Oklahoma State enters its matchup with fourth-ranked Baylor (Saturday, 8 ET on ABC) riding a six-game win streak, and is averaging nearly 48 points per game over the last four games since Clint Chelf took over as the starting quarterback. One important part of its recent offensive success has been an increased reliance on the run.
Getting back to the ground game
Oklahoma State Offense This Season
In the first six games, rushing attempts accounted for fewer than 45 percent of the Cowboys’ total plays; since then, Oklahoma State has called a run on nearly 60 percent of its plays. The ground game has been more explosive over the last four games, totaling 10 rushes of at least 20 yards, which is six more 20-yard runs than it had in the first six games.
The key to Oklahoma State’s success on the ground has been improved play in the trenches. It has averaged 2.3 yards before contact per rush in its first six games and was first contacted behind the line of scrimmage on more than a quarter of its carries. In the last four games, the Cowboys have totaled at least 130 yards before contact in three of four contests, and are averaging 3.3 yards before contact per rush.
Chelf has set career highs in rushing yards in three of four games since taking over as starter, averaging 72 yards per game and 10.7 yards per rush on designed runs. His signature play was a 67-yard touchdown run up the middle in Oklahoma State’s win over Texas Tech.
As noted in the graphic above, in the last four games, Oklahoma State is averaging 12 more points per game than in its first six games. Yet at the same time, the Cowboys are averaging 27.4 fewer yards per game in the last four games than they did in their first six games.
More efficient in the red zone
One reason for Oklahoma State’s increased efficiency on offense is that the team is doing a better job of getting into the end zone when inside the 20-yard line.
Oklahoma State Offense in Red Zone
Oklahoma State has scored a touchdown on 90.5 percent of its red zone opportunities in the last four games, the sixth-best rate in the FBS since the start of Week 9. From Weeks 1-8, the Cowboys scored a touchdown on 64.5 percent of their red-zone opportunities, 51st among FBS teams.
Protecting the ball
Another reason for Oklahoma State’s improved offensive output is better ball protection. The Cowboys have turned the ball over on 6.5 percent of their drives in the last four games, down from 10.6 percent in the first six games. They are one of nine teams in the FBS without a lost fumble since the start of Week 9.
Oklahoma State’s recent success in the running game will be tested this weekend against Baylor. The Bears have added 63.5 expected points on opponents’ rushes, the second-best rushing defense EPA in the FBS. Rushing defense EPA is a measure of the contribution that it makes to its team’s net scoring margin when opponents run the ball.