Oklahoma State Cowboys Need to Find Vertical Passing Game

By Tyler Brett
jw walsh
Peter Casey – USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma State Cowboys have built their program into a Big 12 contender with a high-octane offense that attacks down the field through the air. Despite averaging 300 yards per game through the air through five games so far this season, Mike Gundy has struggled to replicate that formula with J.W. Walsh under center. Their inability to break big plays over the top of the defense has led to some mediocre outputs in conference play this season and will need to change if the Cowboys hope to contend for the Big 12 title at season’s end.

Walsh currently ranks as the No. 38 passer in the country, averaging 241.8 yards per game. Going back to 2011, the last time Oklahoma State had a quarterback stay healthy and play for the majority the season, Brandon Weeden ranked as the No. 2 passer in the nation as he averaged 363.6 yards per game. The Cowboys found success with Weeden with a strong vertical passing game and still have the talent at receiver to put up similar production.

The problem has been Walsh’s inconsistency in hitting those balls deep down the field. The passing offense has become more compact as the season has gone on, peaking at the UTSA Roadrunners in Week 2 when the threw for 518 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 12 yards per attempt. In three games since then, Oklahoma State has thrown for more than 275 yards just once and seen their yards per attempts average drop in each consecutive week, culminating in a mere 6.1 yards per attempt average against the Kansas State Wildcats a few weeks ago.

Without those game-breaking plays over the top, Oklahoma State is finding it difficult to maintain offensive momentum when they try and sustain long drives with passes underneath the coverage. That’s resulted in close games in conference play, including a stunning loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown and a nailbiter against K-State. This is a team that relies on blowing games open with huge plays in the passing game and their offense is not looking right without them.

Is J.W. Walsh capable of making those kinds of plays or does Gundy need to go back to Clint Chelf to try and take the top off this offense going forward?

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