STILLWATER -- My man Bill Haisten wrote a smart piece this week which pinned Oklahoma State’s hopes against Boise State on the Cowboys' offensive line. The gist being that if the Pokes don’t move the Broncos off the ball better than they moved South Alabama or Missouri State, if they don’t allow Justice Hill more freedom, their task Saturday grows exponentially.
He is exactly right.
Today, though, I want to turn the ball over to Boise State’s offense versus OSU’s defense.
The Broncos come to Stillwater having just amassed a school-record 818 yards against UConn. They have the nation’s fifth-most efficient quarterback in Brett Rypien. He is throwing much better than he did a year ago, spreading balls among a dangerous receiving corps that was expected to miss 2017 playmaker Cedrick Wilson. Guess not.
Rypien has stepped up and so has his offensive line – Boise has allowed one sack over its 2-0 start, a vast improvement from a year ago when Rypien was harassed early and often. This is what happens when you return four linemen with starting experience, and they grow up.
Now let’s flip the script. The Cowboys have nine sacks over their 2-0 start, the second-highest number in FBS behind Arizona State’s 11.
Rush ends Jordan Brailford and Calvin Bundage were a revelation in the season opener against Missouri State. Brailford, defensive end Brock Martin, D-tackle Cameron Murray, linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga and safety Kolby Peel all got to South Alabama’s quarterback in week two.
That’s a lot of pressure from a lot of places.
That must develop again Saturday.
That is the plan.
Asked if he noticed any pressure on Rypien in his film study, OSU defensive leader Justin Phillips said: “Not that I know of. They got 800-some yards in their last game. They couldn’t have been pressuring him. But we’re gonna get to him. We’re gonna throw some things at him.”
The Cowboys have a few advantages here.
One, the cupcake schedule of the past two weeks allowed defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to be basic. He might have unleashed Bundage in his new role against Missouri State, but it’s not like he unveiled exotic blitz packages for the world to see. He didn’t need to. Same for the South Alabama mismatch.
Two, when Knowles goes deeper into his imagination Saturday, he’ll have stronger, faster players flying at Rypien than Troy or UConn did the past two weeks.
Everybody keeps harping on OSU stepping up in class this week, and I get it. The difference between Boise State and Missouri State is like comparing Aaron Rodgers to Nathan Peterman.
But Boise is playing a different animal as well. That goes particularly for Boise’s offensive line.
The Broncos’ left tackle is a 6-6, 309-pound stud. Ezra Cleveland. Their right tackle, Andres Preciado, was their only lineman without a lot of starting experience heading into the season.
How Cleveland and Preciado hold up against Brailford, Bundage, Cole Walterscheid, Jarrell Owens and whoever else Knowles throws at Rypien will be so telling Saturday.
It’s a challenge on both sides. Rypien has been at Boise about as long as that blue turf. Phillips can see his experience on tape.
“Definitely,” he said. “He’s quick with his decisions, and he makes the right decisions.”
But it’s not like the Pokes plan to let him sit back and pick out receivers. Hardly.
“When we get out there, we’re going to try to mess with his head a little bit,” Phillips said, “and get him to throw us the ball a couple times.”