STILLWATER — Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace put on a show in the Cowboys’ 52-36 season opener win at Oregon State on Friday.
Hubbard rushed for a career-high 221 yards while Sanders added another 109 yards on the ground. Sanders also threw for 203 yards with two of his three touchdown passes going to Wallace, who finished with five receptions for 92 yards.
The Cowboys’ 352 rushing yards gave them a sixth-place ranking in FBS while their 555 total offensive yards currently ranks 18th. Gundy gave credit to the big boys up front during Monday’s press conference.
“Everybody has to be careful about being on the Kool-Aid early,” Gundy said. “But it’s the highest grade that we’ve ever had as an offensive line group since I’ve been the head coach.”
There are 11 more regular-season games to be played, but the offensive line is off to a solid start. The Cowboys are expecting to build on their offensive production in their home opener against McNeese State at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Gundy said issues up front come when the offensive line allows a guy to get loose. The Cowboys ran 76 plays on Friday, and Gundy only recalled three times where the offensive line let an Oregon State player cut loose.
There was only one holding penalty on the offensive line, from center Johnny Wilson that negated a 39-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Wilson and the O-line made up for it by opening holes for Hubbard the remainder of the game, including one big enough for him to break free for a 53-yard sprint to the end zone during the third quarter.
“They had some mistakes, but overall they played pretty well,” Gundy said. “That’s what we’ve got to do in order to continue rushing the football.”
When talking about the offensive line, Gundy reminisced on his early years at Oklahoma State. The line was led by current Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung, who was the sixth overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2010 NFL draft. He played for the Cowboys from 2007-09.
In 2007, OSU allowed 11 sacks in 13 games while ranking eighth nationally in rushing.
“In my early years here, once we got past the first year, we kind of figured out what we were doing,” Gundy said. “In ’06, ’07, ’08 and ’09 people really didn’t want to play us based on our physicality upfront and our ability to hit you in the mouth and rush the football.”
“We weren’t as flamboyant that we have been in the last six or eight years. But I guess maybe me more than anybody, wants to get back to that. The way that we built this program in the early days.”
Hiring offensive line coach Charlie Dickey might have been the first domino in restoring the offensive line back to its glory days. Gundy unsuccessfully tried to get Dickey on his staff in the past before finally getting him on the payroll this season.
Gundy had said during training camp that he thought Dickey was a perfect fit. He told OSU fans during “A Night with OSU” at the Jones Assembly in Oklahoma City last month that he was excited about the hard-nosed approach Dickey was going to bring to the O-line group.
Dickey’s first game validated Gundy’s excitement. It also helps that this is Gundy’s most experienced offensive line to start a season since 2009. Four of the five starting linemen came into Friday with a combined 80 career starts. Redshirt freshman Bryce Bray had his first career start at right guard.
“(Marcus Keyes) has had a million reps in his career,” Gundy said. “(Wilson) has played forever, now Teven (Jenkins) has been around and played. So really, the only new one is Bryce. … When (Dylan Galloway) had to play a year ago, it was in the meat of the schedule against really good teams, so he’s been thrown into the fire. He’s somewhat of a veteran player.”