October 08, 2015

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) No. 21 Oklahoma State seeks an improved running game to balance the offense against West Virginia.

Quarterback Mason Rudolph helped engineer another fourth quarter comeback last weekend, completing 34 of 55 passes for 437 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 26-24 win over Kansas State.

Part of the reason Rudolph threw the ball so many times against K-State was because the Cowboys rushed for just 49 yards on 27 carries, an anemic 1.8-yard average. Granted, OSU was missing its top two running backs, Chris Carson and Rennie Childs, because of injury, but Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) has had an underwhelming rushing attack all season.

OSU coach Mike Gundy wants more balance with Carson and Childs each expected back in the lineup this Saturday against West Virginia (3-1, 0-1).

''In order for us to play as well as we need to, we have to find a way to rush for 150 yards a game, to stay fairly balanced,'' Gundy said. ''I'm not comfortable with (throwing it 60 times a game). That's just me. I believe in balance, and so we will continue to work and find ways to try to rush for 150 yards a game.''

Rudolph accounted for negative 27 yards on four rushes, which includes the yards lost on two sacks and another play deemed a fumble when he tried to pass backward and it fell incomplete before K-State recovered it. Take Rudolph's total out of the equation and the Cowboys still gained just 76 yards on 23 carries, a 2.6-yard average.

The week before, in a 30-27 win at Texas, Oklahoma State gained 106 yards rushing on 46 carries, for a 2.2-yard average, with both Carson and Childs. Carson earned 39 yards on 12 carries (3.2 average) before leaving with his undisclosed injury, while Childs took over the bulk of the work and collected 54 yards on a career-high 21 rushes (2.6 average).

Without either of them last week, the Cowboys relied on third-string freshman Jeff Carr, who gained 15 yards on six rushes, and inexperienced junior Raymond Taylor, who led the squad with 35 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

''Personnel's a factor in everything that we do,'' Gundy said. ''We really like the future of Jeff Carr, and Raymond Taylor gave us some really good snaps. But we need those guys playing that are experienced, that are bigger, that are stronger and that understand.''

Overall on the season, Oklahoma State ranks last in the Big 12 and 103rd in the nation with an average of 138.2 yards per game rushing. Take out the 223 yards they earned in a 69-14 blowout win over UTSA on Sept. 19, the Cowboys' per-game rushing average in the other four contests is just 117. That would rank 115th out of 128 FBS schools.

Gundy contends that the Kansas State game is not really a fair barometer to judge the running game, since Carson and Childs were out, and overall, the ground attack is actually improving.

''We had a setback last week. Last week is really not a fair comparison to the progress that we've made,'' Gundy said. ''There's not always a quick fix. We have to get a little better each week. We're getting a little better. Hopefully, it will take place sooner than later, but we have a plan to improve and our goal is to rush for 150 yards per week.''

In the meantime, the Cowboys will undoubtedly lean on its potent passing game. Rudolph piled up the fourth-most single-game passing yards in OSU history, while tossing just one interception on 55 attempts.

Accomplishing that when just about everyone knew they were going to pass the ball is a credit to Rudolph, the team's group of talented and experienced wide receivers, and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.

''Mike and the staff are doing a great job,'' Gundy said, ''in not exposing areas in which we were deficient and trying to put our players in position to have success.''

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