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Five Things We Learned: OSU Defense Flexes its Muscles



The hope for a perfect season is still intact for Oklahoma State, and a Central Michigan-like debacle for 2017 has officially been avoided.

The Cowboys trounced South Alabama on Friday night in Mobile, 44-7, and while OSU struggled to find a rhythm running the football as a result of South Alabama’s press scheme, Mason Rudolph took advantage of the extra passing lanes by finding 7 different receivers and amassing 335 yards through the air.

Here are five things we learned from OSU’s second win of the season.

1. Big plays did not rule the day

OSU kicked off its season a week ago by scorching the Boone Pickens Stadium turf with an incredible 10.2 yards per play that left the Golden Hurricanes swirling. So to expect that type of production from Game 1 to carry over into Game 2 is absurd — and it didn’t.

The Pokes only averaged 6.5 yards per play against South Alabama. As usual, that number was boosted by James Washington’s uber efficiency with 98 yards on two catches. But outside of Washington’s sick 66-yard TD, OSU’s major chunk plays consisted of a pass to Washington for 30+ yards, followed by Marcell Ateman’s third quarter touchdown.

Against Tulsa, OSU’s major chunk plays came via the running game. But J.D. King nor Justice Hill nor LD Brown could shake loose against USA, which I think is less of a concern than it might appear given the scheme USA deployed to specifically play against the run.

2. James Washington, batting cleanup

So, about those chunk plays. No, they did not rule the day. But James Washington still rules at his job, and he did it again Friday by housing it for a score from 66 yards on the only major chunk play of the evening.

Is anyone more dangerous running the slant than James Washington? OBJ is the only other player who I feel immediately confident about when he catches it in stride the way Washington does.

Washington is the home run hitter that doesn’t strike out … like at all. He’s like a July version of Aaron Judge!

3. The defense might rock

The OSU defense nearly pitched a shutout, which is obviously impressive in its own right, but the first quarter was a top five defensive effort in the Mike Gundy era as far as yards allowed.

Here are the top five.

1. 1 yard gained by Washington State, 2nd quarter, 2008
2. 3 yards gained by Florida Atlantic, 1st quarter, 2006
3. 6 yards gained by Kansas, 3rd quarter, 2010
3. 6 yards gained by Washington State, 4th quarter, 2008
5. 9 yards gained by South Alabama, 1st quarter, 2017

Pretty, pretty good. OSU’s defensive line — a concern last week against Tulsa — finally got a really good push and controlled the line of scrimmage, too. The team finished with 4 sacks, 9 (!!) tackles for loss, 2 turnovers and best of all: 14 points off turnovers. Justin Phillips put the icing on that beautiful cake by scoring the third TD of the third quarter and blowing the game wide open.

4. Backup QB play was shaky

When Mason Rudolph exited stage left, it was Keondre Wudtee, not Taylor Cornelius, who came in as a reliever in mop-up time. Wudtee, a dual-threat option as compared to Cornelius’ gunslinger style, ran the read option and gave an entirely different dimension to the offense the team simply doesn’t have with Rudolph in the game.

Wudtee ran it well and finished with 3 carries for a total of 29 yards, including a nice 18 yard scamper where he showed off some speed.

His passing, though, was a little suspect. Here’s where Rudolph and Wudtee finished on the night.

Player Comp/Att TD Pass yards Rush yards
Mason Rudolph 25-38 3 335 18
Keondre Wudtee 1-3 0 7 29

Wudtee did complete one pass to Tylan Wallace, but his other attempts found either the dirt or the student section. I don’t think it warrants an overreaction, but Wudtee’s accuracy throwing fairly simple routes does raise some concerns about the future. But what he’s best at, running the football, is what I was encouraged by.

5. The running game was humbled

South Alabama’s press defensive scheme and loaded box essentially dared OSU to throw the ball. And while Rudolph did, OSU also attempted to maintain a balanced attack by rushing it 37 times.

The result? 4.4 yards per carry. Quite a drop off from last week’s 332 total rushing yards and 9 yards a carry.

Here’s a look at the basic scheme OSU saw most of the night. In this specific play, Rudolph tossed it to the back of the end zone to Ateman for a TD. But to keep the defense honest, Hill and King ran into this swarm of defenders, mostly to no avail.

Fortunately for the Pokes, Rudolph was on his game Friday. So he was able to exploit those looks by finding holes. But it’s a humbling night for a position group that had a coming out party a week ago.

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