For the second week in a row, the Oklahoma State Cowboys had a game come down to the wire in the Big 12, and for the second week in a row their kicker Ben Grogan delivered a clutch field goal and a victory.
The Cowboys were in trouble early, trailing 28-20 to the visiting Kansas State Wildcats at halftime, but OSU’s defense stepped up in a big way in the second half, holding K-State to six points in the final 30 minutes and allowing its offense to come back and win the game.
“I thought that our coaches made great adjustments at halftime, and I said that in the postgame, that we played pretty well offensively throughout the game and defensively we struggled and made some adjustments,” said head coach Mike Gundy.
“I thought our coaches did a great job of keeping their composure and finding solutions to the issues we had and getting the information to the players in that 15 minute turnaround in getting back on the field and our players were able to execute.”
Second half lockdowns have been key for the Cowboys during their 5-0 start, as their defense has given up an average of just seven points in the third and fourth quarter so far this season.
Oklahoma State is solid across the board on defense, ranking first in the Big 12 in pass defense, second in rush defense, and third in scoring defense (19.2 points per game). The Cowboys have been getting after opposing quarterbacks as well, registering a league-best 22 sacks through five games.
The problem lies on offense for Gundy’s group, though it is hard to talk about problems when his team is 5-0, ranked in the top 20 and scoring 38.2 points per game.
After having one of the more porous offensive lines in the Big 12 last season, the Cowboys allowed a league-worst 40 sacks in 2014, that group has made some improvements in pass protection, allowing 11 sacks through five games.
Where the Cowboys have fallen short is in the running game. The program that boasts some of the best running backs in college football history as alumni, from Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas to modern-day standouts like Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle, has struggled to produce much in the way of production on the ground in recent memory.
Through five games, the Cowboys rank last in the Big 12 with an average of 3.9 yards per carry and 138.2 rushing yards per game.
“We’ve made some strides. We’re a little better up front than we were last year. We still need to run the football better. I think that 150 yards rushing a game is a goal that we have, and we’re not getting there,” Gundy said.
“We have to do a better job of covering guys up in the running game. I think our schemes are good. I think our effort is good. We just need to improve. We have to get a little better each day.”
That goal of 150 yards on the ground, which would still put the Cowboys in the bottom three in the conference in yards per game, might be attainable against West Virginia, as the Mountaineers have given up 141.8 yards a contest through their first four games this year.