3rd-down con­ver­sions de­serve high marks

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OSU POSTGAME -

The Cow­boys hit Pitt early and of­ten, tak­ing a 35-0 lead and breez­ing to a 59-21 vic­tory at Heinz Field, and the grades re­flect a dom­i­nat­ing per­for­mance.

Third downs

AThe Cow­boys con­verted all 10 third downs they faced with quar­ter­back Ma­son Ru­dolph on the field. On third downs, Ru­dolph was 6-for-6 pass­ing for 152 yards and a touch­down. OSU needed at least six yards on seven of those 10 third downs.

Patch­work lineback­ing

ABetween in­juries to Kevin Henry and Ken­neth Edis­onMcGruder, plus the first-half sus­pen­sion of Calvin Bundage, OSU was woe­fully thin at line­backer. But the Cow­boys held up, with a ro­ta­tion of Justin Phillips, Chad Whitener, Gyasi Akem, Kirk Tucker and even Amen Og­bongbe­miga. Mike Gundy said he was re­ally dis­ap­pointed in only two plays – a bub­ble screen to Quadree Hen­der­son that went for 74 yards and a 14-yard touch­down pass to Rafael Araujo-Lopes. Gundy said de­fen­sive backs were re­spon­si­ble for the big play to Hen­der­son, while safety Ra­mon Richards and end Jor­dan Brail­ford missed tack­les on Araujo-Lopes.

Hands

AEarly in the fourth quar­ter, backup OSU quar­ter­back Tay­lor Cor­nelius over­threw a deep ball to fresh­man Ty­lan Wallace. Never fear. Wallace dove, cor­ralled the ball with one hand and nes­tled it to his body for a 39-yard catch. Wallace is a fast, 6-foot, 185-pound fresh­man. And he’s the Cow­boys’ sev­enth-best re­ceiver. The OSU re­ceiv­ing depth was on full dis­play, not just be­cause four Cow­boys had triple-digit re­ceiv­ing games. OSU had no drops, and sev­eral catches were ei­ther pris­tine clamps on tight spi­rals in coverage or leap­ing grabs on jump balls tossed by Ru­dolph.

Set­ting

AHeinz Field is not an op­u­lent sta­dium that pro­vides a close en­counter of the third kind. But it’s beau­ti­ful, func­tional and scenic. Many of the seats pro­vide of a view the down­town sky­line and the Al­legheny River. Sev­eral thou­sand OSU fans en­joyed not only the re­sult, but the venue.

Run de­fense

Pitt wants to run the ball, but the Pan­thers had only oc­ca­sional suc­cess. On called run­ning plays, Pitt gained 117 yards on 28 car­ries. Some of that came on re­ceiver sweeps (five car­ries, 45 yards) and backup quar­ter­back Ben DiNucci had a 23-yard gain on an op­tion play.

Punt game

The only ma­jor OSU neg­a­tive came when ei­ther team punted. OSU punter Zach Si­nor took the field only twice, but on the sec­ond, Si­nor failed to han­dle Sam Walk­ing­stick’s snap that was only slightly high. The ball went through Si­nor’s hands into the end zone, and he whiffed on try­ing to kick it out of the end zone. Pitt’s Ja­son Pin­nick re­cov­ered for a touch­down. But

Pitt punts rarely went well for the Cow­boys, ei­ther. Jalen McCleskey’s trou­ble on re­turns con­tin­ued, as he let sev­eral Pitt punts bounce. Two were downed in­side the OSU 5-yard line, and an­other died just at the goal line. McCleskey’s ad­ven­tures have to be a point of con­cern.

Block­ing

AThe Cow­boys ran well and threw with amaz­ing ef­fi­ciency, de­spite los­ing of­fen­sive line an­chor Zach Crab­tree to a first-quar­ter in­jury. Red­shirt fresh­man Teven Jenk­ins re­placed Crab­tree, and who knows how Jenk­ins held up? But the line as a whole did well. Pitt did not take ad­van­tage of Crab­tree’s void at right tackle. Ru­dolph was sacked just once, and that came less than five min­utes into the game, be­fore Crab­tree’s in­jury. The Cow­boy tail­backs gained 134 yards on 31 car­ries, but that’s with J.D. King and LD Brown run­ning be­hind the sec­ondteam line most of the sec­ond half.

[AP PHOTO/KEITH SRAKOCIC]

OSU quar­ter­back Ma­son Ru­dolph hands the ball off to Jus­tice Hill dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter of the Cow­boys’ win over Pitt on Satur­day. OSU was 10-for-10 on third down con­ver­sions when Ru­dolph was in the game.

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