Oklahoma State’s game plan was clear from the beginning, run the football. What we didn’t know was that they were willing to both live and die with their run game. Without fully understanding what the OSU coaching staff saw in the Texas defense that would cause them to take the ball out of the hands of one of the nation’s top passers, we have no idea what that was about.
The result of a game plan that saw the Pokes run the ball 51 times, for an average of 2.9 yards per carry, was an ugly 13-10 overtime win that failed to impress on multiple levels. The good news for OSU is that Texas was even worse on the ground, averaging just 1.3 yards per carry. The anemic win kept the #10 Cowboys in the Big 12 championship race at 3-1 in conference play and 6-1 overall but raised multiple points of concern.
For all the good that Mason Rudolph is, it’s time to start having a serious discussion about his performance under pressure. He’s not statue-like in the pocket but he’s pretty close to it. With the injury issues along the offensive line, pressure is going to be a constant for the foreseeable future. Someone needs to visit with him about just getting rid of the ball and not trying to do too much.
Speaking of pressure, for the second time this season Mike Gundy looked like the moment was too big. Play calling aside, why didn’t he use a timeout to try and force a challenge the 90-yard reception by Burt. It sure appeared that he stepped out of bound and, with Texas hurrying to get the next snap off, the only way that play was going to get reviewed was if Gundy forced the issue with a timeout.
Speaking of timeouts, why in the wide-wide world of sports would you call a timeout as your kicker is getting ready to attempt a potential game winning field goal. Gundy got away with it as Matt Ammendola’s kick was good from 34-yards out but, considering his struggles, it was a legitimate gamble to burn a timeout.
I get the offensive line struggles, I really do. That said, there’s so much more that you can to help that situation outside of running the ball 51 times. The Cowboys have the most explosive set of receivers in the country so use them on quick slants and flares. Design a game plan that gets the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quickly and then use the run game to support it.
For all of the criticism of the offense, Oklahoma State’s defense was superb. Texas apologists are going to bring up injuries along the offensive line and at the running back position, but the Pokes were fundamentally solid at stopping the run, and more importantly holding quarterback Sam Ehlinger to a season-low -10 yards rushing on 16 attempts.
Removing the running game put Texas in obvious passing situations allowing blitzes and zone coverage to frustrate and limit the Longhorns freshman quarterback. The final play of the game is a great example of this where Ehlinger just threw the ball up for grabs. Ramon Richards was in the right place to be the benefactor but that interception was a team effort that resulted in a quarterback at his wits end.
The Cowboys continue on the road next week when they play at West Virginia for an 11:00 AM kickoff.