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Mark's Musings: Here To Stay

Oklahoma State has proven themselves to be a Big 12 powerhouse.

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This was not what was supposed to happen. This was not how the script read. This was supposed to be Baylor's stage. This was supposed to be the night that Art Briles showed the world how far his program had come and how much further they planned to go. This was supposed to be the night that Bryce Petty had his Heisman moment. This was supposed to be the night that the Bears evolved into the hunter after being mere prey for so many years.

But instead, Baylor was dipped into the all but tranquil sea of Stillwater, subdued by the raucous roars and rhythmic waves of Boone Pickens Stadium and baptized in the name of Pistol Pete.

Oklahoma State dominated Baylor from the second Bryce Petty stumbled into a bear trap early in the first quarter and for every moment after. The planet's most dominant, efficient and stylish offense was reduced to a shell of itself by a Cowboy defense that was out for blood. Glenn Spencer devised a gameplan that gave his veteran defense the opportunity to win this game, and they did more than he could ever ask, locking up Baylor by out muscling them at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, the Pokes own offensive attack reminded everyone who owns the Big 12's premiere offense when everything is clicking. Clint Chelf played one of the best games in Oklahoma State history given the stakes, going a perfect 12-for-12 to start the game en route to finishing 19-of-25 for 370 yards (14.8 yards per pass; which team had the historically explosive offense again?) and three touchdowns. The running game wasn't what it had been in the past few weeks, but with Baylor focusing primarily on stopping OSU's ground game, the Cowboys countered with their best air assault of the season.

Time and time again, Chelf made throws we haven't see very often from him this season, putting the ball right where it needed to be for his receivers to make plays against man coverage and fitting the ball into the tightest windows imaginable when faced with zone coverage. And how about those receivers? Along with Chelf's progression over the past few weeks, their growth has a group was just as important for the Pokes to win this game.

Take a look at this grab by Marcel Ateman in the first quarter of the game. It was a 51-yard pass play out of OSU's trey package with Ateman running a fade/go against man coverage. Baylor put their defensive backs on an island like this for most of the game, and Oklahoma State torched them each and every time.


While that was Ateman's only grab of the game, it was a huge one. Along with Charlie Moore's ridiculous tight-roping job on the sidelines on the previous play, Oklahoma State had gone from their own one yardline to Baylor's 20 in the blink of an eye. Even though a negative run and a delay of game penalty put OSU in a 2nd and 19 situation a couple of plays later, the Cowboys were still able to cap off their drive with a touchdown. Having just stopped Baylor at the goalline by forcing a fumble (Hello, James Castelman!), that 99-yard touchdown drive set the tone for the Cowboys and completely changed the complexion of the game.

Ateman, Brandon Sheperd, the Moore brothers and Jhajuan Seales all made plays while the star of the group - Josh Stewart - only played around 20-30 snaps and jogged to the lockerroom when the game got out of hand. Stewart, by the way, still played a part in this game. He caught five passes for 45 yards and had a big 18-yard gain on that 2nd-and-19 play.

Oklahoma State also threw in a lot of new wrinkles for this game, and this was easily the best job Mike Yurcich has done all season. In addition to the more frequent usage of the diamond formation, we saw OSU use a bit of a power set with two tight ends bookending either side of the line, we saw a larger role for Kye Staley as a ball carrier (more on that later), we saw the jet sweep motion play a big part in the game as a decoy, as a run option and as a pass option and we saw a handful of trick plays as well.


The success of that play illustrates what was so impressive about the Oklahoma State offense in this game: execution. The Cowboys didn't miss a beat in this game and were incredibly well prepared to come out and perform in the biggest game of their season. You have to tip your cap to Yurcich and Mike Gundy for the calm demeanor that the offense displayed in this game. It helped that Baylor never got going, which meant OSU was never put under extreme pressure to score the ball, which just gives us more reason to praise Spencer's work.

One play I keep looking back to that also shows the progression of this offensive unit as a whole over the course of this season came on the fifth touchdown of the day. It came after Charlie Moore's pass to Tracy Moore on a trick play in the final minute of the third qaurter. Oklahoma State runs the inside zone read option that they've been working on ever since Yurcich got here, and watch how easily Chelf gets into the endzone.


The play was executed perfectly. Baylor opts to use the "scrape exchange" strategy in defending the read option, which means the defensive end is crashing no matter what, making it the job of the linebacker to pursue the quarterback. One of the most effective ways of beating this strategy is to have an extra playside blocker, and you can see how that works here. Left tackle Daniel Koenig does a tremendous job setting the edge, and Jeremy Seaton gets a body on the only free man left, opening a huge lane to the endzone for Chelf.

This was indicative of how the Pokes played for the entire game. Joe Wickline's group has predictably rounded into form, the receivers have made huge strides since the beginning of the season, Jeremy Smith performed well in his re-emergence as a weapon along with Staley's big day and Chelf played the game of his career.

What was thought to be Baylor's opportunity to make a statement about where they belong in the hierarchy of Big 12 programs now that Briles has firm control turned out to be another loud reminder that it is the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Mike Gundy's program that has risen from being merely competitive to being a conference favorite year-in and year-out.

Most Cowboy fans will tell you that this was not a team they'd expect to finish with a shot at a BCS Bowl game a few weeks ago, and now the Big 12 Championship runs through Stillwater for the second time in three seasons. And, keep in mind, this is only the first year in office for both Yurcich (whose running principles are going to give this offense a whole different dimension for a long time) and Spencer. It took them a while to figure things out, but now that the team is gelling on both sides of the ball, they're performing like one of the best teams in the country.

Can you imagine what this team can accomplish if they can start the season on the same page next year?

Probably just more of the same.


The Pokes scored enough to win a shootout against the best defensive unit that Baylor has had in a long while, but it wasn't necessary because of the work that Spencer's group did. I've watched the film three times now, and I can't say enough about how incredible the defense played in this game. To hold what was heralded as the most explosive offense in the country to three points through three quarters was unthinkable, and yet Spencer's group had me thinking shutout up until Shamiel Gary slipped on a banana near the end of the first half, setting Baylor up for a field goal.

The Cowboy defense performed at an elite level at every position in this game. The defensive line did an incredible job against the run and even got after Bryce Petty more than a few times, the linebackers were stout with their run fits and did a great job when dropping into underneath zones in pass coverage and the defensive backs, my goodness the defensive backs. The work that Spencer, safeties coach Tim Duffie and cornerback coach Van Malone have put in with this unit is evident and they've done a tremendous job coaching them up.


I know that Baylor was missing their fastest receiver in Tevin Reese, but to play press man coverage against that team with no safeties over the top? You'd truly have to be psycho to try it. And yet, it works beautifully. They bluff the pressure and only send four, dropping Shaun Lewis back into a short rover spot with the nickelback Lyndell Johnson and linebacker Joe Mitchell dropping to bracket cover the inside breaking routes on either side. With inside support up the seams, Petty's only option is to try and beat OSU's man coverage over the top. With Tyler Patmon and Daytawion Lowe covering those outside receivers on the boundaries, the Pokes essentially shut down the entire field.


I could watch that clip above over and over again. In fact, I'll be right back...

It didn't really matter who Spencer had in the game, either. Justin Gilbert probably played the worst game out of everybody in the secondary and that's only because he wasn't 100% (nor did he play the majority of snaps). Patmon was incredible, Kevin Peterson was solid outside of his poor tackle attempt on Baylor's first touchdown, Gary and Lowe were good, Lyndell Johnson had his moments and even sophomore corner Ashton Lampkin came in and shut down his man a few times.

Oklahoma State mixed being aggressive with playing conservatively about as well as you can in this game. They played man press in some situations and in others, they bailed out of their press and kept the receivers in front of them in order to prevent those long bombs that Baylor has killed opponents with this season. The result was Petty throwing a lot of underneath passes that are common in spread schemes, but Oklahoma State refused to fall in line with the rest of the defenses that were burned by Baylor's speed after the catch this season, as they played fundamentally sound football and kept every play in front of them.


Spencer went away from their base personnel group that OSU had tried to keep on the field as much as they could as the game progressed, which was not surprising given how much better Baylor's spread offense is compared to the rest of the conference. Thus, we saw a lot more nickel and dime package that brought extra DBs into the game in place of the core linebacking group of Lewis, Lavey and Simmons we're used to seeing in the base 4-3 (although I thought all three played well when they were on the field).


Here's an example of that zone support with the base 4-3 on the field. Oklahoma State runs a pair of x stunts on the line and drops everyone else into coverage. You can see how there were few places that Petty could go with the football without risking it.

Spencer even mixed it up and put only three down linemen on the field, dropping eight into zone coverage to close every potential throwing window there was. Knowing his outside corners weren't going to get beat deep, Spencer focused his zone support on the middle of the field, which really hurt Baylor's attack.

On third and 15 in the first quarter, Spencer uses this call. With Emmanuel Ogbah, who I noted following the Kansas State game as someone to watch for and now is tied for the team lead in sacks, using a speed rush to get around the edge and nothing open down the field, Petty never had a chance.


Here's another look at OSU bracketing the slot receivers with zone support, which had Petty off kilter all game.


Spencer is the total package as a defensive coordinator. He's installed a great scheme, he has faith in his players to execute them, he's clearly very good at the teaching aspects of coaching, he's excellent at calling games in the moment and he's just an incredibly likeable personality. We just have to pray that Southern Miss isn't turned off by the idea of up tempo offenses after Todd Monken's tenure and that they don't want after a defensive minded coach now, because we know who the first person they'd call is.


After debuting a few formations that utilized Kye Staley as a lead blocker over the past couple of weeks, Yurcich essentially inverted the playsheet to throw Baylor off their game. OSU lined up in some of the same formations that they used against Texas, but instead of running the read option with Roland and using Staley as a blocker, it was vice versa. Here's what I mean.


This is that wing offset formation I talked about following the Texas game. Normally this would be an inside zone run for Roland with Staley either leading or pulling to seal the backside. Instead, the Pokes have turned this formation into a triple option look.

While they never ran a triple-option in this game, this alignment allows for OSU to run an inside zone read option and an outside zone read option depending on the call. When a back is aligned behind and to the side of the QB, he's in inside zone read position, and when he's off to the side and a foot in front, he's in outside zone read position.

Here OSU runs a sweep play to Staley with Roland getting out to lead block for him. The line moves right but blocks down towards the left, setting the edge for Staley. The backside lineman - Koenig, in this case - cut blocks the defensive end to prevent him from pursuing the play from behind and the Pokes get a big first down.


Oklahoma State also utilized Staley as a runner out of the diamond formation. On this play they run a read-option in which the offensive line leaves two playside edge defenders unblocked. In the event that Chelf keeps it, he has two lead blockers in this scheme with Roland and Seaton both firing off to lead for him. If Chelf sees a defender at the second level also crash towards him, then he hands it off to Staley to sweep the other way.


On second and goal in the first quarter, OSU runs the same play, but instead of a sweep for Staley, it's a dive right up the gut. I'm not so sure this wasn't a handoff all the way for Staley, but the threat of it being a read option freezes Baylor's Eddie Lackey just enough for Staley to rumble past him for the touchdown. You can see the blocking scheme here is to have most of the line block towards the left for the Chelf keeper while the left guard fires off to the second level to create a lane for Staley.


And it wouldn't be a Kye Staley game without a wham block of some kind.


Kye Staley made a large impact on this game even if his stats are relatively modest. OSU's ability to win in the trenches and to pick up tough yards with his runs really helped the offense move along, and his ability to lead block has always been an asset.


*Robert passes out*

A couple of weeks ago on the podcast I theorized that Yurcich was saving the diamond formation for the stretch run. Well, that would appear to be the case, although the health of Staley was also a factor. Gundy said after the game that Staley was hurt in the beginning of the season, which prevented the team from installing and utilizing some of the formations the way they wanted to. One can infer that the trey package is part of what he was talking about.

If that's the case, a healthy Kye Staley could be the difference between OSU being in the national title discussion right now and OSU being headed toward the Fiesta Bowl with a Bedlam beatdown, although I'm not going to complain about it.

I've already looked at a few of the diamond plays, so here's one more: that fade up the sidelines to Charlie Moore from the goalline.


There's not much to explain about this one. Oklahoma State pulls nine (!) defenders into the box with the formation, leaving Moore in a one-on-one matchup down the sidelines. It's a pretty tough route to throw, but with the safety having to cover a lot of ground to make any kind of an impact, if the ball is placed perfectly, Moore has the advantage. And Chelf threw an incredible pass here, allowing Moore to put those ballet skills to use.


I am working on another hype video for Bedlam, and will have two large in-depth breakdowns for you on what is essentially the Big 12 title game after the bye week.

On the hardwood, Oklahoma State has a game against undefeated USF tonight. I'll have your recap of the action tomorrow.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!