STILLWATER — Play after play, Houston quarterback Case Keenum scrambled around before finding the open man during Oklahoma State’s 45-35 loss to the Cougars last Saturday. Unless the OSU defense finds a way to handle mobile quarterbacks like Keenum, allowing 40-plus points to the opposing offense might go from Cowboys’ fans biggest fear to a daunting reality. The Cowboys’ stated preseason goal was 40 sacks, which is about three sacks per game. After two games, OSU has just two sacks and was held without a sack against Houston. "I don’t think we’ve rushed the passer nearly as good as we should,” defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "(But) part of that is because of me. I’ve had our defensive lineman (focused) to stop the run, stop the draws and we were trying to make sure they didn’t run the ball up the middle on us. Doing that slows your pass rush down.” Today’s explosive shotgun spread offenses present a quandary: Do you sell out to get to the quarterback and risk giving up big plays, or do you rush three and sit back, counting on your defense to make sure-fire tackles? "Anytime you’re in the gun, it makes it extremely tough to get to the quarterback,” Young said. "It really reduces your chances.” Young said OSU mixed it up against Houston, at times rushing three or four and at other times rushing five or six. But Keenum handled every defensive look extremely well. And that’s what you can expect for the elite signal callers the Cowboys will face during Big 12 play. Against Houston, the Cowboys often had Keenum on the run but failed to finish the play and get the Cougars quarterback to the ground. If OSU expects to have defensive success against the Big 12’s best quarterbacks, it must take advantage of the sack opportunities it gets. The Cougars’ final offensive touchdown came on a play where Keenum was forced out of the pocket but kept the play alive long enough to make a throw into the end zone, which was tipped before ending up in Bryce Beall’s hands for the game-winning points. "It’s frustrating,” redshirt freshman defensive tackle Nigel Nicholas said. "When you’re that close, it motivates you to get closer and closer until you get that sack.” The OSU defense had four quarterback hurries against Houston but zero sacks, which has become an all-to-familiar problem. In 2008, the Cowboys had 31 hurries and just 15 sacks, finishing 105th in the nation. By comparison, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma, Troy and Cincinnati were the top five teams nationally in sacks a year ago. Only Texas, with 76 hurries, had more hurries than OSU’s 31. But the Longhorns also had a nation’s-best 47 sacks to help catapult them to a 12-1 record. "It’s still possible to get (40 sacks),” senior defensive end Jermiah Price said. "We just have to get off blocks, get up the field and make plays. When you get back there, you have to have success.” Text "Cowboys” to 65360 for your chance to win a Gameday Tailgating Package. OSU news text updates from NewsOK sponsored by Bone and Joint Hospital.
No. 16 Oklahoma State vs. Rice→When: 6 p.m. Saturday →Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater →TV: None →Radio: KXY-FM 96.1