There was a point last year where Oklahoma State had just taken a loss to the Texas Longhorns and had given up 14 sacks in the previous three games, including seven that night against the Longhorns.
Somewhere in the midst of those seven sacks and multiple other pass rushes, then-Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman had gotten injured to the point to where he wasn't going to be able to play anymore. This would force OSU coach Mike Gundy to do the one thing he had been trying not to do all year, release the redshirt off of freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Everyone knows the story from there, the Cowboys went 2-1 under Rudolph after he threw for over 800 yards and help OSU beat OU in one of the craziest Bedlam finishes in history. That spark to end the season has ignited Stillwater and the OSU campus, bringing hopes of a possible Big 12 title back to Boone Pickens Stadium for the first time since 2011. Many a story has been written about the maturing Rudolph, the depth at receiver, the cornerback battle and the potential first round pick in Emmanuel Ogbah.
However, we've all missed out on what could potentially bring the Cowboys back to another seven-win season, or propel them to the 12 wins everyone is hoping for. Yes, the line was much better under Rudolph, only seven sacks in the next three games after the embarrassing outing against the Longhorns, but much of that was also Rudolph and his ability to avoid the rush. Still, lineman Zach Crabtree said in an interview with The Franchise that the Texas game was a wake up call, and as much of a turning point in the season as the Baylor game was.
The work the offensive line has put in won't be noticed on any stat sheet, yet, but coach Mike Gundy is one of the many who can give Cowboy fans and reporters something to look forward to.
"Earlier, we talked about Victor (Salako) at left tackle," Gunday said. "He hasn't played here, obviously, but he has played in a number of college football games. He's got some talent, and he should help us. (Brad) Lundblade, who we played last year when he wasn't ready to play, has that experience and is bigger now. He's 295 pounds or somewhere in that area. Actually, he's up to 310.
"Then, Paul Lewis can play a guard or center spot for us so he has some experience now. We have (Zachary) Crabtree back. He missed five or six games during the year. That really set us back, but he's an experienced player now. We have Jesse Robinson, and he's played for us before. Michael Wilson is in there. These are all guys that, last year, were just thrown into the fire. Now at least they have some experience. So it gives us a head start on trying to find seven linemen. We feel like you have to find seven linemen who can play in order to have a good season, protect the quarterback and give yourself a chance."
So what changed from 2014? The offensive line lost two seniors and has to replace them, which has proven to be difficult in many other situations throughout the past, so why should OSU be any different?
"Camaraderie, excitement" Crabtree said. "Feeling like we can be special and having positive thoughts in that room. Coach Adkins has brought a different mentality to it. So just the excitement, just the way we're going about it.
However, the line will have to replace seniors, but Crabtree said that shouldn't be a problem as Salako will be able to take over where Daniel Koenig took over, but any of the guys will be able to step up and do what is needed to protect the Cowboy quarterback.
For the Cowboys to be the potential dark horse candidate many are calling them, many things will have to happen, including two wins over top five programs in November, but before anyone starts talking about that, we will need to see how the line has improved.