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Three and Out: Tulsa-Oklahoma State



Oklahoma State kicks off one of its most anticipated seasons ever against an in-state foe on a Thursday night. What could go wrong? As we prepare ourselves for what should be a fun game and a more fun (hopefully) season, let’s focus on three key numbers that could make the difference in Week 1 and give us a glimpse at what to expect from OSU moving forward.


It’s been Oklahoma State’s one glaring bugaboo on offense the last few years — sacks allowed. The offensive line has been a work in progress since Mason Rudolph took his first snap and we’ve seen definite improvement, especially in the running game. But we still have no idea how well it can be at maintaining a pocket and protecting Rudolph.

The Cowboys were tied for last in the Big 12 giving up 32 sacks in 2016 and were even worse (42) in 2015. The most valuable player to Oklahoma State’s success has spent most of his career on the run.

Across the line, you’ve got a Tulsa team that ranked fourth in the American Athletic Conference with 32 sacks of their own. The Golden Hurricane returns almost all of that production from a year ago, namely senior defensive ends, Jesse Brubaker and Jeremy Smith.

Enter Aaron Cochran. We’ve heard nice things throughout summer workouts and into fall camp but we’re going to get a good idea of what OSU has in the Cal transfer on Thursday night. Can he and Zach Crabtree win more battles than they lose? If so, it will be a good sign that the Cowboys may be finally turning the corner in pass protection.


Oklahoma State ranked sixth in the Big 12 allowing 193.4 rushing yards per game in 2016 and was 76th nationally allowing 4.6 yards per carry. That same defense enters 2017 without both starting defensive tackles (Vincent Taylor and Mote Maile) from last year and probably the team’s best run stopper, departed safety Jordan Sterns. The Cowboys need to be better at stopping the run if they want to reach their goals this season. Who’s going to step up?

Tulsa presents a good, early test in this department. The Golden Hurricane ranked eighth nationally averaging 261.7 yards on the ground a year ago. And they return most of their offensive line and D’Angelo Brewer who rushed for 1,435 and seven scores on 5.4 yards per carry. He was Tulsa’s second-leading rusher.

Success in Philip Montgomery’s offense is predicated on a potent ground game. Plus, he will be debuting a starting QB and fielding several inexperienced receivers. So he’s going lean on the running game and try to run it down the Cowboys’ throat. If OSU is going to have a good enough defense to win the Big 12, you’d expect to see some resistance on the ground against Tulsa.


Where is No. 2 when the fourth quarter starts? Is he cutting up and chilling on the sidelines with his teammates? Is he patiently watching next to Mike Gundy, holding a clipboard for Taylor Cornelius? Or is he playing? If it’s not options 1 or 2, it might have been a disappointing night. As good as Tulsa was last year (they beat Central Michigan by 45), they are breaking in a brand new QB and just don’t have the athletes to match up against the Cowboys. This should be a blowout.

Do we hit the panic button if the Cowboys win by 14? Of course not. But you’d like to see a dominant performance in Week 1. If this truly is a team of destiny and if they want to earn the conference prize and get a shot at a playoff spot and more, they need to be able to put their foot down and bury a lesser team early.

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