The Oklahoma State Cowboys' performance against the Texas Longhorns was perplexing from an offensive perspective. At times, the offense looked almost unstoppable, having a certain fluidity and tempo that we haven't seen in a long time. On the other hand, there were times when it really struggled to move the ball, especially on the ground. In today's article, we're going to keep it fairly straightforward, going over both the good and the bad.
What We Liked
Despite not being able to run the ball, OSU's first two drives were beyond impressive, with the first drive being 9 plays and 69 yards in 2:27 and the second one being 5 plays and 75 yards in 1:27. While teams like Baylor or TCU have drives like that on a regular basis, Cowboy fans have learned not to take them for granted.
One of the biggest contributors to the Cowboys' success was the installation of the iso post, a concept that we focused on with fellow Big 12 website LandGrantGauntlet. The iso post is exactly what it sounds like — an iso with a post. In it, a post route is paired with an iso play, giving the quarterback two options to where the ball could go. There can be other other tags on the strong side as well, like a bubble screen or a two-man route combination.
In the Cowboys' case, there are two posts, giving Rudolph the option to throw to either one. If the cornerback is giving cushion to either side or if either safety enters the box, Rudolph can abort the handoff and throw to the receiver in single-man coverage. If, however, the corners and safeties play in their base alignment, the offense has equal numbers in the box (6 on 6), theoretically giving them the advantage up the middle.
In this case, the weak-side corner is playing off of Marcell Ateman and the defense shows a base cover one. Rudolph sees the favorable coverage, leading to a well-timed throw and a first down.
The Cowboys utilize this concept in a number of different formations, including the one below.
In this case, the post route is paired with an outside zone to the opposite side. Just like the prior example, if the safety enters the box or backs up in a cover one situation, the quarterback throws to the receiver in single-man coverage.
It would be our dream for the Cowboy offense to glide down the field like this on every drive. While we haven't seen this yet, there is still hope. Imagine how fun that would be for that first quarter to be every quarter! It almost blows our minds talking about it.
What We Didn't Like
Watching some film from this game, we put together some interesting statistics of our own. Out of the 18 first downs in the second half, the Cowboys ran the same play 12 times, albeit in different formations. In those plays, they averaged 2.75 yards per carry. Only one time in those 18 instances did the Cowboys gain ten or more yards on first down.
The play that we are speaking of is the power play, one that we extensively talked about last week. Last year, the Cowboys' base play was the wham; it appears that for this year, the wham has been replaced by the power.
The example above is just one example of the power. As we explained last week, the Cowboys can use the power in a number of variations and formations. In the second half, Cowboys went to this play over and over again, almost ad nauseam. After showing the same play, and in many cases using it in the same formation with the same motion, the defense eventually catches on to what you're doing.
Power run teams like Stanford or Lambardi's Packers can get away with this, as they pride themselves in having an offensive front that is bigger and stronger than the opponent's. Essentially, they challenge the defense to stop them, and they will use the same play until the defense stops it. Unfortunately, Oklahoma State cannot get away with this, as both their offense and their personnel do not favor such an attack.
This does not mean that the power isn't effective for them; in fact, there was a string of plays in the third quarter where the Cowboys pushed for 6, 6, 8 and 6 yards using this play on first down. That's good football. It would be more beneficial, however, to complement the power with some counter plays to keep the defense guessing. For those who remember, this is called series football. OSU has showed counters to their base power play before, such as a bootleg or an in-pocket play action, but they didn't use them against the Longhorns.
All in all, there's no doubt that this offense struggled in the second half. But do not let the negatives make you forget the positives. First of all, the offense was amazing in the first quarter, and if they can look like that more often, it is sure to give Big 12 defenses fits. Secondly, the Cowboy offense did look impressive (at times) in the second half, especially during their 13 play, 98 yard scoring drive in the third quarter. This offense has been inconsistent this year, but it is possible that the positives eventually outweigh the negatives. Hopefully, Rudolph will have a reset confidence and a healed hand against Kansas State this Saturday, allowing the offense to reach its full potential.