The Cowboys beat Arizona State by restoring their running game

The Cowboys beat Arizona State by restoring their running game

The Cowboys beat Arizona State, 27-15, Saturday night by solving a familar problem.

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

| Sep 10, 2023, 7:29am CDT

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

Sep 10, 2023, 7:29am CDT

TEMPE, Arizona — Kasey Dunn learned something late Saturday while sitting in the corner of a cramped interview room of Mountain America Stadium.

On 12 carries, Oklahoma State failed to net one rushing yard in the first half of its 27-15 win against Arizona State on Saturday night.

“Hell, I didn’t know we had zero,” Dunn, OSU offensive coordinator, said. 

First-half rushing woes, an affliction last week against Central Arkansas, continued for the Cowboys against the Sun Devils. The struggles were part of why OSU trailed 15-10 at halftime.  A second-half resurgence relegated them to the back of Dunn’s mind. 

As they did in the opener, the Cowboys rode their second-half running game to victory.

OSU ran for 113 yards in the second half against the Sun Devils, averaging 5.9 yards a carry. The Cowboys’ two biggest plays of the night, a 31-yard rush from Ollie Gordon and a 34-yard carry from Jaden Nixon, came in the second half.

“We got some issues ironed out,” Dunn said. “And we were able to run the ball a lot better and it’s the second week in a row doing it. So I’m happy with how it turned out.”

Coach Mike Gundy said he probably should have adjusted his running scheme before halftime. To him, the solution was apparent.

“We went from (running) a little bit of an outside near zone to more of an inside zone,” Gundy said. “We were having problems, the backside linebacker was running through us. We couldn’t get to him. So we changed our scheme a little bit.”

Gordon finished as OSU’s leading rusher with 53 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. He said once he figured out what the Sun Devils were doing, stunting senior linebacker Tre Brown, cutback lanes opened. The entire running back room benefitted from OSU’s blocking adjustment. Nixon ended with 43 yards and senior Elijah Collins had 30.

OSU’s offense unlocks when it starts running the ball well.

“It’s night and day,” Dunn said. “Defenses get into cover one, they leave the receivers one- on-one on the perimeter. We like our receivers…collectively it’s a really, really good unit so when we can get those guys in one-on-one we feel pretty good about it.”

Gundy said the rushing game still has a long way to go. The benchmark he gave for a successful rushing performance is averaging four yards a carry. That’s a number the Cowboys have failed to meet in both of their first halves and cleared thereafter.

“In the second half, without watching on tape, we ran the ball good enough for the rest of the year,” Gundy said. “If we can run like that in the first half and second half of the upcoming games we’ll be fine.”

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Ben Hutchens and his twin brother Sam cover Oklahoma State for the Sellout Crowd. After a decade of living in the state, Ben finally feels justified in calling himself an Oklahoman. It is in Oklahoma where he turned an obsession with sports into a career. He collected bylines on all 16 Oklahoma State varsity sports during his time as a student writing for The O’Colly. He interned at the Stillwater News Press and covered high school football for the Tulsa World. Ben has won some storytelling awards but doesn’t remember them nearly as well as the people who have been impacted by his stories. You can reach him at [email protected] and continue the dialogue @Ben Hutchens_ on social media.

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