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Oklahoma State football: Why Michael Sam and the Missouri defensive front presents a big challenge for OSU

One of the more underrated-yet-intriguing matchups of the Cotton Bowl is a battle at the line of scrimmage between Michael Sam and his pass-rushing friends and a retooled OSU offensive line.
BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer, Published: December 28, 2013

— Mike Yurcich's quick assessment of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam?

“I don't know if we've seen anybody that's better than him, honestly,” the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator said of the Tigers' unanimous All-American.

So cue up one of the more underrated-yet-intriguing matchups of the Cotton Bowl — a battle at the line of scrimmage between Sam and his pass-rushing friends who put the opposing quarterback on the turf 38 times and a retooled OSU offensive line that led the Big 12 with 11 sacks allowed.

“(Sam) gives us a bunch challenges,” said Cowboy right guard Parker Graham, who has also played both right and left tackle during his career. “He's got a ton of sacks. After watching game film, he's got a bunch of different moves that he throws, so our tackles are gonna have to be ready to go against one of the elite guys in the nation.”

Sam's breakout senior season is one of the more surprising stories in college football.

The former two-star recruit out of Hitchcock, Texas, came into 2013 with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in his career. He did not start when OSU and Mizzou last met in 2011 in Columbia, though he did record four tackles.

But this season, Sam has become a terror off the edge, using his athleticism and high effort level to quickly explode past the offensive line and up the field. The results: 10.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in a league that is full of playmakers on that side of the football.

“As long as you have a good motor and you can play football and you love the game, I think you can be one of the top people in the nation,” Sam recently told reporters in Columbia, lifting a self-imposed media ban that took up the majority of the regular season.

Cowboy right tackles Brandon Garrett and Chris Grisbhy will primarily be responsible for trying to slow down Sam. But the Cowboys are also quick to note that Sam isn't the Tigers' only dangerous defensive lineman.

On the other side is fellow end Kony Ely, a first-team All-SEC pick by The Associated Press and a guy Graham said is “no joke” after tallying 7.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, five pass breakups and a team-best 14 quarterback hurries.

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