STILLWATER — It's pick your poison for Oklahoma State opponents.
Whenever the Cowboys' offense arrives in the red zone, opposing defenses must make a choice: Either stack the box to try to keep Kendall Hunter, the Big 12's leading rusher, out of the end zone or provide help on the outside where Justin Blackmon, the Big 12's leading receiver, is consistently winning one-on-one battles with cornerbacks.
OSU ranks No. 2 nationally in red zone scoring this season, having scored on 35 of 36 drives inside an opponents' 20-yard line (97 percent). The Cowboys have scored 25 touchdowns (69.44 touchdown percentage) and 10 field goals (27.78 field goal percentage).
The driving force behind the Pokes' red zone success has been their ability to run the ball. Hunter, Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith have proven to be solid short yardage runners, with 14 of the Pokes' 25 red zone scores coming on the ground.
"(The key) is the offensive line," quarterback Brandon Weeden said. "We run the ball a lot down there, even though the field is condensed they still make running lanes for Kendall. You have to run the football, which opens up the passing game."
With Hunter, Smith and Randle forcing teams to account for them, it often leaves Blackmon and Michael Harrison one-on-one on the outside. Blackmon has proved himself virtually unguardable on fade routes and Harrison has scored two touchdowns on fade routes this season, including a brilliant 15-yard fade route for a score against Kansas State last Saturday.
"We don't play smash mouth football but we've been able to run the ball somewhat effectively," coach Mike Gundy said. "Brandon has the capability to throw fades and we have wide outs that go up and get them, like Mike Harrison on Saturday."