Chalk Talk: Cowboys’ Loose Coverage Made Final Drive Very Stressful

[USATSI]
Written by Thomas Fleming

The Oklahoma State Cowboys gave up almost 500 yards through the air against Iowa State, but their bend-but-don’t-break strategy eventually helped them claim a 49-42 win.

The Cyclones were able to move swiftly down the field in the game’s final drive, but the Cowboys were ultimately able to stop the Cyclones and force the game’s only turnover. Still, it made for an exciting, and stressful, couple of minutes. In this edition of Chalk Talk, we’ll take a look at how Iowa State was able to move so efficiently against a soft OSU defense.

The Cyclones knew the Cowboys would be in soft coverage so they used a double screen to counter it. ISU receiver Allen Lazard took advantage of the open grass and was able to advance the ball more than 30 yards for a first down.

The Cyclones intelligently attacked the Cowboys’ coverage again, using a double curl combination two times in a row:

A couple plays later, the Cowboys used a blitz but the Cyclones were still able to capitalize on the soft coverage with Lazard setting a natural pick on Deshaunte Jones’ defender:

And finally, the Cyclones’ David Montgomery was able to catch the ball five yards short of the first down line and shed tacklers to give the Cyclones a first and goal.

Color commentator Tommy Tuberville questioned the Cowboys’ tactics a handful of times throughout the game.

“I don’t understand what Oklahoma State’s doing in the secondary,” Tuberville said during the broadcast. “They played real loose in the secondary, just gave (Iowa State) an easy five yard pass for a first down. They’ve got to start applying pressure or they’re just going to march down the field.”

It was one of very few astute observations from Tuberville.

Playing off the ball isn’t always ineffective. There were a handful of times when it forced the pass to go short and the Cowboys rallied to the ball for a minimal gain:

It’s also important to note that OSU wasn’t always this passive. In fact, they used a more aggressive zone on multiple third downs, like this one here:

And here (notice cornerback A.J. Green press in cloud coverage, which helped disrupt the route’s timing and lead to an incompletion):

Finally, although the defense gave up yards, the Cowboys deserve credit for how they ended the game. Cornerbacks Rodarius Williams and A.J. Green made two huge plays, the former a deflection and latter an interception, to seal the win for the Cowboys. So did the strategy work in the end? You could say so. But it certainly made for one stressful fourth quarter for the fans.