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.

  • Saucy Takes

    exhibit B makes me want to puke

  • Brad Hedrick

    Exactly what I have been saying: Spencer can scheme but he can’t make the tackles for them.

  • SingingCowboy

    I just don’t get how so many fans demand excellence from our OC, and at the same time so willing to accept mediocrity and inconsistency from the DC. Yeah, the players have to make the tackles, just like the receivers have to make the catches, the backs have to make the cuts, and the linemen have to make the blocks, but it just seems like there’s an ever present double standard between what is expected from the offense and the defense. A commenter once explained this to me by saying, “Yeah, but we all like Spencer.” (As opposed to Yurcich) At some point the personalities have to become secondary issues and on-field performance has to be the greatest concern. I just feel like we’ve become accepting of the idea that TCU, OU, Texas, K-State, and now Iowa State and West Virginia, are somehow more capable of fielding a defense that can slow down a Big 12 offense than we are. I think we’re selling ourselves short, and it’s time to start asking the hard questions and holding people more accountable. It seems like the only defensive position group that has been consistently improving is the D-line, but maybe that’s just my perception. The coaches recruit the players and coach the players. If we don’t have the right type of player, or if they don’t develop properly, some of that has to fall on the coaches. Patterson, Snyder, and Campbell sure seem to be able to do it. Hmmm. Maybe he says it, but I just don’t picture Patterson saying his goal is to “bend, but not break”.

    • Pistols Fired!!

      OC excellence aids defensive excellence. But, I do NOT disagree with your point.

      • Kliff

        “OC excellence aids defensive excellence”

        Hey, it worked for Texas Tech!

  • Brian Cassens

    I’d ditch a linebacker and line up 3 corners and two safetys so we can line up press coverage without handing out deep throws. Then we’d probably be gashed in the run because of a 6 man box but hell.. it’s an adjustment. I also don’t believe in zone cover so hey

  • guest

    The targeting rule the way it is written is absolutely terrible for the game. It is so open ended that you can call it on probably 50% of the tackles in the game even if they’re good clean tackles. Two people wearing a helmet are going to accidentally touch helmets from time to time in a contact sport. I don’t fault Flowers for that hit at all.

    • David

      Spot on.

  • BBinKC

    No tackling in practice = no tackling in games

    • Pistols Fired!!

      Sometimes the simplest equations tell the story. However, the tendency to want to just hit and NOT wrap is all too commonplace nowadays even on the high school level. I do not understand it. But, I do agree. Practice what you want to perfect.

      • Mark

        I agree with this. Somehow form-tackling came out of vogue a decade ago, and has yet to make a return. I have no idea why.

      • AverageJeff

        Exactly. Tackle with your eyes on the target with your arms and hands and there’s no way they can ever call targeting

    • spokepokes

      I’m really starting to think we need to bring back tackling to practice. No way Gundy will though. He’s too proud of his “state of the art” idea to stop tackling in practice to avoid injuries.

  • OSU-Bill

    Look, I love Glen Spencer. I’d love to go fishing or drinking with the guy. But I don’t think he’s a great DC. Compare OSU’s defense to Iowa State’s. So far this season Iowa St. has much better defensive stats in just about every category and with recruits who are much lower rated. That’s because they are fundamentally sound. That’s what we need on defense. Maybe there’s a job for Spencer as the chief motivation officer.

    • spokepokes

      That’s a great point. ISU was way better than us this year on defense with lower ranked recruits. Definitely seems like there is room for improvement with better coaching and different schemes.

      • AverageJeff

        Absolutely too much great talent for such mediocre performance…makes you go, hmmmmm

  • Pistols Fired!!

    Offense and defense, our coordinators should be gamblers. We don’t have the cards to play it close to the vest. But, we have pretty good cards, so lets gamble and try to win more possessions than we lose. Get aggressive on both sides of the ball is all that I am saying.

  • Forever 14

    I would add “Have some pass coverage”.