AUSTIN, Texas — Parker Graham knows the result of a run play based on the crowd reaction.
On the road, silence — or a collective groan — is golden.
“If there was nobody talking, then we knew stuff was going good for us,” the Oklahoma State offensive lineman said.
The No. 12 Cowboys were content to try to match No. 24 Texas’ physical, run-heavy style with their own ground attack. In fact, that’s exactly how OSU wanted to play, rather than letting the Longhorns’ feared pass rushers get chance after chance to lay a blow on quarterback Clint Chelf.
And that run game helped OSU jump out to an early lead and then coast to a 38-13 win at Royal-Memorial Stadium, setting up a massive primetime showdown between the Cowboys and No. 5 Baylor in Stillwater that could decide the Big 12 champion.
“In our opinion, the only way to defeat (Texas’ defensive style) is to run the football,” coach Mike Gundy said. “Otherwise, you put your quarterback back there and he gets smashed in front of the home crowd and everybody’s jumping and yelling and it’s not a fun time.”
Chelf proved to be the most dangerous ball-carrier, tallying 95 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries that included a mixture of zone-read keepers and quarterback draws.
More evidence that Chelf is deceptively quick and agile. And more evidence Texas’ defense is vulnerable against the quarterback run game.
Chelf began to attack the Longhorns on the Cowboys’ second drive. First play, he took a 14-yard keeper to the left side. Three plays later, the middle of the field opened for a 22-yard draw. Three plays after that, another draw resulted in an 18-yard score.
Then in the second quarter, Chelf scored again with his legs, using a great block from fullback Kye Staley to get around the left corner for the four-yard touchdown.
“Any time you can run the quarterback, you’re making it real hard (on the opposing defense),” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said, “because it’s truly 11-on-11. You hand if off, and now it becomes 10-on-11.”
Desmond Roland complemented Chelf with 59 yards on 19 carries to help the Cowboy finish with 183 yards on 40 attempts.
As Gundy stressed, that’s just the way it had to be. Texas came into the game ranked second in the Big 12 in sacks (26) and tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries (14).
With a more limited passing attack, the Longhorns never got to Chelf for a sack. Yet he was still largely effective with his arm, completing 16 of 22 passes for 197 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Once the Cowboys had built a 28-10 halftime lead, Gundy knew his team had put Texas in a tough spot.
A Longhorn squad built to run (43 carries for 151 yards) likely needed to throw downfield in order to attempt to rally. Case McCoy tossed three interceptions, including one returned for a 43-yard score by Justin Gilbert.
Gundy, meanwhile, was happy to run it and punt.
“The offensive coaches don’t like that, the players don’t like that,” Gundy said, “but I don’t really care.”
OSU will likely need much more than a methodical, plodding ground game to keep up with Baylor’s explosive offense that is statistically the best in the nation.
But Saturday night in Austin, OSU beat Texas at its own game. And whenever the Cowboys are ready to return to that style, Graham is ready.
“When they stack the box on us and it’s just time to grit it out, we just like to put our hands in the ground and just go forward,” he said. “Just head north.”