Two weeks into the 2021 college football season, the Oklahoma State Cowboys remain undefeated with narrow victories over Missouri State and Tulsa, and both wins have come with some solid defensive performances by the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State opponents have combined for 39 total points through the two games, but 7 of those came as a result of a Spencer Sanders interception returned for a touchdown. So far, Cowboy opponents have scored more field goals (4) than they have touchdowns (3).
While the Cowboys don’t have a lot of standout statistics that put them on the map nationally speaking, we are just two weeks in, so give it some time, and they will start moving up the leaderboards. One individual who IS standing out, however, is linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez. With 29 total tackles and 18 of them solo, Rodriguez leads the nation in both categories.
As a team, the Cowboys have racked up 7 sacks (T-19th in the NCAA) and 15 tackles for loss (T-32nd in the NCAA), and the pressure in the backfield has been a big reason for the success that the defense has had, and ultimately, the success of the team as a whole.
This weekend will be the toughest matchup of the season so far for Oklahoma State as they take on the Boise State Broncos on the road. The defense will need to stand tall and live up to the challenge if the Cowboys want to return to Stillwater with a win. Here are a few defensive keys that I believe will get that win.
Pressure in the Pocket
Boise State is not a running team. Through two games, the Broncos are averaging just 70.5 yards per game on the ground despite running the ball 63 times. That’s an average of just 2.2 yards per carry.
In week 1, the Broncos managed just 20 yards on 26 attempts against the University fo Central Florida, and they fared significantly better against UTEP last week as they rushed for 121 yards on 37 carries. Still, the run game is not where they flourish.
Through two games, Bronco quarterback Hank Bachmeier has completed 42-of-63 (66.7%) of his passes for 603 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Simply put, Boise State likes to sling it through the air. A big reason for that success is that Bachmeier has only been sacked once through Boise State’s two games. If the Cowboy defensive front can get pressure on Bachmeier and even get to him a few times, Boise State’s offensive rhythm will be disrupted, creating more opportunities for the defense to force mistakes.
Take the Ball Away
The Cowboys haven’t exactly been turnover-forcing machines so far. They’ve only managed to recover 2 fumbles so far, and they nearly had an interception returned for a touchdown last week against Tulsa, but it was called back because of a defensive holidng penalty.
Winning the turnover battle is going to be a major key to winning this matchup with Boise State, and that means the Cowboys need to reek some havoc on the Broncos offense. If Oklahoma State can get pressure in the pocket, there’s a good chance that Bachmeier will be forced into situations where he will be more likely to make mistakes.
Oklahoma State needs to take their highly-experienced defense to another level, and forcing some turnovers would be a great way to show everyone what they’re truly capable of.
Hold the Goal Line
Through two games, Oklahoma State’s opponents have had 7 red zone trips, and they have scored in 6 of those. 3 of those scores have been field goals, and 3 have been touchdowns. Of the 3 touchdowns, 2 have been rushing touchdowns, and while Boise State is not a great rushing team, they have managed to punch it into the end zone 4 times through two games.
Each of the Broncos’ rushing touchdowns has come from no more than 10 yards out, and 3 of them have been from 3 yards out or less. Obviously the best option is for Oklahoma State to keep Boise State out of the red zone entirely, but if it comes down to it, the Cowboys have to figure out a way to get stop and force field goals at the very least.
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