OSU football: Cowboys' defense, yes defense, leads the way vs. K-State
STILLWATER — Mike Scott had Skylar Thompson in his grasp until the Kansas State quarterback made like Houdini and escaped not only Scott but also the pocket.
Scott didn’t give up, and just when the Oklahoma State defensive end had caught up to Thompson again, the quarterback got away again. Two chances. Two missed tackles.
But Scott wasn’t deterred.
He kept going, kept moving, kept pursuing, and darned if he didn’t eventually bring down Thompson along with Kevin Henry.
On a night OSU beat K-State 26-13, the Cowboy defense played the hero. It kept K-State’s run-heavy offense from pounding away. It forced the Wildcats to do things they just weren’t comfortable doing.
And yes, the OSU defense won this game.
How often have we been able to say that?
The Cowboy offense wasn’t terrible or anything. Lots of big plays by the usual suspects. Chuba Hubbard ripped off an 84-yard touchdown scamper en route to 296 rushing yards. Spencer Sanders had a touchdown pass and a touchdown run. And Tylan Wallace caught eight passes for 145 yards.
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But there were bugaboos. Two interceptions by Sanders. Field goals instead of touchdowns.
Take better care of the ball and finish off even one more possession with a touchdown, and this game would’ve been well out of hand.
But the Cowboy defense made sure it was well under control.
OSU put the clamps on the K-State run game in a way few teams will this season. At halftime, the Wildcats had managed only 18 yards rushing.
K-State entered the game averaging 280.0 yards per game.
While the Wildcats had more success in the second half – they finished the game with 126 yards rushing – it was still well below their average. And clearly, the difficulty James Gilbert and Harry Trotter and every other K-State ballcarrier was having completely disrupted the Wildcats’ flow.
Thompson is improved this season, but the quarterback isn’t an elite thrower. The Cowboys forced him to throw it and to do so on the move in situations that were uncomfortable for him, and the results were predictable.
Thompson was only 11 of 23 for 118 yards.
The result was K-State managing only 13 points just two weeks after it scored 31 points in a road win at Mississippi State. Perhaps you’ve heard, teams in the SEC pride themselves on defense, and the Wildcats marched up and down the field on the Bulldogs.
Against the Cowboys, the Wildcats couldn’t get anything going.
K-State’s first-half drives: punt, punt, fumble, punt, turnover on downs, field goal, punt, end of half.
And those punts? Each of them came on a three-and-out by the OSU defense. I’ll count for you — that’s four three-and-outs by the Cowboys in one half of football.
K-State had only one first down the entire first half, too, and even though it managed more in the second half, OSU had almost as many three-and-outs in the game (six) as K-State had first downs (eight).
Don’t look now, but this OSU defense might be figuring some things out.
So, how did the Cowboys work their defensive magic against the Wildcats?
For starters, Jim Knowles used some interesting alignments. In running situations, for example, OSU went heavy on the defensive line. The Cowboys would essentially play three down linemen who were all defensive tackles. With some combination of Brendon Evers, Cameron Murray, Israel Antwine and Samuela Tuihalamaka, they had guys who were at least 290 pounds across the line.
Then a defensive end like Brock Martin would lineup at linebacker or in a stand-up position along the line of scrimmage.
OSU also used three linebackers more than it has in recent memory. Amen Ogbongbemiga, Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Harper played a bunch of snaps together Saturday night.
So, the Cowboys had some interesting combinations and tweaked alignments that were part of the equation of domination.
But more than anything, they got great play out of the guys on the field.
The Cowboys were sure with their tackles, letting few ball carriers get free after initial contact. They were sound in their assignments, too, keeping Wildcats contained.
As much as anything, though, they were tenacious. They didn’t give up. They didn’t let down.
That Mike Scott play in the third quarter was just one of many where the Cowboys showed that fight. It’s one thing to have a good scheme from the coaches and a good understanding by the players, but you have to have guys playing hard.
The OSU defense had that and plenty more Saturday.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.