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Oklahoma State Preview, Part 2: Passing Offense

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We continue our OSU preview with a day-late look at the Cowboys' passing offense. As emphasized in Part 1 of this preview series, whatever perception exists about Oklahoma State being a one-dimensional team, the truth is that this team runs and passes equally well--their diversity preventing teams shutting down the Cowboys merely by overloading to stop the run or the pass.

As such, analyzing OSU's rush or pass offense in isolation is of limited utility; since Part 1 looked exclusively at their rush game, after the jump I take a macro look at the Cowboys' offensive success so far in 2008. Each scoring drive for the season is charted by number of plays in the drive, yards covered, TD type, and scoring player. Southwest Missouri State is excluded as irrelevant.

A synopsis and game analysis follows the data.

Charts? Charts.

Opp. Drive Plays Drive Yds Score Type Score Yds Player
WSU 8 17 FG 26
8 67 RUSH 11 Hunter
11 56 FG 21
4 8 FG 27
KO Return 90 Cox
9 61 RUSH 1 Robinson
4 39 RUSH 10 Hunter
Opp. Drive Plays Drive Yds Score Type Score Yds Player
HOU 3 80 RUSH 58 Hunter
8 80 PASS 39 Bryant
4 75 RUSH 28 Toston
3 31 PASS 29 Bryant
3 86 PASS 74 Bryant
10 82 RUSH 10 Hunter
9 62 RUSH 5 Toston
Punt Return 71 Bryant
Opp. Drive Plays Drive Yds Score Type Score Yds Player
TROY 11 67 PASS 16 Bryant
9 54 RUSH 4 Hunter
9 74 PASS 26 Bryant
5 76 PASS 44 Bryant
4 56 RUSH 17 Hunter
11 99 RUSH 1 Toston
11 74 FG 22
16 65 FG 19
2 19 RUSH 16 Toston
Opp. Drive Plays Drive Yds Score Type Score Yds Player
A&M INT Return 6
6 56 PASS 29 Bryant
Punt Return 78 Bryant
INT Return 22
7 62 PASS 23 Bryant
5 68 RUSH 6 Robinson
3 37 PASS 21 Bryant
12 77 RUSH 7 Robinson
Opp. Drive Plays Drive Yds Score Type Score Yds Player
MU 13 71 RUSH 6 Robinson
2 72 RUSH 68 Hunter
4 66 PASS 40 Davis
3 29 PASS 31 Davis
Opp. Drive Plays Drive Yds Score Type Score Yds Player
BU 11 61 RUSH 4 Toston
4 62 PASS 37 Bryant
12 81 PASS 9 Bryant
11 47 RUSH 2 Toston
8 61 FG 20
9 64 FG 21

That's a lot of data. So how about some... More charts? More charts.

Score Type: FG Rush Pass ST Def
7 17 13 3 2
Drive Plays: 1-5 6-10 11+
15 12 10
TD Distance: 1-10 11-20 21+
12 4 13
TD By: Hunter Robinson Toston Bryant Davis
7 4 6 13 2

Had enough charting yet? Yes? Very well, let's move on to the...


The point of plotting all this out was to look at how OSU's been putting up 40+ points per game this year. We don't really care how they scored against SW Missouri State, but looking at their scoring distribution by type, distance, etc against their D1 opponents offers some insight into how the Pokes are getting it done. To the bullet points:

  • Dez Bryant is killing OSU opponents via the big play, with 2 punt returns for TDs (71 and 78 yards) and 11 TDs, all but 2 of which have gone for 20 yards or more--39, 29, 74, 16, 26, 44, 29, 23, 21, 37, and 9. You don't need to wait for Horn Brain or BZ to tell you that averages to a big number--34.5 yards per TD reception. 
  • The Cowboys can sustain drives, with more than a handful of 11+ scoring drives. However, only 5 of those drives have come in Big 12 play, and 3 were against Baylor. Can OSU sustain scoring drives against a team with a nasty rush defense? The Missouri game suggests "no"--that was a game won with big plays (see first chart above).
  • Special teams will matter.  The Pokes have picked up three additional scores from kickoff and punt returns. As the Sooners found out in Dallas this year, that can change everything. And Texas fans need only think back to the KSU game last year to remember the pain that can accompany poor return coverage.
  • The OSU passing game lives and dies with Bryant.  Not charted above is the Cowboys passing game for the season, but check out the receiver distribution in the team's season box score: Bryant leads the team with 45 receptions and  Brandon Pettigrew has the second most with... 11.
  • Chykie Brown is the player to watch. At 6-1 and playing the best football of any Texas CB, Chykie is likely the one to be on Bryant's jock Saturday afternoon. He'll have safety help, no doubt, but his ability to frustrate Bryant will be the match up of the day.
  • To bump of not to bump?  Given OSU's dependance on the big play, if you were Will Muschamp would you jam Bryant at the line of scrimmage to slow down the time it takes him to get downfield? Probably depends on whether Texas pass rush is killing the OSU offensive line; if they are, Robinson will be forced to get the ball out quickly and turn elsewhere for yardage.
  • Safety discipline is critical.  Mike Gundy will try repeatedly to fool Texas' young safeties into over-committing to rush support while Bryant and Damiam Davis streak deep. If Thomas or Gideon bite at the wrong time, our corners will be left one-on-one with the scariest receiver in the Big 12, if not country.
  • It's all moot if: Texas D-Line demolishes the Cowboys up front. We can talk tactics all day, but if OSU can't rush the ball or give Robinson a little time to work some play action, the Cowboys are not likely to march methodically for 10-15 plays against this defense. No, that was what I feared Missouri might be able to do. If they can't, OSU won't, either.