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Three and Out: Pittsburgh Presents OSU Its First Test



The Cowboys will hit the road for the second-straight week but the two scenes couldn’t be more different. This Saturday’s game setting will be an NFL stadium while last week’s facilities looked more like a big high school field.

This will be the biggest test for Oklahoma State in its short but hype-filled season. We’re going to learn a lot about this team on Saturday, and here are three numbers to watch for.


When the Panthers made a visit to Stillwater, America last fall they got a healthy dose of Oklahoma weather and the blitzkrieg that is Rudolph-to-Washington. On the first play of the game, before any actual lightning was detected in the area, the duo struck the middle of the field and Pitt’s secondary with this 91-yard bolt of energy.

Pat Narduzzi’s defensive system is predicated on an aggressive front that tries to get after QBs. It’s weakness is its routinely-isolated cover men on the outside. His corners live in press coverage and spend more time on an island than Wilson’s best pal. It’s effective at stopping the run but you need elite-level cornerbacks to make it work and it doesn’t appear that Narduzzi, in just his third year, has caught up to his system’s standard personnel-wise.

The result? Pitt gave up more long passing plays than any other FBS team last year and were ahead of only Arizona State in passing defense allowing 333.2 yards per game. Before and after several hours of weather delay, it allowed an OSU-record 540 passing yards from Mason Rudolph.


Pittsburgh has allowed eight sacks in Weeks 1 and 2. Three against Youngstown State, who it needed an overtime period to beat and five against in-state rival Penn State. The Panthers only allowed 10 total sacks all of last season. USC graduate transfer Max Browne is a statue in the pocket and earned a sack rate of 6.1 percent in four games at USC — six sacks in just 56 pass attempts.

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, endured a bit of a slow start with just one sack against Tulsa. They also bailed the Golden Hurricane out, allowing them to convert five of its last six third downs with at least 10 yards to go.

But the Cowboys’ front seven bounced back in Week 2 — albeit against a Sun Belt opponent — and dominated the line of scrimmage, tallying four sacks, four pass breakups, two QB hurries and a forced fumble.

Pitt’s offense employs a lot of shuffling and motion to try and disguise it being pretty basic in nature. But it’s not something the Cowboys see all the time and it will take OSU’s D-linemen and linebackers to be sound in their assignments. How much pressure can OSU put on grad-transfer quarterback Max Browne?


Max Browne won the starting job at USC heading out of fall camp of 2016. But after a 1-2 start including a historic beat-down at the hands of Nick Saban and a loss to rival Stanford, Browne was planted on the pine and the Sam Darnold era began. But that’s not what “1:2” stands for.

The former five-star prospect (and No. 1 pro-style pass in the nation) came to Pitt for a chance to start but after only two games and a TD-to-interception ratio of 1:2, many Pitt fans are calling for redshirt sophomore Ben DiNucci to be unleashed. He doesn’t possess the passing acumen or experience of Browne but is light years more mobile which is probably better suited to Pitt’s offense.

Narduzzi is sticking with his senior for now but if Oklahoma State can corral Browne or even turn him over, there’s someone else behind him who offers a different look. OSU doesn’t have the best track record in such circumstances.


Oklahoma State should win this game fairly comfortably but it’s definitely the biggest test the Cowboys have faced. We’ve seen the Cowboys dominate a couple of Group of 5 schools but can it against a Power 5 team in a big-time, hostile environment? If this team is as good as we think it might be, it needs to show it by having its way on Saturday.

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