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Position Spotlight: Offensive Line

OSU's offensive line was good enough against Baylor.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Cowboys suffered a heart-breaking loss in Waco Saturday night and for once it seems the much-maligned offensive line wasn't the number one culprit.

The Cowboys pass-protected well enough and actually showed improvement in the running game.

If I would have told you last week that the Cowboys would have out-rushed the Bears by 77 yards, controlled the time of possession and punted only twice to Baylor's four, you would have probably put a chunk of money down on the Pokes.

Ground 'n' Pound

Oklahoma State's coaching staff made a concerted effort to run the football on first down, even if there were plenty of negative first-down plays.

Their aim? To slow the game down and not allow it to turn into a "track-meet". The Cowboys accomplished just that, owning the time of possession 41:27 to Baylor's 18:33.

The 213-yard rushing effort was the highest since the Cowboys' home game against UTSA last season. The last time the Cowboys reached 200 yards on the ground in-conference was Bedlam 2013.

The Cowboys averaged a decent 3.87 yards per carry, their highest this year.

Protection

Even with those negative run plays, the Cowboys were able to keep drives alive by being fantastic on third downs (12/20). That had a lot to do with Mason Rudolph playing a great game, but the offensive line's protection again was just enough.

We have to point out that Rudolph was constantly flushed out of the pocket and had to scramble to make plays. He was also sacked four times and the Cowboys have now given up 14 on the year which ranks 118th nationally.

That's 3.5 sacks per game which is ninth in the Big 12 ahead of only Oklahoma (3.67) and puts the Cowboys on pace to give up 42 sacks for the season. The 2014 team gave up 40 sacks.

Penalties

Though it was an ugly game the Cowboys actually only had four accepted penalties for 32 yards. Unfortunately,) half of those were on the offensive line.

Early after play resumed from the lightning delay, freshman guard Marcus Keyes was flagged for a holding penalty that negated a Dillon Stoner two-yard sweep play.

Tackle Victor Salako was called for a face mask penalty in the 2nd quarter on the same play where Justice Hill lost his first fumble. (That penalty was declined by Baylor.)

Then about halfway through the 3rd quarter, guard Larry Williams and tackle Zachary Crabtree were called for a chop-block that negated a 12-yard run by Jeff Carr.

Group Grade: B-

I'll give the offensive line a B- which may be a little generous but it's all based on perspective. While the protection couldn't be called great and there were a couple of key penalties, the running game was better.

Was it pretty the whole game? No. But that was an offensive line showing that was good enough to win the game.

The Cowboys have been in process of rebuilding the offensive line going on three years now and while it has definitely taking longer than most fans would have hoped, the group is still relatively young and inexperienced compared to the lines that Brandon Weeden and Zac Robinson stood behind.

Saturday night was a step in the right direction.