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Where OSU Must Establish an Advantage Early to Dominate South Alabama

OSU manhandled USA last season up front — can they do it again?

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The Oklahoma State Cowboys prepare to play South Alabama for a second year in a row, and although they still hold a major talent advantage, the Jaguars won’t look the same as they did last year. The Cowboys dominated the line of scrimmage on defense when the two teams faced off last season, holding USA to 41 rushing yards on 27 carries. This Jaguar team is different, though, and the run game will be a bigger focus. The biggest stat of the game will be in South Alabama’s yard per carry average. If the Pokes can stuff the run once again, this game should be decided by the beginning of the second half.

South Alabama used to be a poor rushing team. In fact, the Jaguars were fifth-worst in the FBS with just over 97 rushing yards per game. Now, former Troy offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield and the Jaguar offense have made a concerted effort to make the run game a strength. USA ran the ball 20 more times than they passed in last week’s loss to Louisiana Tech, resulting in a respectable¬†217-yard performance on the ground.

The offense looked stagnant on multiple drives against the Bulldogs, and senior Cole Garvin struggled, but their three touchdown drives each had a heavy dosage of the run game. Take their third-quarter touchdown, for instance. The Jags went 67 yards in 15 plays, running the ball 11 times for 54 yards on that drive. Or look at their last touchdown, when the offense drove 66 yards in 10 plays for a fourth-quarter score. The Jaguars ran six times, including on the scoring play from five yards out.

South Alabama is at its best when the offense is running the ball effectively. When their run game isn’t working, however, and they’re forced into late-down passing situations, they tend to struggle. The offense was 3-for-13 against the Bulldogs last week, and Garvin couldn’t find a consistent rhythm, throwing for only 47 yards and two interceptions (with one touchdown). If the Cowboys can stuff the Jags’ misdirection and motion-based running game, then they should have a field day with forcing Garvin to make mistakes.

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