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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

And in the middle are tackle Matt Hoch and nose guard Harold Brantley, whom Cowboy coach Mike Gundy describes as “heavy, big, thick guys that push up the field” and allow those ends to make plays on the outside.

“It's not like you can just sit there and key on one guy,” Yurcich said. “They have a couple guys that give them depth, so they're fresh. They all get up field with athleticism, explosion.

“They have heavy hands and quick feet. They're a good bunch. Their front is very, very talented.”

The good news for the Cowboys? Their offensive line is more equipped now than it would have been in, say, late September to handle such a defensive front.

A line that went through multiple shuffles in the early season became a key component of OSU's resurgent offense when it finally stabilized — and succeeded — in late October with the combo of Daniel Koenig at left tackle, Brandon Webb at left guard, Jake Jenkins at center, Graham at right guard and Garrett/Grisbhy at right tackle. A mobile quarterback like Clint Chelf — who will be asked to move well inside the pocket and still deliver the ball accurately against Mizzou — has also helped the Cowboys avoid those sacks.

The truth is, though, that the Cowboys have been stout at protecting the quarterback all season long, with those 11 sacks allowed ranking 10th nationally.

Perhaps the best gauge of that came against Texas, where a Longhorn squad that tied for fifth in the nation with 37 sacks — and features the formidable defensive end duo of Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed — did not record a sack or quarterback hurry.

Graham calls Sam a more powerful version of Jeffcoat. He also believes his line is ready for the challenge of facing the best.

“For us, it's gonna be a good matchup,” Graham said. “We're gonna be excited to see what happens.”