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Film Look: Oklahoma State Must Establish the Run at Tulsa

Teams haven’t had much success against the Golden Hurricane this season, can the Cowboys change that?



Oklahoma State heads to Tulsa this Sunday to face off against a Golden Hurricane defense that’s looked pretty solid early on this season. After games against No. 18 Michigan State and San Jose State, TU is one of only 26 FBS defenses to allow one touchdown or fewer so far this year. In addition, their 3.14 opponent yards per carry average is good for 33rd in the nation.

Along with being stout against the run, Tulsa’s defense will also look familiar to this Cowboy team, as they line up in a 3-3-5 set (shown below), which has become a defense of choice in the Big 12 over the past few years.


If teams are unable to run against this three down linemen look, first-year defensive coordinator Joseph Gillespie can drop eight into coverage and make it extremely difficult for offenses to move the ball through the air. This has held true through TU’s first two games, as they held MSU to 195 yards and SJSU to 233 yards through the air. Also, most of these completions have been quick routes and screens, as the Golden Hurricane defense ranks 31st in yards per pass attempt.

The Cowboys have struggled against 3-3-5 looks in the past, most recently we saw this in last season’s battle with Iowa State. There were just too many occasions where the line couldn’t open up any holes or create any cut back lanes for former OSU running back Justice Hill, as shown below.

The Pokes only racked up 126 yards rushing on 43 attempts, good for an abysmal 2.9 yards per attempt.

If Oklahoma State isn’t able to establish the running game, they could be in for a long afternoon in Tulsa, running into the same problems both sets of Spartans ran into the past two weeks… as you see in the following clip.

So, what do the Cowboys need to do to establish the run against TU? Well obviously it all starts with solid play from the offensive line. Outside of that, we’ve seen the Cowboys have success by using motion to open things up, as you’ll see below from last year’s KU game.

Additionally, pulling linemen on plays like the Buck Sweep we’ve seen OSU offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson run on multiple occasions this season can be successful against a three-man front. These types of plays with pulling linemen create different angles to attack the defense and open additional gaps that the defenders aren’t always expecting to cover. The offensive tackles (or Cowboy Back in the clip below) can seal the defensive tackles and the guards are still able to pull around the outside.

Another way of attacking this 3-3-5 would be something else we’ve seen from Gleeson this year, the zone read. In the following video, the Cowboy Back is “arc” blocking for OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders by looping around the defensive end and sealing the edge for his quarterback.

If run correctly, the offensive line can contain the three defensive linemen, and Jelani Woods can get to the linebackers at the second level and spring Sanders for a big gain.

All in all, I’m confident Gleeson and this Cowboy offense will rack up some positive yards on the ground and put an end to Tulsa’s short reign as a powerful rushing defense in 2019. With weapons like Sanders and Chuba Hubbard, I just don’t think there’s anyway Gleeson isn’t able to figure out ways to pick up big yardage with his rushing attack.

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