Defense Not As Bad As It Seems

This is one that you may find right out of "Ripley's Believe It or Not." But the Oklahoma State defense is not as bad off as it seems. The fact that OSU went from holding Florida Atlantic to 203 total yards only to allow fellow Sun Belt Conference member Troy to explode for 562 yards can be explained. And, much more important, it can be corrected. Right now some attitude adjusting is necessary.

For one, all but two black shirts were stripped following last Friday's 41-23 loss at Troy. Only linebackers Patrick Lavine and Chris Collins kept their black practice jerseys.

"The older guys are holding up," said defensive coordinator Tim Beckman on Monday. "We are not getting the pass rush that we need, only having two sacks so far. We are progressing and we just have to continue to progress

"No one likes to lose in anything that you're doing. They (the players) were disgruntled with losing, but they also understand that we've got the Big 12 schedule in front of us. They set the goal of winning the Big 12 South, so we have to go attack Texas Tech and go after our goals," Beckman continued.

Talk like that may sound crazy after last Friday's loss to Troy. I'm not saying this team can win the Big 12 South, but that is the players' goal. I will say that this team can improve and can do it rapidly on the defensive side of the ball.

One of the opportunities that I have working on the broadcast crew is to go in and watch game tape of both Oklahoma State and the opponents. I watched the television copy of the game Saturday, and Monday I went in and again watched the defense. Just like I thought, many times players were in position to make plays and didn't break as aggressively on the ball as would be expected. Most of the plays Troy broke were not scheme problems.

The biggest inside slant of the night was a product of a short drop on a zone blitz leaving too big a window. Two other major pass plays were completed when the corners lost the ball, one in each half. Omar Haugabook's better scrambles were products of either the defensive end or outside linebacker losing containment.

The biggest concern has to be the run defense inside which gave up too many yards because players got blocked, and the overall concern has to be the urgency of players breaking on the ball and getting off blocks. These are all individual breakdowns that can be corrected.

"That happened (players a step short on making plays), early in the game there were a couple of missed alignments that we needed to correct and got corrected," said Beckman. "Then we weren't playing proper technique with our five technique (defensive end) which we got corrected and straightened out. We looked a little sluggish in our running and you can't be when you are playing an offense like that. That is the difference when you are playing a spread offense. They get the ball out quick in 2.5 seconds, get it out and get it to their athletes in space and you have to make the play."

There has been a lot of talk about differences in the Troy offense and the Texas Tech spread, and there are. Tech will run different routes and has a lot of option routes built into its offense. Tech won't run the quarterback like Troy does with Haugabook.

However, there are enough similarities in the two that there will be some benefit in playing tham back to back weeks. Beckman came in with the reputation of being a coordinator that can defend the spread. It is what attracted Ohio State to hire him and, in part, what was attractive to Mike Gundy when he hired Beckman. Now, after poor results in the first time against the spread, Beckman knows that the measure of defensive coordinators in the Big 12 is how well their defense does in stopping Texas Tech and Mike Leach.

"That is because they have done such a great job offensively, no question," said Beckman in response. "Just like Larry (Fedora) has done here and I think you do the same thing when you look at any of the conferences. Florida, everybody in the SEC talks about how you have to stop them and that is a spread offense. Same in the Big 10 with Northwestern and Michigan State.

"They measure you by how you stop the spread offense. (Texas Tech) is a lot of the same stuff that they all are doing. Texas Tech and Bowling Green were real close when Coach Meyer was there and Coach Brandon. They talked a lot. Passing-wise it is the same as what you see in the MAC."

As a result there should be no excuses on Saturday. Missed alignments should be fixed, technique should be corrected, and the players should have their legs back which will allow this defense should turn it around. It's pretty important that they do make the adjustment if they want to come anywhere close to those goals, which also include a post-season trip in December or January.

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