John Klein: Improved Oklahoma State defense deserves credit for turnaround
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
11/20/12 at 4:23 AM
Related Story: A tale of two Defenses
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STILLWATER - Clint Chelf, the third-team quarterback-turned winning starter, deserves a large share of credit for Oklahoma State's football revival this fall.
"I think it all starts with the three guys that have played quarterback," said OSU coach Mike Gundy.
However, it could be argued that none of this would be possible without a huge turnaround by OSU's much-maligned defense.
"Defensively, this is the best defense we've had here since I've been here (as head coach)," said Gundy. "I thought in preseason it would be.
"We started out kind of slow. We had some injuries. But, they have really gotten better in the last month."
There's no big secret why OSU's defense is better.
"I think it is all about the personnel," said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young. "Our guys are playing better.
"We're able to get more pressure. We're a big pressure team anyway and that makes a big difference for us."
OSU defenders, the whipping boys for virtually every loss the past three years, should get a lion's share of credit for the Cowboys' resurrection from a slow start.
Yes, Oklahoma State's defense deserves much of the blame for what happened at Arizona. And, Texas would not have been in a position to win in Stillwater with a controversial touchdown if OSU's defense makes a fourth-down stop.
Yet, in recent weeks, as the Cowboys have won five of their last six, it has turned around with Chelf's surprising play and much-improved defense.
"They do a good job of inside and outside getting pressure," said OU coach Bob Stoops. "They mix in their blitzes well.
"Defensively, they are very disciplined and sound in how they play."
In fact, even though Chelf had a big first half in the rout of Texas Tech, it was defense and special teams that sparked the romp over the Red Raiders.
The special teams delivered two blocked punts.
The defense, except for giving up a 95-yard drive just before the half, pretty much was in control against Tech quarterback Seth Doege, one of the league's best passers.
"I think about five or six weeks ago we started playing better on defense," said Gundy. "They are playing with some excitement and enthusiasm.
"The way our defense has been playing has had a big impact on our team,"
Now OSU's defense may face its biggest challenge of the year.
It is Bedlam week and that means OU quarterback Landry Jones, who carved up the Cowboys three years ago in Norman and who completed two long passes at the end of a tight victory in Stillwater two years ago.
Jones also suffered through one of his low points in four years when he was rushed into a series of mistakes in last year's OSU runaway victory in Stillwater.
Jones would love to go out a winner in his last game in Norman.
OSU's defenders would love to show their improvement is for real and keep the Cowboys in the Big 12 Conference race.
The Cowboys may have been at their best against Texas Tech, a team that until recent weeks was considered the third-best in the Big 12.
Tech's offense, ranked 10th nationally with over 500 yards per game, was limited to 383 by OSU's defense. Tech was averaging 38.7 points per game but got just 21, including a meaningless touchdown in the final minutes, in the loss to OSU.
In two straight weeks, the OSU defense has played well and limited two of the nation's best quarterbacks - Doege and West Virginia's Geno Smith - below their average.
Much of OSU's defensive improvement has come in recent weeks. As a result, OSU's season averages don't reflect what is happening. However, conference stats show the Cowboys are giving up 5.3 yards per snap - the lowest in the Big 12. In addition, O-State is giving up 25.4 points per game, third in the league behind OU's 25.0 per game.
Much of the credit should go to a rapidly improving defensive line.
"Up front we've been pretty good," said Gundy. "Our two interior tackles have been very good."
Young's halftime adjustments must be working. OSU has outscored the opposition 102-37 in the last five games.
In that same five-game span, OSU has allowed just 13 point in the fourth quarter. That includes just two field goals at Kansas State and that meaningless TD given up at the end of the rout of Tech.
In fact, OSU has given up just one touchdown in the fourth quarter since Oct. 13.
"Our defense has done a good job," said OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken. "It is the same for every team. The more success you have the more it builds. That is true for our offense, defense or special teams.
"Our defense has done a good job of keeping the ball in front of them. As a result, collectively that makes us better as a team."
Original Print Headline: Improved defense key to OSU's revival
Bedlam football: OU vs. OSU
2:30 p.m. Saturday
Owen Field, Norman
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430, KITO fm96.1; KFAQ am1170
Oklahoma State defenders stand over Savannah State quarterback Antonio Bostick after bringing him down on a keeper play during their game in Stillwater in September. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World file