Stillwater News Press

October 14, 2013

Bye week gives Pokes chance to get in sync

By Jason Elmquist

STILLWATER, Okla. — Mike Gundy may not like the open weeks — especially two within a four week span — but the week off does give the Oklahoma State team to work out the kinks before the final push in Big 12 Conference play.

The most obvious fixings fall on the offensive side for the Cowboys.

In three games against true FBS opponents, the Cowboys have averaged just 25 points per game — a far cry from the 45.7 points per game during last year’s up and down season.

This comes despite the fact that first-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich stressing before the season that he’d like to see the offense run even faster than it has the past three seasons.

“We have to make sure we’re getting quality reps on every snap. We want to be sound on our assignments and make sure we know where we’re going and know the adjustments we have to make based on the defense,” Yurcich said.

“At times, we need to take our foot off the gas in regards to tempo to do that. We’re working hard on it, and our guys know it’s part of our identity, so we don’t want to lose that. We want to continue to progress and be fast on offense.”

When taking out the contests against FCS opponent Lamar and UTSA, a program in its second year as an FBS transitional school, the Oklahoma State’s offensive yards per game takes a dip down under 400 yards, which lands the Cowboys just ahead of West Virginia, Iowa State, TCU and Kansas among conference teams.

The last several weeks Gundy has made comments that in order for the passing game to have success, the Cowboys need to get going in the running attack. That hasn’t happened since the season opener against Mississippi State — and even then, the rushing game was propelled by quarterback J.W. Walsh running it.

Since putting up nearly 300 yards on the ground against the Bulldogs, the Cowboys have only eclipsed 150 yards rushing once — collecting just 155 yards against lowly Lamar — and are seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense with 144.8 yards per game.

“I think each and every week we’re getting better,” OSU senior running back Jeremy Smith said. “We had one setback (against West Virginia), but we make it a big emphasis every week. Running the ball opens up a lot of stuff.”

With the passing and running game going hand-in-hand as Gundy has stated, it could also be flipped that teams aren’t having to focus on the pass as much — and electing to sellout on the run. And while Walsh is third in the conference in passing yards with 241.8 yards per game, it could still be even better — had it not been for some costly dropped passes the last two games.

The OSU receiving corps would easily be in the running for most talented group on the Oklahoma State offense, but recently the corps has been underwhelming at times with dropped passes at key moments.

“When people talk about the drops, it’s just fuel to our fire,” said junior receiver Josh Stewart, who leads the team in receiving with 332 yards despite an off game against Kansas State in which in had just 20 yards receiving. “... We’ve seen them and we’re trying to improve as a receiving corps. It seems to be the hard ones we pull in and the easy ones we drop. So it’s an easy fix.”

Cowboy notes:

While Oklahoma State didn’t play this weekend, it was a successful Sunday for the Cowboy program.

Due to an injury to the Dallas Cowboys starting running back DeMarco Murray, an ex-University of Oklahoma player, rookie Joseph Randle got his first significant playing time in the NFL. Randle rushed 11 times for 17 yards — the longest going for 14 — and picked up his first career touchdown.

“I text Joe (Sunday) night and told him congrats,” said OSU senior running back Jeremy Smith, who played behind Randle the previous two seasons. “Hopefully we’ll get to see more of that.”

Randle wasn’t the only former OSU running back to find the end zone this weekend, as Kendall Hunter scored on a 6-yard run for the San Francisco 49ers. It was his third touchdown of the year and seventh in his three-year NFL career.

“It’s good know that all the guys I used to play with are having a good time up there at the NFL,” OSU senior offensive lineman Parker Graham said. “... It’s just awesome to see where those guys came from in being with them and how they’ve progressed.”

In his second game back from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Justin Blackmon continued to make up for last time. Against the Denver Broncos, the former Biletnikoff Award winner had 14 catches for 190 yards — after hauling in 136 yards and a touchdown the week before.