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After Complete Outing vs. ISU, It’s Time to Admit OSU’s Defense is For Real

It’s time to shed your skepticism and buy in.

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Photo credit: Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press

I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite ready to buy into this Oklahoma State defense. At least not up until Saturday. I’m a lifelong OSU fan, so you’ll understand that by nature, I’m a skeptic.

If you’re a millenial like myself, you can probably empathize with me. If you’re part of the generation older (or much older) than me, you’re probably screaming at your computer screen about how I was spared having to live through the Bob Simmons era.

Fair point.

But whether you’re a millenial, a Gen Xer or a baby boomer, what we saw Saturday — where OSU held No. 17 Iowa State to 14 points through four quarters before a late-game garbage score to make it 21 points — was very real. And it was very spectacular. It proved that now is the time to shed that skepticism and come to grips with our new reality: OSU’s defense is absolutely, positively for real.

Here’s what Ben Kercheval of CBS Sports had to say about that very subject, with a headline that reads: “Oklahoma State’s defense is for real.”

It was understandable to have reservations about the No. 6 Cowboys’ statistically stingy defense because their first three games were against Tulsa, West Virginia and Kansas. After a 24-21 win over No. 17 Iowa State, though, there’s far less doubt. Yes, Cyclones running back Breece Hall broke off a couple of big runs, but outside of those, Iowa State’s run game was generally ineffective. Quarterback Brock Purdy had defenders in his face all day (three sacks, four QB hurries) while Oklahoma State played tight coverage on the back end. Everything for Iowa State’s offense was difficult. So often Oklahoma State’s offense gets the limelight, but this defense is salty and good enough to get the Pokes to the Big 12 Championship Game. [CBS Sports]

It wasn’t just the total points allowed to Iowa State that stood out, either. OSU limited ISU to just 3-of-13 on third-down conversion attempts. It recorded seven tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, four pass breakups, three sacks, a forced fumble and one glorious Kolby Harvell-Peel interception. It was yet another complete defensive outing that capped a four-game span in which it has given up just 48 points through the first four games, the fewest ever allowed by a Mike Gundy-coached team over any four-game stretch since he took over in 2005.

“We gave them that big run, but we forced a lot of punts today,” said Gundy on Saturday. “They are a good football team. They are unusual with so much three tight end-style of offense they run, and if you’re not careful you can get out of your gap, which happened to us a couple of times. Overall, I thought our plan was way better and was executed better than it was when Brock Purdy was here as a freshman. I thought Jim Knowles and them rallied today, had a good plan and were able to keep us in the game and force some three-and-outs.”

OSU’s defense ranks statistically among the very best in the country. Top-five nationally in opponent yards per point allowed. Top-five in opponent points per play allowed. Top-six, you might be surprised to learn, in third-down conversions allowed per game. This team has dudes who can ball, and ball, they are.

“Our defense needs to stay humble,” Gundy cautioned after the game, before admitting that, yeah, this unit looks absolutely legit.

“I’m trying to get them to ignore the outside sources that are telling them how good they are. We haven’t made plays like the ones we made today. We haven’t laid out like that and, at full extension, knocked a ball down on third-and-12. If we don’t make that play, they’re going to catch it and run up the field for another 20 yards. Then you’ve got Kolby Harvell-Peel going up and making a play and intercepting the ball, not just knocking it away. They’re gaining some confidence. Confidence is a powerful thing in life, particularly in sports. Every day, they’re getting a little more confident.”

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