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Cowboys Ride for Free Q&A: Controlling the ball key for Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have to find a way to keep their offense on the field and to put together productive possessions.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The recent history against the The recent history for the Texas Longhorns against the Oklahoma State Cowboys is not great — Oklahoma State has won the last three matchups against Texas, including last year’s overtime heartbreaker in Austin.

Oklahoma State is 4-3 this year, but all three losses came in conference play. Their only Big 12 win was a 48-28 win over the Kansas Jayhawks on the road. Head coach Mike Gundy’s team has struggled to put it all together on offense, especially as of late, largely due to struggles along the line and accuracy issues from quarterback Taylor Cornelius, a former walk on.

So what should Texas fans expect from the Cowboys as the Longhorns travel to Stillwater on Saturday? To answer that question and more, we connected with Phillip Slavin, a contributor at Cowboys Ride for Free. You can find more from Phillip on Twitter at @OKTXARPoke or Cowboys Ride for Free at @CowboysRFF.

Burnt Orange Nation: One position that Oklahoma State has never struggled with in recent memory is the quarterback position. However, this year, Taylor Cornelius has been inconsistent at best and the production in the passing game is obviously following suit. What has been the biggest source of his struggles and do you think Mike Gundy makes a change at any point?

Cowboys Ride for Free: The biggest issue to me is that they are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole when it comes to Cornelius. His strengths are his ability to run, and great accuracy in the short and intermediate passes. His weakness is the long ball. While he has a cannon, it’s a really inaccurate cannon. And yet, it seems that Mike Gundy and Mike Yurcich continue to try and run the Mason Rudolph offense with him, which is not playing to Cornelius’ strengths. Throw in a “not great” offensive line, and it’s led to some pretty unwatchable offense.

As for making a change at quarterback, Gundy has made it clear the last two weeks that there have been no changes in quarterback reps. He could be tricking us, but I have no idea. A change has to happen at some point though, unless the coaching staff really is just punting on the season to protect the future. As for when that change might happen? Maybe in this game if OSU’s offense struggles the Cowboys fall behind early. Otherwise, I wouldn’t expect a change before next week.

BON: One of the brightest spots in that Oklahoma State passing game is the emergence of sophomore wide receiver Tylan Wallace, who currently ranks No. 11 nationally in receiving yards. What has aided his emergence and just how good can he be as he continues to grow and develop?

CRFF: Well, he was a stud coming in. He was Oklahoma State’s highest-rated wide receiver recruit in years, and now in his second season in the program, he’s showing why. He’s physically talented, and like OSU greats before him — Justin Blackmon, James Washington — has a knack for doing what he needs to to get the ball.

BON: Someone nobody is surprised about putting up big numbers is Justice Hill. The junior out of Booker T. Washington High School is one of the fastest players in the conference and one of the quickest to break off a long run. How has he handled being relied upon to make plays as the passing game tries to find its footing?

CRFF: When he gets the ball, he’s doing a solid job. The problem is, he’s not getting the ball enough. He has only had more than 15 carries twice this season; 31 against Kansas and 24 against Iowa State. As I mentioned, the offensive line hasn’t been great, but he’s still averaging 6.1 yards per carry, which is the best of his career. I’ll also note, this — the Cowboy coaching staff has done a better job this season of utilizing him the in the passing game and getting the ball to him in space. Hill is the kind of runner where if he makes the first guy miss, good bye.

BON: Defensively, Jordan Brailford has been on a tear turning in nine sacks through the Cowboys’ first seven games. What is he exploiting in his game or the matchups that has allowed him to emerge as one of the elite pass rushers in the nation?

CRFF: It’s a lot to do with new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ defense. It allows players with speed and aggressiveness to be put into positions where they can use those traits to their advantage. Outside of Calvin Bundage, who should be healthy for this game, no one has benefitted more than Jordan Brailford, who is making a claim for first-team All-Big 12.

BON: What is your key to the game that could be the difference-maker for Oklahoma State against Texas?

CRFF: Score. That sounds silly, but OSU managed just 17 points against Texas Tech and 12 against Kansas State. The defense is still learning the new scheme and has a lot of youth in the secondary. For OSU to win games they need to avoid the three-and-outs and put together long drives that end with points, whether that’s TDs or field goals. They need to keep Texas’ offense and OSU’s defense off the field as much as possible. If they can do that, and wear out Texas’ defense, (and force a few turnovers, which they haven’t been great at this year) they have a real shot in this game.

BON: What’s your score prediction?

CRFF: This might be a close game at halftime. All of OSU’s game have been this season. The second halves have been the problem. I think Texas gets up for this game and plays like they did against USC, OU, and TCU. I’ll take Texas 38, OSU 20.