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The Cowboys’ Late Game Defense Has Been Impressive

Mike Gundy explains why Oklahoma State’s fourth quarter defense has been so impressive this season.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

In Mike Gundy’s weekly press conference yesterday a reporter asked Gundy to discuss the defense’s ability to shut teams down in the fourth quarter. The defense has only given up about 30 points in the final quarter all season. Gundy attributed this late game success to the ability to rotate personnel due to the team’s depth on that side of the ball. He stated, “The rotation and the depth that we have has helped us up to this point,” then focusing on the defensive line he continued, “This is the first time that we felt like we could play two defensive lines since I’ve been the head coach here”. He credited this newfound depth to the switch in recruiting mentality that took place four years ago with allotting more scholarships to the defensive side of the ball.

Being able to rotate the defensive line is huge. I can’t remember the last time an Oklahoma State team has had this luxury. Having fresh legs out there at all times makes a huge difference in not only stopping the run, but being able to harass the quarterback throughout an entire game. The ability to agitate a quarterback all day will eventually cause him to make mistakes.

After hearing the question from the press conference I was curious on how the Cowboys’ fourth quarter defense compares to their defense in the other three quarters. I took a look at Oklahoma State’s points given up per quarter against FBS schools, via

  • 1st quarter: 6.1
  • 2nd quarter: 11.0
  • 3rd quarter: 7.9
  • 4th quarter: 4.3

4.3 points per game in the 4th quarter against FBS opponents is good for 15th in the country. I also looked back at the past 5 years to see where Oklahoma State ranked nationally in 4th quarter points per game allowed:

  • 2011: 9.2, 104th
  • 2012: 8.8, 102nd
  • 2013: 9.7, 110th
  • 2014: 8.8, 104th
  • 2015: 6.0, 41st

You can see from these numbers that the 4.3 mark is amazing compared to recent years. On one hand, you could say the Cowboys have the “clutch” gene and are able to buckle down and shut teams down when it counts. But, on the other hand, why does it take the OSU defense so long to figure teams out and “flip the switch” on the defensive side of the ball?

We’ve seen Oklahoma state give up 38 points to Pitt, 28 to Baylor, 31 to UT and 31 to Iowa State through the first three quarters of those four games. While in turn, only giving up 7 total 4th quarter points to those four teams combined.

To me, this stat is both extremely impressive and slightly confusing. Why can’t the Cowboys bring this defensive intensity and precision throughout the whole game so they don’t have to pull these games out late? Hopefully we can keep this impressive late game D up for the rest of the season, and maybe see some improvements in the earlier quarters too.

See the full press conference below:

As a side note, Gundy tells a great story about his favorite Halloween costume around the 20:30 mark.