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'A big confidence booster': Oklahoma State's offensive line finding stability, confidence

Jacob Unruh

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State’s offensive line needed last Saturday.

Fifty-seven rushes, 246 yards and a whole lot of confidence came out of the wild 21-20 victory at Boise State following two sub-par blocking games.

Just in time for No. 25-ranked Kansas State, a team that allows just 54.7 rushing yards per game.

“Having that game going into this game is huge for us,” OSU veteran left guard Josh Sills said. “It’s a big confidence booster, but at the same time we’ve been putting in the work in practice. It was good to finally see that pay off for us.”

As the Cowboys prepare for Big 12 play, they are beginning to find their way on the offensive line. They have the starting five they are most comfortable with, too.

Cole Birmingham at left tackle. Sills at left guard. Danny Godlevske at center. Hunter Woodard at right guard. Jake Springfield at right tackle.

“I would say when we go out to practice, if all these guys are back playing Tuesday, that’ll be the best we’ve been so far,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said on Monday.

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Oklahoma State receiver Tay Martin (1) and Josh Sills (72) celebrate Martin's touchdown catch Saturday against Missouri State. He had a team-high six catches for 107 yards.

Woodard’s return from an injury that prevented him from playing in the first two games of the season was the biggest addition for the beleaguered Cowboys line.

“He brings experience back," Sills said. "Last year, he played really well. He plays aggressive, he plays physical, he plays hard.

“You can go back and watch it. There’s not a single play that he takes off. It’s 100% effort every play.”

OSU also found a groove in the run blocking. At one point, the Cowboys ran the ball for 21 straight plays.

That’s when the confidence really started building.

“It gives us an assurance and lets us know the game’s on our back,” Sills said. “I take that very pridefully. That’s something that I know that I want and I know that everybody else wants on the O-line.

“It’s a good feeling whenever you can come out of a game like that — a hard-fought win — and have that many rushing yards and rushing attempts, and coaches can look at you and say, ‘You five answered the call.’”

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‘Bad breaks and crooked refs’

Days later, defensive end Brock Martin still can’t say whether officials made the correct call or not when his sack of Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier was erased in the fourth quarter on a bizarre roughing-the-passer penalty.

But Martin knows the rulebook well.

“I know that you're not allowed to tackle the quarterback if you’re face-up with him and you’re not allowed to go below the knees, but if he tucks the ball and starts running off you can tackle him like a running back,” Martin said. “That rule obviously didn’t apply there. I think that’s the rule that they were probably trying to enforce.

“I’m not allowed to say anything on whether they made the right or wrong decision.”

Gundy said on his radio show Monday night that officials acknowledged they missed the call.

Martin said when he asked for an explanation that officials told him that a quarterback is a defenseless player in the pocket.

“I was like, 'Maybe you shouldn’t play quarterback,’ because I had never heard that before,” Martin said.

When Gundy was asked what he could tell players in that situation, his answer was short.

“Bad breaks and crooked refs,” Gundy said.

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Rashod Owens ready when needed

Redshirt freshman Rashod Owens was just one of two healthy receivers with experience practicing last week.

Owens and sophomore Brennan Presley, both not exactly veterans.

And it was on Wednesday that Owens moved from slot to the “Z” outside receiver position.

“I played ‘Z’ all last year,” Owens said. “It felt good coming back to that and just getting back into the system. Me knowing the plays helps our offensive line and everybody.

“It felt pretty good.”

After a strong spring game, Owens has had an impact early in the season. He had a catch against Missouri State. He had two catches for 34 yards against Boise State.

And he blocked well, too.

That’s led to a boost in confidence all around.

“Now that I know what’s my worth and what I can put in to help this team, it helps my teammates know they can trust me,” Owens said.

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“It came into us as a run play and we didn’t know that it was a pass play until we all saw the ball go over our heads and we were like, ‘Oh, it’s a pass.’” — Sills on the final throw to walk-on Cale Cabbiness that sealed OSU’s win at Boise State.

Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

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