Cowboys Analysis: A Youthful Defensive Effort

If Oklahoma State fans were wondering why Glenn Spencer made the decision in the opening game of the season against top-ranked Florida State to not substitute at cornerback and linebacker where four of the five backups are true freshmen or at safety where the backups are a redshirt and a true freshman they discovered the answer at Boone Pickens Stadium Saturday afternoon against Missouri State.

Now, read this next sentence carefully at least twice. Missouri State is an FCS team that Oklahoma State had significantly overmatched. But head coach Terry Allen's Bears are a solid team with four starters returning on the offensive line and a good set of skill players.

Should the Bears have scored 23 points and gained 155 rushing yards (almost two yards more per carry than Florida State the week before)? No, but the head coach recognized one point in favor of why that happened and another that he felt should have kept it from happening. Call it another form of conflict for the defense other than run/pass.

"One time, we had eight freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior on the field for quite a few plays on defense," Gundy recounted.

That kind of youth movement makes a significant difference in what you can accomplish.

"We were just flat, so that is so disappointing for me as a head coach," Gundy added. "I talked to them all week, every day, it wasn't a secret. I talked to them before the game, talked to them in the locker room, and talked to them again at halftime.

"There just wasn't the intensity and the fire in their eye that there was in the first game. I just wished that we could have played harder and been into the game more. Give those guys (MSU) credit. They had nice schemes and they played hard. The worst part for me is I'm disappointed in me and my staff, not the players."

"Our inexperience showed at times," Spencer said in the interview room. "Even though we got a lot of guys a lot of reps and played some young guys for the first time, they got some plays on our ones. A lot of our ones are inexperienced, so it's not like we're returning a great and experienced group to handle a bunch of misdirection, wheel routes out of the backfield and double moves by wide outs.

"Ideally, this right here is the kind of game where you have a ton to learn by with a team of guys that haven't played very much. They've really got a great challenge ahead of them to get ready for this next week."

What is undeniable and proves what Gundy said is that outside some of the more experienced players like linebacker Ryan Simmons (led the Cowboys with seven tackles), defensive tackles James Castleman (two tackles, half a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and a blocked extra point) and Ofa Hautau (blocked extra point), star Josh Furman (five tackles and two tackles for loss), safety Larry Stephens (two tackles) along with corner Kevin Peterson (solid game in coverage) there were some issues. Gundy was looking for more overall from the defensive line.

"I expected our defensive front to be intimidating and make more plays than they did," Gundy added.

In the end, this happens. Check around the country on Saturday as teams expected to throttle opponents come up short in that expectation. The great thing is there is another Saturday. With UTSA coming in there will be plenty to prove and play for against a talented team that has grabbed some attention.

The line that it's never as good as it seems and it's never as bad as it seems comes to mind.

"We won the game. Just as much as everyone was telling us how good we were when we lost, now we won a game and outside everyone is going to say we aren't any good. It's all garbage and it's all poison, so I just want us to take this game and take advantage of every opportunity where we saw breakdowns.

"We made a lot of nice plays too. The expectations, again, we don't want to give up that many points or that much yardage to anybody. I've got to keep it in my mind that it's a process with these guys and we must get better to be successful next week."


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