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‘Too Many Explosive Passes’: OSU Defensive Coordinator Bryan Nardo Sums Up Iowa State Loss

The Cowboys got burned more times than I want to type. Where do they go from here?



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

The Cowboys’ defense got burned on Saturday in Ames. And then it got burned again. And again. And again. I’ll spare you the repetition and get straight to the facts.

Iowa State, an offense that even now ranks dead last in the Big 12 in long scrimmage plays, broke loose for nine plays of 15 or more yards against the Cowboys on Saturday (and one of 14). Those plays amounted to 240 total yards and three of the Cyclones’ four touchdowns.

It’s hard to win many games when you pad a team’s season highlight reel vault like that.

The same Iowa State offense that scored 13 on Iowa and just seven against Ohio dropped 34 points on the Cowboys.

“Too many explosive passes, that’s what it really comes down to,” said first-year defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo after the loss. “It’s the explosive plays. It’s something we’ll have to continue to eliminate.”

To be frank, the Cowboys haven’t been eliminating those plays much this season.

In four games, OSU has allowed 55 plays of 10 yards or more (the demarcation is confusing, but stats). Only Baylor and Houston have allowed more this season in the Big 12.

But that’s nothing new. OSU ranked in the bottom third of the league in that category last year, which is little comfort to OSU fans. What might make them feel a little better is that it could be worse. OSU averaged more than 16 of those plays per game in 2022 and is only averaging 11 so far this season. I said a little.

A week after South Alabama’s run game dropped the “South,” OSU made a concerted effort not to allow the Cyclones to push them around on the ground. And that mostly worked.

ISU mustered just 74 rushing yards on 2.2 yards per carry. But it replaced handoffs with short passes, and then the Cowboys’ depleted secondary made Rocco Brecht look like the second coming of Brock Purdy.

The Cowboys aren’t the same team they were last year, and they are miles from the dominant defense that locked down Big 12 offenses in 2021. There are a lot of new faces, and OSU is on its third coordinator in as many years. There’s room for improvement, and we’ve seen some already this year. Slow down the run. Then get a little savvier on the back end and things start looking up.

“I thought we fit the run better,” said Nardo. “I thought we were aggressive in our run fits. I thought we tackled well, but we did not eliminate the big pass.

“That’s where they got behind us. We had a missed communication on the first one. Just need to do a better job of eliminating the explosive pass.”

Plug one and hole and another leak springs. Hopefully, the Cowboys will run out of holes before they run out of fingers.

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