STILLWATER — Head coach Mike Gundy said Sunday that through the season's first three games, Oklahoma State's offensive line has played "average at best.” Not bad for a team on pace to rush for 4,000 yards. Oklahoma State's rushing total of 1,003 yards ranks third nationally behind Navy and Air Force, which makes the Cowboys No. 1 nationally among teams that don't run the triple-option. On Sunday, though, Gundy was turning attention away from his blockers, who less than a week ago were drawing their coach's praise for a total of 89 knockdown blocks on Sept. 6 against Houston. "We have some pretty good skill players that make people miss,” Gundy said a day after his offense posted 450 rushing yards, the sixth-best total in school history, in a 57-13 rout of Missouri State. So Gundy's "average-at-best” talk sounds more like a motivational ploy than his true opinion. He doesn't want them to gain even a hint of complacency when they see all the statistics or watch their dominating performances in the film room. "If they continue to work hard and improve, they can be a pretty good line,” Gundy said. If they continue to improve, OSU's offensive line could be one of the best in the country. It's already one of the Big 12 Conference's best, anchored by left tackle Russell Okung, who has NFL written all over him. At 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, Okung has the body and ability to be a first-round draft choice. ESPN's Mel Kiper currently ranks him as one of the five best junior offensive tackles in the nation. At the other tackle, junior Brady Bond continues to play better and better. And run blocking is his specialty. The heart of the line — guards Andrew Lewis and Steve Denning, along with center David Washington — are about as consistent as it gets. Add to that another NFL first-rounder in tight end Brandon Pettigrew (Kiper has him as the 15th-best player available in next year's draft) and a receiving corps that has contributed to as many big plays with its perimeter blocking as with its pass catching, and it's easy to see why the Cowboys are a run-first offense. Kendall Hunter is currently fourth nationally with 449 rushing yards per game, even after seeing his day end with 13:59 left on the second-quarter clock Saturday. The Cowboys have led the Big 12 in rushing the last two seasons, and they look primed to do it again. One-fourth of the way through the season, only Baylor (243.3 yards per game) is within 100 yards of OSU's per-game average of 334.3 yards. So if this is "average at best,” OSU's opponents better fear the day the offensive line plays better than average.
OSU's Kendall Hunter, center, cuts in while Brady Bond, left, trails on Saturday. Hunter is fourth nationally in rushing yards per game behind the Cowboys' strong offensive line. by Doug Hoke, THE OKLAHOMAN