Saturday, January 31, 2015
Oklahoma State offense vs. Missouri defense
The Cowboys enter Saturday's contest with the nation's No. 2 rushing offense (315.2 ypg), and their ground game has very few weaknesses. Shifty 5-foot-8, 190-pound RB Kendall Hunter can make defenders miss and is deceptively strong for his size. Keith Toston and Beau Johnson provide excellent depth and help keep Hunter fresh as the game wears on. QB Zac Robinson is an effective open-field runner who reads his blocks well and reaches top speed quickly. The Cowboys can run options and/or quarterback keepers with him. In addition, Oklahoma State's experienced offensive line is a cohesive unit that does a good job of creating seams for the ball carriers. That said, the Cowboys will be tested by a stingy Missouri run defense that's allowing an average of just 94.4 yards per game. DT Ziggy Hood (6-4, 300 pounds) is tough to move off the ball, and he's flanked by 305-pound NT Jaron Baston. Sealing the edge and getting outside won't be easy for Oklahoma State either, as Missouri DEs Tommy Chavis and Stryker Sulak do a good job of getting upfield and have combined for 12 tackles for loss. Behind the front four are MLB Brock Christopher and WLB Sean Weatherspoon, who have combined to record 87 tackles. Weatherspoon is an instinctive linebacker with great closing speed and he excels at making plays in the backfield. And considering Oklahoma State has run the ball more than twice as much as it has thrown, watch for 210-pound SS Justin Garrett and/or 230-pound FS William Moore to be near the line of scrimmage at times. Robinson has thrown only 86 passes this year, but he's completed 72.1 percent of them for 1,035 yards and 10 touchdowns compared to three interceptions. Part of the reason he's been so efficient has been sound pass protection, as the Cowboys have allowed just two sacks. But giving Robinson the time he needs to find the open man and the space to step into throws is easier said than done against Missouri. Chavis and Sulak are relentless coming off the edges, while Hood can collapse the pocket. Robinson's favorite target and Oklahoma State's biggest playmaker at receiver is Dez Bryant, a strong receiver who snatches the ball out of the air and has caught nine of Robinson's 10 touchdown passes. However, Oklahoma State may be without All-Big 12 TE Brandon Pettigrew, who is battling an ankle injury. Without Pettigrew it will be difficult to keep Missouri honest in the middle. His absence would give Moore the freedom to cheat toward Bryant's side of the field and give CBs Carl Gettis and Castine Bridges help over the top. Taking away Bryant by shifting the coverage to his side of the field will force Robinson to look to WRs Damian Davis, DeMarcus Conner and Bo Bowling, who have combined for only 11 catches as a group.
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