Tim Beckman: Improvement As Easy As A-B-C

The Oklahoma State defense has allowed opponents to score 50 points over the last 14 quarters of football, which is just 3.57 points per quarter or 14.28 points per game. The defense has allowed an average of 147 yards rushing and 353 total yards the past three games. It's not "all-world" stuff but it represents a big improvement from the start of the season for the Oklahoma State defense.

After starting the string of improvement in the second half against Texas Tech the Cowboys really should be 4-0 in the past four games, but the late loss against Texas A&M makes the mark 3-1. So what is the reason for the improvement?

OSU defensive coordinator Tim Beckman says it really is simple. "We're doing the basics better, tackling and getting off blocks, doing the things that you need to be successful on defense," Beckman said. "It's not scheme, nothing to do with Xs and Os. It's about playing hard, tackling, and getting off people to make plays."

In Saturday's 45-14 win at Nebraska the defense sent a message on the first series, really the entire first half. The Cowboys won the toss and in a departure from previous games chose to defer and put the defense on the field first.

"We challenged them before the game, as a coaching staff. Coach Gundy and as a defensive coaching staff, we wanted to set the tone and we got to be out there first," exclaimed Beckman. "On the road you have to go out and set the tempo. I think the kids did at A&M a little bit too. We went out there and did what we were supposed to in order to get off the field. We're still just trying to get better every quarter.

"Our motto and beliefs have not changed a bit, just trying to get better as a defense and as a family."

The linebackers were outstanding with Defensive Player of the Week candidate Donovan Woods along with fellow linebackers Patrick Lavine and Jeremy Nethon totaling 32 tackles with a sack, fumble forced, and fumble recovery.

Beckman was proud of first time starter sophomore Derek Burton at end and veteran Rod Johnson moving back to end after spending the last two weeks at linebacker. Johnson had a solid game that included a spectacular interception that really charged everyone, including a wild-eyed Beckman, up on the sideline.

"There is no doubt, Derek had a fine game and had to step in for Marque with the hamstring," said Beckman. "I can't say enough about Rod (Johnson). Rod is just like Donovan (versatile). We went to Rod and he's been playing linebacker for the last two weeks and we're trying to get him ready to play a little linebacker without Chris in the game and so we brought him Wednesday in front of the defensive staff and asked him if he'd be willing to move (back to end) for the team. He really had a day and a half before going back to the LEO position and that shows a lot about Rod and his commitment to this team and not being a selfish football player."

Johnson gives Beckman a lot of credit for the defensive improvement. He says his coach's attitude on the sidelines during games, on the practice field during the week, and in the meeting room inspires the team. Everything is different with Beckman.

"In warm-ups, a lot has changed in warm-ups, like we used to let the offensive player run by us and we'd tag em," said Johnson. "Now we had to thud 'em and hit 'em hard and then let them go. He likes for us to be very physical, lots of contact. He is real intense about every little aspect of the game. He wants everything perfected. Everything we do he wants it to be done in perfection, even stretching, and that is what is making this defense better."

Johnson and the rest of the Cowboy defenders will be challenged this week as 25th-ranked Kansas State has an explosive group of athletes on offense that are playing with a lot of confidence.

"Very athletic, very athletic group," said Beckman of Kansas State on offense. "They are hard-nosed, basic power running football. They play-action pass you and throw the football. They have great skill, both running backs are running well and had great games against Colorado. Then the wide receivers have great speed and it is going to be another challenge for us.

"With (Deon) Murphy at wide receiver and lining up in the backfield they do some of the (Tim) Tebow stuff, the Florida stuff we saw back in the championship game at Ohio State last year. They are going to put him back there and fake it to the wide receiver and run one way or the other. We're just going to try and get better quarter by quarter and be a better defensive team."

They will need to improve this week. The Wildcats will play hard and they do everything with a little intensity themselves. Remember during fall camp, K-State head coach Ron Prince, unhappy one day with the offense, made the entire unit, including the offensive coaching staff, run stadium steps in front of fans attending an open practice.

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