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Oklahoma State Taking What Defenses are Willing to Give



Through three football games this season, Oklahoma State has run the ball 109 times and passed it 104. That type of balance certainly delights Mike Gundy to no end. Here is how the exact disparity has looked in each of the first three games.

• Tulsa: 37 rushes | 26 passes
• S. Alabama: 37 rushes | 41 passes
• Pitt: 35 passes | 37 passes

“It has to be both,” said Gundy on Tuesday. “I’ve said for years that I believe in balance. … Balance helps everybody.”

The good thing for Oklahoma State is that not only is it balanced in both phases, it is apparently really good in both once again. Having NFL players in the passing game helps. Having a sophomore and freshman who look like All-Big 12 players helps even more. The result is that teams are left helpless against the Pokes’ spread-out, sped-up schemes.

“I was surprised at the way South Alabama defended us,” said Gundy last week. “I would not have thought they would try to line up and overload the box and play press. One thing is evident, that people have a base system, and they run their plays. Can they change structures within a week’s practice? I don’t know. ”

And does it even matter if they can?

“Whenever they take something away the other people have to step up and make plays and that’s what we did (at Pitt),” said receiver Jalen McCleskey, after reeling in seven catches for 162 yards and 3 TDs. “The O-line – they did a great job blocking for Mason. Mason made great throws, the receivers ran great routes, and the coaching staff, they did a great job of putting the plays in and helping us succeed.

“Just what the defense gives us. Whatever they give us, we’re going to take it. So the first few games it was James and them. They had big games. This game was just mine, and the O-line and offense, they did a great job by helping me get the ball.”

We saw in 2011 how difficult it is to defend a star RB and superstar WR when you have a NFL quarterback tossing it to them. How much more so when you put even better pieces around what amounts to another star RB and superstar WR on this year’s team? This is a conundrum teams will face all year against the Cowboys, and it’s why OSU’s defense only has to be ave-ruj for Gundy to win Big 12 title No. 2.

“I don’t feel good when I look at James Washington out there and Mason Rudolph,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi told ESPN recently. “Just go put on Oklahoma State [film]: big, explosive passes and runs. … As soon as you start playing Cover 2 and trying to put two over that guy, it’s out the gate going 98, and that’s not good, either. So it’s pick your poison.”

As long as Mike Yurcich and Mason Rudolph are mostly flipping to the correct calls (ESPN noted that Rudolph has a variety of checks he can go to at the line), OSU is almost impossible to defend. They can be stopped, but only if those two are making wrong reads and for some reason not exploiting the weaknesses of opposing defenses.

As long as they’re dialing up the right stuff and finding the weak point of Big 12 teams, OSU has the chess pieces to put up a W every single Saturday. Some days it might be balanced like it has been so far, and on some it might not. But you know what you’re getting with this offense, and that’s a hell of a thing to stop unless you have bunches of pros on the other side.

As Gundy pointed out before, changing how you do things in your world on defense is difficult. And it might not even be sufficient. South Alabama coach Joey Jones said you’re “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

“I’ll be honest, and I mean this as humble as possible,” Gundy added to ESPN. “I have no clue what people are going to do.”

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