STILLWATER — Last season, the Oklahoma State Cowboys were the definition of a balanced offense.
Their total rushing yardage of 3,161 exactly matched their passing yardage total. And this season, it's more of the same, with only 40 yards separating their rush and pass totals after two games.
Oddly, yardage numbers don't come into play when the Cowboy coaches offer their definition of a balanced offense.
"Balanced offense is doing what it takes in that particular moment to win,” OSU co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said. "You would like to be able to run the ball and pass the ball any time you want to, not because you have to. That keeps the defense guessing at all times.”
Balance is more a product of having success throwing deep on first down off play action, or converting third-and-eight with a draw play. Then doing the opposite in opposite situations.
When it comes to running and passing, OSU does both well, and neither incredibly better than the other.
"A balanced offense is an offense that scores one point more than the other team, no matter what it has to do to do it — whether we run it 800 times and throw it once, or throw it 800 times and run it once,” said co-offensive coordinator Trooper Taylor. "The bottom line is doing what we have to do to win.”
But yardage-wise, the Cowboys continue to display an innate ability to regularly post similar statistics in both categories.
It's no different than last year for the Pokes, who were the only team in the country to have more than 3,000 yards both rushing and passing.
So far this season, OSU has rushed for 553 yards and passed for 513, one of only two teams to surpass 500 yards in both categories so far.
Balance starts up front
The key to having a balanced offensive attack of run and pass doesn't rely solely on the runners and passers.
First, you have to have an offensive line that can block equally well for both.
"People forget about the big guys up front,” Oklahoma State co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said. "But any time you have balance, it's because you have that front wall there.”
OSU's front five haven't always gotten the credit they deserve, as they continue to develop into one of the most talented units in the Big 12 Conference and the country. They've allowed only two sacks so far this season, while opening gaping holes for the Cowboy backs to run through.
Their ability to block for running backs as well as protect quarterback Zac Robinson is the biggest reason for the Cowboys' balance.
"I think a lot of teams, they're either really good at run blocking or really good at pass blocking, but (OSU offensive line coach Joe) Wickline always goes after guys who can do both,” said starting left guard Andrew Lewis. "He harps on being able to be good at run blocking, but you've also got to be able to pass block.
"He's not going to play you just because you're a great run blocker. You've got to be a pass blocker, too.”
By Scott Wright