Robert Allen is the Senior Editor of GoPokes.com, which does an outstanding job covering Oklahoma State here on the Scout.com network. He took time out of his busy schedule, which also includes stints on the OSU radio network, to take us inside the Cowboy program and its preparations for West Virginia.
Q: Has there been a steady arc of improvement for the Oklahoma State offensive line this season? Where would you grade the line right now in terms of overall production?
Allen: Let's answer the back end of the question first, I would give the offensive line a C+ for their work so far this season. They get some credit for the steady improvement in the running attack, but you have to also credit the ability and the explosion of freshman running back Justice Hill. Hill has a 42-inch vertical and that’s a lot of leg-popping explosion. I also like the way Chris Carson came back from injury last week with a solid rushing effort and two touchdowns and another touchdown on a specialty of his, the catch out of the backfield.
As for the progress line of the offensive line, you can’t count the opener against Southeastern Louisiana and Central Michigan was an all-around debacle. The improvement started with Pittsburgh and it has been somewhat steady since then. A highlight was Texas as they completely blocked a pretty talented defensive line. The injury to right guard Larry Williams has been a bummer. He was really starting to look good, but Michael Wilson, his replacement, does have over 20 starts. I think Williams is a better player. Tackles Zach Crabtree and Victor Salako are good. Center Brad Lundblade is most improved and left guard (red-shirt freshman) Marcus Keyes’ father played eight-years in the NFL and Marcus is living up to his NFL pedigree. He will be a very good lineman in the future.
Q: Does the friction between head coach Mike Gundy and T. Boone Pickens affect the team or the play in any direct way, or is it more of an athletic department overall issue? Does that put more pressure on Gundy?
<strong">Allen: It really has no impact at all. The week it all came out in the public, Gundy did the smart thing, kept his head down, had no comment, and beat Texas that Saturday. His approval rating was around 90 percent when Pickens made the comments in the Austin American-Statesman. After the win over Texas his approval rating was more like 99.9 percent. I think OSU fans really get tired of it but The Oklahoman locally and the Statesman before games with Texas know they can go to Pickens and get some stuff to stir up. It’s kind of like those columnists at those papers are playing.
To sum up, no pressure, no attention by the team, and little attention from the fans. Most of that attention is negative toward Pickens.
Q: It appears to have been an up and down defensive year for the Cowboys so far. What has to improve to make that unit more consistent and help get more wins on the ledger?
Allen: They have been a fourth quarter machine with excellent fourth quarters against Pittsburgh (shut them down after the storm delay and allowed the offense to win the game), held Texas to 47-yards and no points in the fourth quarter, held Iowa State to 23-yards and no points in the fourth quarter, held Kansas last Saturday to few yards and no points in the fourth quarter. It would help if they would learn to play the way they play in the fourth quarter in the other three -- that would help a lot. Big plays have been their biggest downfall as they have allowed opponents a lot of explosive plays of 20-yards plus. Get that under control and they are excellent on forcing turnovers, good on negative plays like tackles for loss and sacks, and opponents are 37-of-104 on third downs for 36 percent. Red zone defense has been better in other years as they have allowed 11-of-19 touchdowns in red zone possessions. This group does lead the nation in blocked kicks and they have a knack for getting them.