Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cowboy Defense Stops Baylor

By Stewart Mandel - 
I've long believed college football's most common statistical measure -- yardage gained and allowed -- is becoming increasingly outdated, and there may be no better example than Oklahoma State's defense.

During Oklahoma State's 59-24 win over formerly ranked Baylor on Saturday, the ABC broadcasters made a point of constantly referencing the Cowboys' 102nd-ranked total defense. After giving up another 622 yards Saturday, the unit dropped to 111th. Looking at those numbers, you would never know Oklahoma State led 49-3 at the start of the fourth quarter and wound up holding Robert Griffin III -- who came in with a 22-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio -- to one touchdown and two picks. Though he finished with 425 passing yards, Griffin had just 152 at halftime, by which point the Cowboys led 35-0.

"We played an awfully good game," said Cowboys defensive coordinator Bill Young. "We gave up a lot of yardage. We let them convert a little too much in middle of the field, but we were exceptional in the red zone."

Oklahoma State reminds me a lot of last year's Oregon team, and not because of the array of uniforms. The Cowboys and Ducks both had an electrifying offense that overshadowed an unsung and frankly misunderstood defense. In fact, Brandon Weeden and Co.'s quick-strike attack contributes to the Cowboys' unflattering defensive numbers. For one thing, the defense is constantly on the field, having played 660 snaps, including 105 on Saturday. By comparison, Alabama's defense has seen 458 plays. Oklahoma State's defense has essentially played two extra games.

Meanwhile, Young usually empties the bench by the fourth quarter, so the other team piles up meaningless yards and points against second- and third-stringers. "Against Tulsa [a 59-33 win] we were ready to start grabbing people out of the stands," Young said.

No one would confuse Oklahoma State's defense with Alabama's or LSU's, but the Cowboys have their share of playmakers -- defensive end Jamie Blatnick, linebacker Shaun Lewis, safety Daytawion Lowe and cornerback Brodrick Brown, among others -- who excel at one thing in particular: forcing turnovers. The Cowboys lead the nation in interceptions (17) and fumble recoveries (12).

"Every single time in practice, we don't blow the whistle until we've had every possibility to strip the ball out," said Young. "We always post the number of turnovers we created the day before. If they don't get five a day against the scout team, we run after practice. ... It doesn't happen very often." - Stewart Mandel - COLLEGE FOOTBALL OVERTIME

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