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Chalk Talk: Why OSU’s Third-Down Defense Struggled Versus TCU



The Oklahoma State defense struggled against the TCU Horned Frogs in the Cowboys’ 44-31 loss. OSU allowed TCU to convert 58 percent of its third downs, and quarterback Kenny Hill was able to pick apart the defense despite rarely throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield.

The Cowboys struggled for a number of reasons, but poor awareness and alignment played a large factor in the loss. Here are some examples.

Here, TCU has a third down with 15 yards to go. The Cowboys are in a Cover 0 blitz, and Gyasi Akem is tasked with covering the slot receiver. Because he’s committed to showing the blitz before the snap, Shaun Nixon was able to beat him to the outside thanks to both a speed and positioning advantage. The other members of the secondary are playing 10 yards off the ball, giving Hill an easy read and a first down.

There were other alignment issues as well. On this third down, it’s clear that the Cowboys are in zone coverage. The linebackers overreact to the motion and Chad Whitener fails to cover the flat. Kenny Hill sees this, and he throws to Desmond White for a quick conversion.

Another third-down conversion came off a run-pass option, and Ramon Richards was playing so off his receiver it gave Hill an opportunity to abort the handoff and throw for a first down.

Poor alignment doesn’t just affect the pass game. On a crucial third down, Jerel Morrow was outside of the box on the weak side of the formation. He was blitzing, but because of where he was aligned, he couldn’t have possibly affected the outcome of the play.

With him as a non-factor, the Horned Frogs left Calvin Bundage unblocked on the end of the line of scrimmage, and with the rest of the box defenders accounted for (five on five), TCU earned an easy touchdown against what should have been a stacked box.

There were plenty of other reasons why the defense didn’t perform well, such as poor tackling angles or too deep of drops in coverage, and TCU was able to use a fairly conservative game plan to consistently move the ball down the field.

The Cowboys have a lot to work on before their potential shootout against Texas Tech, and if this game showed anything, it’s that OSU will have a hard time finding defensive success in conference play if they don’t improve quickly.

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