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Stat of the Week: Oklahoma State’s Red Zone Perfection vs. Kansas State’s Red Zone Imperfection

OSU is perfect in the red zone this season, while K-State’s defense couldn’t be worse there.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

There’s actually an offensive stat that Oklahoma State is literally perfect in so far this season.

The Cowboys have scored every time they’ve gotten inside the red zone this season. Of the 11 attempts, five resulted in rushing touchdowns, four in passing touchdowns and two made field goals.

On the flip side, OSU’s next opponent, Kansas State, has yet to stop a team from scoring once in the red zone. The perfect and imperfect will meet at 6:30 p.m. Friday night in Boone Pickens Stadium.

The Cowboys are one of only seven teams in all of FBS that has a 1.000 offensive success rate in the red zone. OSU is the only Big 12 team.

The problem for OSU, though, is getting to the red zone. Of those seven teams, OSU’s 11 attempts are the fewest. Colorado and Florida State have the most perfect red zone attempts with 17. Despite perfection from inside the 20-yard line, the Cowboys are still averaging only 22 points a game, which ranks 100th in FBS.

Those numbers would be even uglier without that red zone perfection. OSU’s 11 red zone trips equate to 69 points, or an extra 17.25 points a game. That accounts for 78% of OSU’s 88 points scored this season. So although those 11 attempts in four games may appear minute, it’s a big impact for an offense with overall small numbers.

Although K-State struggles with its back against the wall, the Wildcats have done a solid job at avoiding that situation altogether, having defended in the red zone only seven times. K-State ranks 31st in scoring defense, giving up a respectable 18.5 points a game. Those numbers were helped by a Week 1 shutout of Southeast Missouri, which means K-State didn’t even let Southeast Missouri sniff the end zone.

But if an opponent does cross the 20 against K-State, points have been inevitable so far. The Wildcats are one of only eight teams in the country that hasn’t stopped an opponent in the red zone yet. The only other Big 12 team is Kansas, so maybe it’s something in the water in the Sunflower State.

The Wildcats are more bend, don’t break inside the 20, though. Of the seven times K-State has had to defend inside the red zone, all but twice the Wildcats held their opponent to field goals. Both touchdowns were 1-yard runs against Missouri and Central Florida. No one has thrown a passing touchdown inside the red zone against K-State yet.

Good news for OSU is that Alex Hale is 2-for-2 from less than 30 yards this season. It will take more than field goals for the Cowboys to upset a K-State team averaging 39.5 points a game, though.

While the Pokes may be perfect inside the 20-yard line, moving the ball on the other 80 yards of the field has been a struggle, especially in large chunks at a time. OSU is averaging 4.9 yards per play and gains of more than 20 yards are a rarity.

Those explosive plays came more often last game against Iowa State, though, with Alan Bowman as the only quarterback playing. Bowman hit Jaden Nixon for a 60-yard touchdown pass for OSU’s longest completion of 2023. Earlier in the game, Ollie Gordon accomplished the Cowboys’ longest play of the season with a 71-yard run. No coincidence that OSU recording its two longest plays of the season also helped result in the most points the Cowboys have scored in 2023.

Regardless, those types of plays are no longer something to bank on with this OSU offense. Gone are the days of #Rudolph2Washington for 3-play drives that ended in the end zone. Those slow, methodical drives, converting a few third downs along the way and needing to execute with a shortened field are the norm now. That red zone success is needed for this offense to put points on the board, partly because those opportunities are limited.

The Cowboys’ strong suit may be one of K-State’s most vulnerable phases so far, but getting to the point to exploit that area will be key Friday night.

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