In the days following Oklahoma State's narrow 20-14 win over Kansas, coach Mike Gundy has continued to point to a lack of physicality up front as one reason why the Cowboy offense had troubles moving the football.
Those are not words an offensive lineman wants to hear.
“As the offensive line, you want to be the most physical unit on the field at all times,” left tackle Parker Graham said. “I think we're really going to take (Gundy's comments) and use it as motivation this week and get after each other on offense and defense and see what we can do.”
By often stacking the area near the line of scrimmage, the Jayhawks were the first team this season to really slow down the Cowboys' rushing attack. Joseph Randle came into the game as the nation's sixth-leading rusher, but gained just 80 yards on 29 carries (2.8 yards per carry).
Graham said he notices several similarities between KU's style of defense and OSU's next opponent, Iowa State. The Cyclones currently rank 36th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 126 yards per game, and feature two dynamic linebackers in Jake Knott (57 tackles) and A.J. Klein (50).
The Cowboys struggled to run the football against ISU last season, as Randle and Jeremy Smith combined for just 60 yards on 18 carries. Randle also fumbled twice, which got him benched in the second half.
QUINN SHARP HAPPY TO TAKE ONE FOR TEAM
OSU kicker/punter Quinn Sharp was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week Monday after averaging 53 yards on five punts, connecting on field goals of 49 and 42 yards and booming four touchbacks on five kickoffs against KU.
But he was also at the center of arguably the game's biggest play — or most boneheaded play, depending on how you look at it — when he drew a roughing the kicker penalty on a punt late in the fourth quarter that gave the Cowboys a first down and all but sealed the victory.
Sharp was more than happy to take the shot for the team.
“The way (KU) lined up, you could tell they were bringing max blitz or max out block,” Sharp said. “I kind of expected it. We handled it really well. We had a great snap. We had a great operation time. Our shield was very firm — they just came on the outside and caught me. We got the penalty and we won the game.
“As soon as it happened, I was like, ‘All right, well, if it's a 15-yarder and not a 5-yarder, then we've got the game.' So I'll take it. It was a good thing. Everybody was joking in the locker room, ‘You got knocked out, but we'll take it for the penalty.'”
OPPONENT WATCH: IOWA STATE SEARCHING FOR RUN GAME
Like the Cowboys, ISU is coming off its worst rushing performance of the season, compiling just 65 yards on the ground against Kansas State last week. In fact, it was the Cyclones' lowest rushing output since it recorded negative-6 yards against Colorado in 2010.
All told, ISU has not had a 100-yard rusher in five weeks and ranks 85th in the nation in that category (143 yards allowed per game).
“We are disappointed in our effort running the football right now,” coach Paul Rhoads told the Ames Tribune. “We got to improve it. If you are going to be successful as a team, not just as an offense, but as a team, you got to be able to run the football.”
OSU's defense has performed well against the run this season, ranking 44th in the nation (134.4 yards allowed per game).