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Position Group Spotlight: Running Back

Southeastern Louisiana v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Before the controversial the play that shouldn’t have been ending of Saturday’s contest with Central Michigan, there was still plenty to be concerned about for Oklahoma State, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Many myself included questioned how much good showings in the rushing game would teach about OSU through these first two games. But I was of the opinion that sub-par rushing totals would tell us plenty.

Well, here we are folks. Through two home contests against an FCS opponent that had a losing record last year and a MAC opponent that, while tough, is still a MAC team.

I know what some of you are going to say. “Central Michigan was No. 16 in total defense last year.” That’s correct. The Chippewas allowed 332.2 yards per game last year.

But that was against a MAC schedule plus four. Oklahoma State gained 419 yards on another underwhelming offensive showing. Michigan State gained 324 yards (just below their average of 385.5) and Syracuse and Minnesota racked up 326 yards and 381 yards respectively (both above their average).

One more thing: CMU ranked 44th in 2015, allowing 4.0 yards per rush, again against that schedule.

Okay, I’ll hop off the soap box. Let’s talk about Oklahoma State.

Through the two aforementioned games, the Cowboys have rushed for a total of 202 yards on 63 attempts. That’s a 3.21 per average. Not exactly ideal.

  • Southeastern Lousiana - OSU rushed 38 times for 144 yards | 3.79 avg | four touchdowns
  • Central Michigan - OSU rushed 25 times for 58 | 2.32 avg | 0 touchdowns

Some will point out QB sacks. Okay, Mason Rudolph has combined rush total of -21 yards on 12 attempts including sacks, Taylor Cornelius is in the black with 28 yards on six attempts as well as John Kolar with 18 yards on two attempts.

Here’s my belabored point. These rushing numbers will not cut it in the Big 12. The 2015 Cowboy team that finished ninth in the conference and No. 114 in the nation in rushing rushed for 153 yards against Central Michigan and 164 against Central Arkansas.

So unless something changes drastically, the Cowboy offense seems destined to fall short of its potential once again.

Central Michigan v Oklahoma State Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images

Here were the tailbacks’ numbers for Saturday’s game.

  • Justice Hill - 5 carries | 31 yards | 6.2 avg
  • Chris Carson - 8 carries | 27 yards | 3.4 avg
  • Barry J. Sanders - 1 carry | 4 yards | 4.0 avg
  • Rennie Childs - 1 carry | 1 yard | 1.0 avg
  • Jeff Carr - no carries

Technically one of Jalen McCleskey’s runs was a rush for eight yards. So that means the Cowboys handed off the ball 16 times, while apparently trying to play conservatively for a good portion of the game.

It is apparent that the coaching staff still does not trust the run game. Which is not a good sign with how we know Mike Gundy would like to split up passing plays to those on the ground.

Grade: C+

Whether all blame can be placed on the running backs or it’s shared between the coaching staff and offensive line, I find it hard to give the running back group much better than a C+. It’s not a stand-alone fail but if you don’t improve in the box score in the weeks to come, you may be stuck in summer school.