Gundy pleased with performance of Cowboy offensive line

Oklahoma State offensive linesman Johnny Wilson (72) congratulates running back Chuba Hubbard after Hubbard scored a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game with Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. Oklahoma State won 52-36. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

STILLWATER, Okla. — The numbers looked good for the Oklahoma State offensive line in the opener against Oregon State — a team that ranked second-to-last in scoring defense last year. The numbers were in fact historical in the Mike Gundy era.

“It was the highest grade we have ever had as an offensive line since I have been a head coach,” Coach Gundy said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “Guys are playing harder downfield and I guess Coach Dickey is demanding they play that way. They had some mistakes, but overall I thought they played pretty well. That is what we have to do in order to continue to rush the football.”

But he’s not ready to drink that Kool-Aid just yet.

“It is early in all phases. Everyone has to be careful about being on the Kool-Aid early,” Gundy said.

The starting offensive line, which is made up entirely of players recruited by multiple previous offensive line coaches, shined in the debut for first-year offensive line coach Charlie Dickey.

It’s not just the grade that proved so either. Just the simple stats would say so.

Behind the big men, redshirt sophomore running back Chuba Hubbard had 26 caries for 221 yards – and only three of his carries were stopped for negative yardage.

They also protected redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders making his debut. Sanders was sacked just once in the contest – where last year, the line gave up an average of three sacks per game – which allowed the young QB to complete 19 of 24 passes for 203 yards, while also rushing 13 times for 119 yards.

“We've been really fortunate to have really good skill players here over the past 10 years. If we (offensive linemen) can just cover guys up and not turn them loose,” Gundy said. “The recognition and covering guys up will let guys go make plays, that's the direction we're going.”

Helping the line find success in the opener was the amount of experience there is in the trenches.

Three of the five starters had a combined 75 starts – and combined 92 games played – heading into the opener, led by redshirt senior Marcus Keyes, who had 37 career starts and played in every single game of his college career. Also with experience along the front is redshirt senior center Johnny Wilson (22 career starts) and redshirt junior Teven Jenkins (16 career starts).

Redshirt junior Dylan Galloway, who started at left tackle against Oregon State, had also started in the final five games a year ago.

“With the speed and tempo that we like to play, recognition is very important,” Gundy said. “Like 33 or 34 percent of the time last year when we snapped the ball in our hurry-up, the defense wasn’t set – weren’t lined up where they were supposed to. So guys that have played know, even though he (the defender) is not set, he’s coming to his position, so we are working from him to the (linebacker). That’s versus a young guy who doesn’t have anybody there, ‘Well, I can just go up to the backer and he (the defensive lineman not set) can just come right through. It seems like it would be easy, but it’s not. For that fact, those guys can recognize and do a better job on the run with us playing with a lot of speed.”

The only fresh face on the offensive line in the opener was redshirt freshman Bryce BraY, though he did get to play in one game (at Baylor) during his redshirt year.

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Elmquist is sports editor for Stillwater News Press, a CNHI News Service publication.

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