Plenty of teams have learned from Baylor’s offense.
Tulsa is experiencing an awakening under Art Briles’ understudy Philip Montgomery. Dino Babers is now helping up Syracuse’s status after spending time under Briles as well. But the greatest effect appears to be going on with Texas, which has aimed to model its offense after the Bears. So far, that effect has been greatly noticeable, and Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has certainly noticed ahead of his team’s meeting with the Longhorns on Saturday.
“Offensively, they’re running Baylor’s offense,” Gundy said during a conference call. “They want to run the football. As soon as you bring the safeties in, they want to throw the ball over your head.”
Gundy experienced that firsthand last Saturday in a 35-24 loss to the Bears. Now it’s his Cowboys’ turn to learn from the Bears to counter what the Horns throw at them.
Against Baylor, Oklahoma State approached the game attempting to control the clock — and therefore the game — to counter the up-tempo offense Baylor used in previous years to its advantage.
“We felt like the last two years, we got in a track meet with them,” Gundy said after the game. “We couldn’t run with them. And so we wanted to establish some running game, use a little bit of clock on the road.”
This week the Pokes will have the advantage of playing in front of their own crowd, but they’ll still have to be aware of tricks the Longhorns have used to become a Top 25 team this season, much like Baylor coming in underrated with its turbulent offseason.
As Gundy noted, the Longhorns strongly mirror Baylor in the attempt (and success) of a run game. Baylor was limited to 3.7 yards per attempt, but its top two runners combined for 107 yards on 23 carries to strike lightning. The Longhorns boast similar capabilities with the combination of Chris Warren III and D’Onta Foreman in the backfield aided by Tyrone Swoopes under center part time.
“You have to account for [Swoopes] when he is in the game,” Gundy said. “I would venture to guess that they have packages where he shows run and then passes it. They’ve had physical backs. It’s not anything new for them.”
Foreman and Warren have combined for 548 yards, each averaging over five yards per carry. All told, 10 touchdowns came from the ground attack while seven came from starting quarterback Shane Buechele through the air.
“He’s a really good player and seems to fit the system that they’re trying to execute,” Gundy said. “He’s very accurate, mobile and has a strong arm. He throws the ball like a baseball player.”
Buechele can largely be compared to Baylor’s Seth Russell as both have the ability to tuck it and run but also have an affinity for the deep ball. The true freshman has completed two-thirds of his passes, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt. With a formidable duo like Foreman and Warren in the backfield, Oklahoma State may continue to get baited to pinch its defenders to the line but would only open the field to track speed like John Burt and Jerrod Heard to run down the sidelines for Texas.
As Baylor showed with speed burners like Chris Platt and Ish Zamora, cornerbacks Ashton Lampkin and Ramon Richards can’t handle those one-on-one situations. Otherwise, another outing close to 400 yards through the air might be in an effort to control the ground game.
Oklahoma State’s offense has proven it can run quickly and put up points when it stays clear of turnovers (four turnovers were its undoing against Baylor). If the defense can help by getting the ball back at least once, it will be Mason Rudolph and James Washington’s responsibility to take over the game. They did just that against Pittsburgh, and it could happen again Saturday.