The Cowboys have run the ball well in consecutive victories. Their tight ends are part of the successful formula.
With 2:59 left in the second quarter and quarterback Alan Bowman’s cadence serving like a starter’s pistol, Braden Cassity exploded from his stance. He took four steps to his right to pull across the line of scrimmage and hurled himself into Kansas defensive lineman Jerome Robinson.
Cassity, a tight end, was making sure the instructions he gives running back Ollie Gordon could be fulfilled.
“I like telling Ollie, ‘Hey, you like scoring touchdowns? Follow me,’” Cassity said.
Gordon ran right past Robinson, whom Cassity had smothered on the ground, for a 42-yard touchdown.
“That was an awesome play by the whole O-Line as well,” Cassity said. “Those are the ones you want, big runs like that. Especially from him. It’s awesome.”
OSU coach Mike Gundy cites two main factors for his team’s marked improvement in rushing success: consistency, and emphasizing the blocking importance of tight ends. The results are apparent. In the Cowboys’ first three games, they averaged 119 yards. In their past three games, with 11 more total carries, the Cowboys have averaged 174 yards per game.
The Cowboys will attempt to take what they’ve found on the ground to the road. West Virginia is fifth in the Big 12 in run defense, allowing 119 yards per game.
Cassity, who professes to love blocking, credited fellow tight ends, Josiah Johnson, Quinton Stewart and Jake Schultz for embracing the increase in physicality. All of their numbers are up. In OSU’s first four games, Pro Football Focus indicates OSU’s tight ends averaged 7.4 run blocking snaps. In the two games after the bye, OSU’s tight ends have averaged 12.8 run blocking assignments.
“We’re getting some some good play out of our tight ends we’ve involved considerably in the running game over the last month,” Gundy said.
Consistency, the other attribute to OSU’s recent success, is harder to measure.
Center Joe Michalski, who sensed OSU’s offensive line hit its stride two weeks ago, said the offense is running more plays that it had early success with. Staying in a comfort zone has its benefits.
“I feel pretty confident in where we are right now,” Michalski said. “All the schemes are running.”
When asked what he attributed the offensive line’s recent success to, OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said confidence, what Michalski feels, shouldn’t be overlooked.
After not getting a rusher over 100 yards in the first three games, Gordon has rushed for more than 120 yards in each of the past three games.
“When you start to produce those 100-yard rushers, that really starts to sink in a little bit,” Dunn said. “I think there’s this confidence. Obviously, Ollie has done a great job of taking the football and rolling with it.”