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Carlson: Why Cowboy defense, Shane Illingworth get high marks in OSU football domination of Kansas

Kansas quarterback Miles Kendrick (3) lays underneath Oklahoma State defensive tackle Sione Asi (99) during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Saturday. [Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports]
Kansas quarterback Miles Kendrick (3) lays underneath Oklahoma State defensive tackle Sione Asi (99) during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Saturday. [Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports]

OSU has traveled to Kansas some seasons and messed around, letting the Jayhawks make things more interesting than they need to be. Not this year. The Cowboys were impressive in pretty much every way in a 47-7 victory, and the grades reflect the domination.

Offensive line: A

The Cowboy front is making big strides. A week after allowing only one sack, the offensive line again allowed only two when the starters were still in the game, the second of which was because Shane Illingworth held the ball too long. The Jayhawks got very little pressure on Illingworth, which is always good news for a quarterback but is especially good for a true freshman. The Cowboy offensive line also had its best day run blocking this season. Lots of lanes for Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown, and they took advantage with a combined 182 yards. The play offensive line coach Charlie Dickey might show a few times this week came on OSU's second possession when Brown caught a short screen pass. He was patient to wait on his blockers, and Josh Sills and Jake Springfield rewarded him with some big downfield blocking. Always fun to see big guys out in space clearing the way.

Defensive aggression: A

The Cowboys put pressure on the Jayhawks' offense all day. No matter whether Kansas was in passing or running situations, OSU seemed to always have defenders breaking into the backfield. The Cowboys had four sacks, one quarterback hurry and 11 tackles for loss. OSU tackled well, too, getting to ball carriers and pass catchers, then bringing them to the ground. You can count the missed tackles on one hand, and that's no small thing when defenders are flying around. The Cowboys were as sound as they were aggressive.

Offensive flavor: B

A week ago, the Cowboys were vanilla in Illingworth’s first start. Saturday, they were more like neapolitan. Not yet rocky road, but definitely tastier. Kasey Dunn opened up the playbook a bit more for Illingworth, who threw five passes that flew 20 yards or more in the first half alone. He only threw one of those against West Virginia. It was fun to see a little more of what Illingworth can do as well as a little more of what this offense might look like under Dunn.

Special teams: B

The Cowboy special teams haven’t gotten much attention this season, but that’s largely because they’ve been solid. No mistakes usually equals no attention when it comes to kickers and punters. But it’s time to give them some love. Kicker Alex Hale extended his perfect start to the season; he has made all extra extra points and all nine field goals attempted this season, including four Saturday. Punter Tom Hutton has been equally steady, averaging 37 yards on four punts and putting two inside the 20-yard line Saturday. The only thing keeping special teams from an A is a so-so return game. Just not much sizzle on kickoff or punt returns.

Illingworth poise: A

The true freshman put up the biggest numbers of his career Saturday, throwing for 265 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But his poise may have been the most impressive part of his performance. That was on display several times, but Illingworth never stood in the pocket better than on his 55-yard touchdown pass to Tylan Wallace. The highlights of that play will likely focus on Wallace running by his defender about 5 yards off the line of scrimmage and no one picking him up, but watch Illingworth, and you’ll see the pocket closing in on him. He could’ve panicked. He didn’t. Illingworth continues to develop, and that growth is pretty impressive for a youngster who missed a big chunk of preseason camp.

Uniform matchup: A

The Cowboys came strong Saturday. Matte black helmets, white jerseys, grey pants. The matte helmets are always a good start, but the combination was superb. And the Jayhawks have stopped screwing around with weird combinations. (At least they did Saturday; who pays attention to them when your team isn’t playing them?) Royal blue helmets and jerseys with white pants. Sharp all the way around.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›