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Chalk Talk: How Jalen McCleskey Burned Pittsburgh’s Defense

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Oklahoma State’s offense shined in the Cowboys’ 59-21 victory over Pittsburgh last weekend, and four of the Cowboys’ receivers finished with over 100 receiving yards. Jalen McCleskey led the team with 162 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and although his receiving ability led to his production, OSU’s coaching staff had just as much to do with it.

Going into the game, OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich knew that Pat Narduzzi has been a cover 4 specialist. Narduzzi has been using the 4-3 cover 4 in his defenses since he was at Michigan State, and he’s been no different at Pittsburgh. As we’ve talked about before, a quarters defense divides the deep coverage into four, and it places the members of the secondary in man coverage against all vertical-stemming routes. We’ve already seen how the Cowboys can capitalize on this with their outside receivers, but they changed it up and used their inside receivers against Pittsburgh.

OSU used this play a number of times in their “turbo” tempo against the Panthers. Yurcich went to this play action post-dig combination a number of times knowing that Narduzzi would likely be in quarters. The slot receiver on the left (Dillon Stoner) runs a dig to occupy his safety (playing his inside quarter coverage), which leaves the opposite slot (Jalen McCleskey) one-on-one against the other safety. OSU knew they could get McCleskey matched up on a safety, and they were right, as McCleskey came down with big catches on freshman Bricen Garner here:

Here:

And against sophomore safety Jazzee Stocker here:

Anyone with reasonable intelligence would take their best available slot receiver on a safety every time, and Yurcich and his coaching staff found ways to do just that.

The Cowboys are smart enough to use tempo to force their opponents to play their most basic coverages, and they find ways to capitalize said coverages. OSU has shown that ability in each of its three wins, often successfully using the same play over and over. This win over Pitt was no different, and they’ll undoubtedly have something different and fun for next week’s game against TCU.

What was your favorite play from OSU’s win over Pittsburgh? Leave your opinions below in the comments!

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