The Cowboys run game in Week 2 might have seemed underwhelming, but the numbers were similar to that of the Pokes’ game against South Alabama last season.
Oklahoma State actually ran for more yards against South Alabama this year than it did in 2017 – a whole one more yard, anyway. The entire scenario was similar a year ago: against Tulsa in their first game, the Pokes rushed for 332 yards before gaining 163 yards on the ground the next week against USA.
This year, the Cowboys went for 431 yards rushing in Week 1 and 164 yards against the Jaguars. (Could you imagine complaining about having only 164 rushing yards a few years ago?)
Despite the similarities to last season, more is expected for the embarrassment of riches the Cowboys have in the backfield. The offensive line was criticized heavily after the running struggles, but the group knows what can happen with solid run blocking.
“It’s real important because (the running backs are) all special,” left tackle Arlington Hambright said. “We know it can be a big play whenever we do our job right. It can be a big play any play.”
The South Alabama defense did everything it could to prevent the OSU backs from breaking off big gains, as it was rare if the Jaguars’ safeties lined up any deeper than 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.
On Tyron Johnson’s 60-yard reception, the USA safeties started about 7 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Quarterback Taylor Cornelius had the Cowboys’ longest run of the game after he pulled the ball from his running back’s gut to counter the Jaguars’ aggression. Cornelius gained 34 yards on the play.
Despite USA stacking the box, OSU coach Mike Gundy said the offensive line still needs to be able to handle being outnumbered.
“The numbers are always going to create issues when they’re lined up that way, but we still have to be able to block the six or seven people in the box,” Gundy said. “We have to be able to move them and get them out of there, and we’re not doing that to where we need to be to be able to play at a high level.
“Essentially, from this point moving forward, we have to do a better job of getting squared up on those guys and moving them out of the box to give our running backs a chance to get out in space.”
Boise State will bring a stiffer challenge to Stillwater on Saturday, as in the Broncos’ first two games, they have given up an average of 123 rushing yards a game. But, Troy and UConn don’t have anywhere near the talent OSU has in its backfield.
Hambright said that after reviewing film of Saturday’s game against USA with offensive line coach Josh Henson, the group had a “positive vibe,” but Gundy didn’t dare sugarcoat Saturday’s performance at his Monday presser.
“Our run blocking is very below average,” Gundy said. “It’s gotta improve.”