, he's subject to making errors, evidenced by his six interceptions so far in just 118 attempts.

While the Cowboys have Bowman and the Aggies have Kerry Franks and Martellus Bennett who are capable of making big plays through the air on Saturday, look for this game to be decided in the trenches for both offensive units. The relative success of the running games will dictate this game. The team that runs the ball better will win.

So while the media fawns over Bowman and the sideline reporters follow the Robinson/Reid saga on Saturday, pay close attention to the rushing performances of Hunter, Savage, Goodson, Lane, and McGee. That's where this game will be decided.

Aggie Digest Top Stories