By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer
Oklahoma State’s high-flying offense is among the nation’s best, and the guys up front have been a big part of its success.
The sixth-ranked Cowboys rank third nationally in total offense with 607 yards per game and fourth nationally with 54 points per contest heading into Saturday’s Big 12 opener at home against TCU.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph has emerged as a Heisman Trophy contender and James Washington (367 yards, three touchdowns) is one of the nation’s top receivers, in part because the line has given them time to connect. Rudolph is among the nation’s leaders in passing efficiency, and he’s only been sacked three times in three games. Last week, he passed for 497 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-21 win at Pittsburgh .
“As an offensive lineman, that’s always your mentality is that no one’s going to touch your quarterback,” center Brad Lundblade said. “We know that if we give him time that we have plenty of guys that can make plays.”
Tackle Zach Crabtree, a senior, was a preseason first-team All-Big 12 choice. He leads the team with 37 career starts, including 32 straight. Lundblade started every game the past two seasons and has made 27 straight in all. Guards Marcus Keyes and Larry Williams entered the year with starting experience and transfer Aaron Cochran, a left tackle, started 16 games at Cal.
“Having that experience is huge, especially at a position like offensive line,” Lundblade said. “A lot of it is about camaraderie and being able to trust one another and having that continuity and trust along the entire offensive line.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson said the Cowboys play a physical brand of football.
“You’ve got a great nucleus of people,” Patterson said. “They lost a couple of offensive linemen, but they picked up a Cal transfer that’s starting at left tackle for them. Center’s smart. You’re not going to go fool them very often. You’ve got to go play.”
Oklahoma State established its running game well enough in wins over Tulsa and South Alabama that Pitt tried to focus on stopping the ground game. The Cowboys were held to 104 yards on 35 carries, but they passed for 572 yards and five touchdowns.
“Whenever they take something away the other people have to step up and make plays and that’s what we did, and the O-line — they did a great job blocking for Mason,” said receiver Jalen McCleskey, who caught seven passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns against Pittsburgh. “Mason made great throws, the receivers ran great routes, and the coaching staff, they did a great job of putting the plays in and helping us succeed.”
The Cowboys want to continue rolling against TCU. The Horned Frogs rank 15th nationally in total defense, allowing just 265 yards per game.
“We’re always out to send a message no matter who we’re playing,” Lundblade said. “Our goal was to dominate and that’s what we came out to do and we were able to do that against Pitt, and that’s our goal every single week.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .
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