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Red Zone Scheming a Priority during OSU’s Bye Week



After we’ve had a few days to digest that wacky, ugly nail-biter in Lubbock, we can identify several issues that Oklahoma State needs to address during its bye week. Chief among those in my book would be the team’s ineffectiveness in the red zone.

When you watched that game and then look at the box score, the numbers don’t add up. One team out-gained the other by over 200 yards, averaged two more yards per play, gained seven more first downs and ran 10 more plays, while winning the time of possession battle for just the second time this year. That’s a recipe for a three-touchdown win, not a one-score game that was decided with 18 seconds on the clock.

We’ve been telling you about a stat I call “PPR” or points per red-zone attempt. It simply quantifies a team’s effectiveness in the red zone or while defending their own red zone. Points on red zone trips divided by total trips.

Through the first four weeks of the season, Oklahoma State was right in the middle of the Big 12 pack scoring 5.2 points per red-zone trip on offense and allowing 4.4 PPR on defense. In Week 5, those numbers were worse — especially when the Cowboys had the ball in the score zone.

Here’s a look at the red zone numbers from Saturday night.

Red Zone Attempts TDs FGs Empty Red Zone Trips PPR
Oklahoma State 10 5 2 3 4.1
Texas Tech 6 3 2 1 4.5

Oklahoma State, the superior offense, made it into the red zone 10 (!) times but only got 41 points out of it. That seems like a lot, right? Well, it’s really not. Like we discussed, OSU was middle of the pack in the Big 12 coming in, and it still fell a point short of its average against Tech. Even if Ammendola hits the two field goals, OSU would have still fallen short.

We can complain about Mike and Mike not going for it on fourth and 1, which I did. But the Cowboys put themselves in that situation largely by being poor on third downs in the second half.

After converting 4 of 5 in the first, OSU was just 2 of 6 on third down after intermission with two more being converted via Texas Tech penalties. There were four second-half third downs in the red zone and the Cowboys converted just one of those — a bailout thanks to a Texas Tech pass interference call.

What worked

The Cowboys used a lot of zone reads with Mason Rudolph taking the ball and running. Thomas Fleming covered this really well in his Chalk Talk this week. With the Cowboys using so much run/pass option (RPO), and with Justice Hill being so effective on the ground, Rudolph had several wide-open running lanes. Two of those led him into the end zone and accounted for two red-zone TDs.

I’ve never been a huge advocate for Rudolph’s human torpedo act but when there is literally no one around him, I’m game. Plus, if you are OSU at this point in the season, you are already behind the eight ball. Losing is not an option if you want a chance at your preseason goals.

What didn’t work

The elephant in the room is about 30-feet tall and yellow and occupied the right side of your television screen. Matt Ammendola skipped the ball off of the right upright twice, from 18 yards and from 22. The guy can kick it a mile and pretty accurately but it’s apparent that the coaches need to put him in a better position to succeed on these shorter kicks. And no, there will not be a change made at kicker during the bye week.

“Well we’re not going to change anything,” Mike Gundy said. “Matt’s the best guy. He didn’t have a good day. We’ll keep working at it and put him back out there again. Hopefully, he’ll make ‘em.”

You can bet that Mike Gundy and Co. are doing more than just hoping for a better outcome. They are already formulating a game plan for the next time they are in that situation. Whether it’s to take a delay of game penalty and give Ammendola a more comfortable angle or just run the diamond formation with Sione Finefeuiaki and Britton Abbott and hand it to J.D. King. Or maybe you entrust Sergeant Stoner with General Walsh duties.

Whatever the plan is, it needs to be a good one. You might expect to mess around and win a game like that in Lubbock, but probably not Austin and definitely not Morgantown.

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