Two Things Oklahoma State Must Improve on Defense to Close out Year

Written by Kyle Cox

You could say that Oklahoma State’s defense has had better weeks — or better two-week stretches. It wasn’t long ago that many (myself included) were singing Glenn Spencer’s praises after back-to-back stellar road games at Texas and West Virginia. But that was followed up by his group giving up record numbers to Oklahoma and getting pushed back on its heels in Ames.

So for the Cowboys to take care of business these last two games and save Glenn Spencer a little face, let’s look at two key areas where Gundy said on Monday there needs to be improvement.

Tackle better

It’s sounds simple enough, but as Mike Gundy noted during his weekly press conference, the Cowboys have not been great tackling in space, especially these last two weeks. In fact, Gundy hasn’t seemed all that concerned with scheming against OU or Iowa State, choosing instead to focus on technique.

“There was a number of times we should have finished it and those yards-after-contact statistics, he had about 80,” Gundy said of Iowa State running back David Montgomery. “So that’s one area where we could have really helped ourselves.”

“If we defend a play properly and we’re sound in our gaps, we need to get ’em down. [We] can’t give them big plays if we’re sound because unfortunately there’s times that they do gap you just like we do to other teams. Gotta get guys down and can’t allow as many yards after contact.”

It’s an issue with several contributing factors. As Gundy posited, sometimes you’ll get beat, especially in the Big 12. But there have been plenty of times where veteran players misjudged angles or just failed to wrap up and get the offensive player down, and they got burned.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Clean it up

Oklahoma State is ranked 43rd nationally having been penalized an average of 5.6 times per game. That number is actually the second lowest (5.3 last season) since 2011 (5.5). But more concerning is the trajectory and the timing of OSU’s nine penalties for 105 yards in Ames.

The defense gave up seven first-down conversions by way of yellow flag (its highest total of the year). That is unacceptable and has likely already been a topic of conversation for Glenn Spencer. Most were just mental lapses. Calvin Bundage finished off some hand fighting by slapping a Cyclone upside his helmet. Fourth and 5 turned into a first down. Iowa State would take those 15 yards and finish the drive in the end zone.

“We had two personal fouls extend drives,” said Gundy. “One on an issue with Bundage jawing with another guy and one a whatever they call that, horse collar, which I don’t really understand that rule anymore, but regardless those are the areas we could have been better on defense.”

It’s not just the younger players. Senior safeties Ramon Richards and Tre Flowers were both flagged for unnecessary fouls. Richards horse-collared an Iowa State runner who was running out of bounds. That drive ended in a ISU touchdown.

Flowers’ targeting penalty not only set up the Cyclones on OSU’s 4-yard line, leading to 7 points — but it also disqualifies him for the first half against Kansas State.

The Cowboys got the win but avoid those controllable errors and OSU probably wins handily, and it isn’t left up to a freshman QB to miss a throw.

The good news — or bad news depending on how you look at it — is that these are all avoidable issues. But this is a defense with a bunch of veterans, going into its 11th game. Hopefully, we see some of this cleaned up, because OSU still has a lot to play for.