STILLWATER – The Cowboys committed to running the ball against Oklahoma.
Partly because they thought it necessary.
Partly because they thought the Sooners wouldn't expect it.
“That's because we don't run it,” said Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “And usually we're not very good at it. So that's a pretty good plan.”
Monken typically comes down hard on his group, often over the top. The Cowboys actually average 161 rushing yards per game as part of the nation's No. 3-ranked offense.
But his point plays more to the fact that OSU's identity is tied directly to its aerial assault, putting up 400-plus yards a game as the No. 2 passing offense in the country.
And the last time out, in a 37-31 double-overtime loss at Iowa State, the Cowboys managed just 60 yards on the ground.
Against OU, the Cowboys gashed away, totaling 278 yards and producing two 100-yard rushers, with Joseph Randle going for 151 yards and two touchdowns, Jeremy Smith 119 yards and two scores.
On 33 carries in the game, Cowboy rushers were never dropped for a loss.
“Guys did a great job up front,” Monken said. “And I thought our running backs really took to heart what we talked about, which was running downhill. And if they got touched, it was arm tackles.
“The bottom line is when you play a team like that, you have to be balanced. You go one dimensional, they start pinning their ears back and coming after you. They've got good coaches. So we tried to be balanced.”
For Randle, there was redemption, after back-to-back games with two lost fumbles brought down the criticism and even got him benched for a good while at Iowa State.
Against the Sooners, Randle ran hard and tough, carrying 19 times.
“It's a roller coaster ride, definitely,” Randle said of his past few weeks. “But it's all paying off now.”
Said Monken: “Randle: I'm so proud of Joe. Joe practiced his butt off. Nobody felt worse than Joe. I thought Joe ran hard. And he protected the ball all week (in practice).”
The Cowboys hinted at their strategy from the start, running five of six plays on their opening drive.
They never wavered from the commitment.
Paving the way for the running game, the Cowboys used more motion, more two-back sets, more jumbo packages and more outside runs than they had all season, all the work of offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
“It's really coach Wickline,” Monken said. “Coach Wickline came up with a great plan for us to run the football. We rely on him that way.”
OSU romped to a 34-point win without Brandon Weeden tossing a touchdown for the first time in his career as a starter.
“We believe we can throw it,” Monken said. “But we have to be able to run it. You're going to be a team that throws it to win, but the reality is you've got to be careful putting too much on them. We count so much on them to make so many decisions.”
Besides, the Cowboys were counting on the Sooners committing to stopping Weeden and the receiving crew.
“You can't just throw it every snap and be effective,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “And we also felt like they would think that we weren't going to try to run the ball. We felt like they would just probably defend pass.”