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Lack of Discipline Costing Oklahoma State in Conference Play



First it was a pass interference call against one of OSU’s young corners.

Then it was a holding call, followed by a defensive offside penalty on a kickoff. Then it was pass interference. Then another. Then an unsportsmanlike penalty committed by a player on the OSU sidelines.

No, these aren’t a list of OSU’s penalties on the season. This is a list of the penalties OSU committed on Saturday against Texas Tech in Lubbock … through two-and-a-half quarters.

All told Saturday, OSU amassed 8 penalties for 78 yards. And while that stunning number might look like an outlier after what felt like call after call went Tech’s way, particularly in the red zone, the near double-digit mark continues a trend of what has been surprisingly undisciplined football being played by OSU in the last several weeks.

Thus far, the team is averaging 5.8 penalties per game on the year – a mark which is costing the Pokes more than half a football field (52.2 yards) per game, on average. Saturday’s game against the Red Raiders is the second consecutive game OSU has committed 8 penalties.

2017 Penalties Yards
Tulsa 5 51
South Alabama 4 25
Pitt 4 30
TCU 8 77
Texas Tech 8 78

So how rare is that 5.8 penalty-per-game mark, which currently ranks 59th (middle of the pack) nationally? In 2016, Oklahoma State only had one game in which it committed 8 or more penalties – a home game against Pitt. On the whole in 2016, the team averaged just 5.3 penalties game, which was 42nd nationally.

2016 Penalties Yards
Se. La. 5 55
CMU 4 40
Pitt 8 55
Baylor 4 32
Texas 7 70
Iowa State 5 63
Kansas 5 45
WVU 3 30
K-State 7 67
Texas Tech 7 80
TCU 6 42
Oklahoma 3 22
Colorado 5 42

Typically, discipline is a Mike Gundy-coached team’s calling card. But it hasn’t been so over the last two weeks in conference play, which is stunning given the expectations of this team. If this team is to achieve its goals of a Big 12 title, things such as injuries, errors and penalties sometimes need to fall your way. But unlike injuries, penalties are an area the team has total control over.

Or, so far, a lack thereof.

Another stat easily correlated with discipline is, of course, the turnover margin. And it’s another area that OSU hasn’t thrived in like it typically has in years past.

This season, OSU is losing the turnover margin by .2 per game, which ranks 73rd in the country. Last season the Cowboys finished 17th, and the season before OSU finished 4th. It’s not been since that dreadful 2014 season since OSU finished the season with a negative turnover margin, and yet two weeks into Big 12 play against an overall that hasn’t exactly turned heads (no offense, South Alabama), OSU has struggled hanging on to the pigskin whether it be via fumbles or botched punts or interceptions.

So is OSU’s undisciplined trend a cause for concern, or a blip on the radar? Against Pitt and Tulsa, penalties were hardly a concern — and OSU easily looked like a top-10 team. Against TCU and Tech, however, penalties and turnovers ran rampant and the team didn’t look near as dominant against a step up in competition.

It’s fair to say that Mike Gundy has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making sure his teams stay focused and mistake-free. But it’s also fair to say that, right now, this team is having trouble staying out of its own way.

It’s another red flag for Oklahoma State, which has injury concerns and defensive issues that need to be addressed. If OSU wants to compete with the OUs and West Virginias of the world, though, the self-inflicted mistakes must be shored up — and soon.

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