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Glenn Spencer Wants OSU to Force More Turnovers



Heading into Oklahoma State’s Big 12 opener against TCU, Glenn Spencer’s defense has been about as good as you could expect, probably better. Through three games its allowed just five offensive touchdowns and ranks fifth in defensive efficiency (first among Big 12 teams).

But there’s one key stat Spencer would like to see increase: takeaways.

Entering Week 4, the Cowboys rank 27th nationally and second in the Big 12 having forced six giveaways. That’s two per game, slightly above OSU’s average of 1.92 since the start of 2013, when Spencer took over as defensive coordinator. The Cowboys are 7th among FBS teams during that stretch.

Not good enough according to Spencer.

“We need to be able to create more turnovers,” Spencer said. “I’d like to see us get at least three a game. We’ve dropped some interceptions. There’s some strip opportunities that we’ve missed and were a little dicier than what I’d like to see, so I’d like to see us create more turnovers.”

Three would be quite a number to average for the stretch of a season. In fact, OSU has only reached it once since Spencer joined the staff in 2008.

Year 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
Avg TOs Gained 2.00 1.92 2.15 1.08 2.54 1.69 3.38 2.62 2.31 1.92

Only the historically deprivative 2011 team reached that goal with 44 total takeaways, and no FBS team has hit that total since. If the Cowboys can get close to that number in 2017, watch out.

But it’s not only taking the ball away, it’s what the Cowboy defense has been able to do with the ball. Of those six, three have ended in the end zone on the same play. The Cowboys are behind only Texas (four) in defensive touchdowns so far.

“We pride ourselves on that,” said senior safety Tre Flowers who hauled in his own interception against Pitt. “We try to score at practice every day, and we all always say we’re athletes, so we try to show that when we get to touch the ball. We just have to make it happen.”

Flowers hasn’t made it happen, not this year. But junior linebacker Justin Phillips has, catching a deflected pass and heading into the end zone in two straight games. While Phillips will get the praise for his good hands and quick feet, it really is a team effort. It was Darrion Daniels and Chad Whitener who got their mitts in the path of the ball and made those plays possible.

It’s been a part of the Spencer’s defensive philosophy for a long time and it’s not just a matter of being lucky. You have to have team speed to get to the ball and some players just seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Last year, it was Phillips’ predecessor at Will backer, Devante Averette who had three fumble recoveries. This year, there look to be several players with a nose for the ball.

“I mean, it comes with a little bit of luck, and it comes with a lot of hard work,” said Flowers.

“You have to teach them,” said Spencer “and I’m sure a lot of people are teaching it right now – but you have to teach it, coach it, stress it and make them hungry for it every snap. It’s barking and screaming at them to knock the ball out, to strip it. It’s pursuit angles. How many turnovers are created by great pursuit angles? How do we coach it? We coach it like that.”

To pair with OSU’s two takeaways per game, Saturday’s visitor TCU has given away two turnovers per game in 2017. Kenny Hill has been improved in the interception department so far this year but has not faced an opportunistic defense like Oklahoma State’s. And TCU quarterbacks haven’t fared well inside Boone Pickens Stadium in recent history.

Trevone Boykin had two of the worst (if not the worst) games of his career in Stillwater. In 2015, he threw one touchdown and a career-high four interceptions. Two years prior in 2013, he was held without a score and threw three picks. If the Cowboys can make Hill, who’s had his issues with turnovers in the past, relive the nightmare trips of Boykin, the chances of big win for OSU are greatly improved.

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