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

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.

  • Alum in AZ

    Watch Jordan Brailford (94) on the first clip! That’s hustle. Rushes the QB, then turns and sprints 30 yards downfield to make the first hit on the receiver. Not sure how tackle stats are counted and whether he gets 1/2 credit on that one or not. Regardless, impressive hustle and team play.

    • Okstate2011

      lack of hustle from the rest of the team. almost looked like no one wanted to get hit. Like #28….

      • Alum in AZ

        Well, yeah… not a great highlight from several defenders on that play.

    • Big Daddy

      I was about to post the same thing. He was an energizer bunny on that play. Everyone else looked like they thought it was flag football. Ugly !!!

  • MajorPayneCounty

    We have some bros that hustle but then we also have guys that turn it down. #28 in the first clip is killing me.

  • OSU-Bill

    That David Montgomery reception of 4th down drove me insane. We had 8 guys in coverage and Iowa St. sends 4 receivers. Montgomery and Lazard are their most skilled players. Put double man coverage on them both, single man cover the other receivers, and leave a safety over the top! Montomery had 12 yards on that play.

  • tomintulsa

    Tommy Tubberville has to be the WORST announcer and his partner was not much better. Tubberville can’t coach or announce.

    • DC

      Having Tommy Tuberville give color commentary is like having Mitch McConnell give a congressional play-by-play on taxes. In other words….informative, but BORING AS HELL!!
      I will give Tubs some cred on calling out Spencer and Yurcich on their headscratching calls. Not having a solid D is preventing our reaching the next level.

  • Forever 14

    Cowboys’ Loose Coverage Made [EVERY] Drive Very Stressful

    – fixed it for you

  • Kenny Bir

    Tommy Tuberville wasn’t the only one questioning this terrible coverage packages….

    12 yards to go… let’s spot them 7 with a full head of steam! Makes sense, right?

  • BBinKC

    Tuberville was awful but he pointed out that we do not disguise our defense/coverages at all and it makes it easy for the other team to attack. I think that point gets overlooked a lot.

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  • StillOriginal

    Calvin Bundage needs to work on his tackling.

  • Les Miles

    Sorry if I’m not too thrilled that we’ve had to rely on this defense to get two lucky picks to keep us from being a 6-4 team right now.

    I’m not trying to be negative, but I’m trying to be realistic here. If that game had gone to OT I didn’t see us winning it.

    We need to learn how to wrap up and tackle on the back end.

    • LG

      Les I agree with you 100% that we need to wrap up and tackle. It seems that we are concentrating so hard on trying to rip the ball loose that we fail to wrap up and allow the ball carrier to gain an extra 5 to 10 yards or escape and gain even more. I realize that a fumble is more glamorous than a tackle but if we tackled first and let the second or third defender that arrives to try to rip the ball out then we could probably shave a hundred yards or so off the opponents offensive performance. And what would that do to our win/loss record and help also with the fatigue factor?

  • Spencer Thomas McIntosh

    They weren’t running double curls….they were running 5 curls every play except the pick play and throwing to whoever had the softest cushion. Makes it an easy read for a 3rd string QB! We’re lucky he didn’t throw to Montgomery on the 2nd & 3 with 2:10 left. I’m fairly sure he would have scored. The RB was open every time, I think they told him to look off and go there on the 4th down being that it had been open every time with all the secondary defenders covering the boundaries.

    • Chris Stover

      We just have a terrible defensive philosophy much of the time. Not saying all the time but you should be aggressive against Iowa State. Also we finally decide to start throwing and thredded Iowa State. If we would have played that aggressive on offense the whole game. We win by 14.

  • Spencer Thomas McIntosh

    Gundy says that we’re getting towards the end of the season and fatigue is setting in, so Glen has an idea against KSU and KU. Let’s drop everyone into coverage and give up 40 short passes/game to less than stellar QBs and have to run 15 yds to tackle a RB 50 times/game. That will help with the late season fatigue. We may give up 35-40 pts, but at least we will prevent the big play from these high powered scary offenses.

    • Les Miles

      Especially a high powered offense like Kansas. Wouldn’t it be something if we lost to Kansas to cap the end of the season off?

      That would be a very OSUish thing that could happen. Hell we let Central Michigan hang around!!!!

      • Chris Stover

        We were flat against Central Michigan. Also if you didn’t notice Central Michgian we actually won that game. Refs gave them an extra play. I agree we played terribly against CMU. However, CMU, Cooper Rush is in the NFL collecting a paycheck. That said, we should have beat them by 21. Yurich could have run all over CMU. Yurcich is an average OC in my opinion.

    • DC

      Hey, that’s why we don’t hit and tackle early in the season…SO WE CAN BE STRONGER AT THE END OF THE SEASON!! If we can’t tackle and we’re going to get fatigued, then let’s go ahead and learn to tackle early and hope that it stays with us all season. Sounds like we’re going to be fatigued anyway