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Who is to Blame for One of the Most Penalized OSU Teams of the Mike Gundy Era?

Oklahoma State is playing some sloppy ball this season

South Alabama v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

There is nothing more frustrating to watch in any sport than penalties. Mindless mistakes that not only cost your team, but benefit your opponent.

For Oklahoma State fans this year, 2018 has been one of the most frustrating of the Mike Gundy era.

After five weeks of play the Cowboys are averaging 7.2 penalties a game; the most since 2009 when they averaged 7.5.

Year Penalties/gm Penalty yds/gm
2018 7.2 71.4
2017 5.1 45.5
2016 5.3 49.5
2015 5.8 50.5
2014 6.1 53.8
2013 6.7 60
2012 6.4 59.8
2011 5.5 50.5
2010 6.8 64.9
2009 7.5 63.2

It’s a little startling to see because the Cowboys had become good at avoiding penalties. Since they averaged 6.7 a game in 2013, OSU had improved on their penalty total each year reaching 5.08 in 2017, which was the lowest per-game total since Mike Gundy took over in 2005.

What has to be even more frustrating, is not just the 2-penalty per game spike from last year, it’s that Oklahoma State is averaging it’s highest penalty yards per-game average of the Mike Gundy era at 71.4. The next closest was 2007 when OSU averaged 66.6 (!!!) penalty yards a game. That’s essentially giving your opponent a field goal attempt each game.

So the question is, who is the biggest culprit? The answer is not easy because everyone seems to be at least somewhat to blame. Of Oklahoma State’s penalties on the year here is the breakdown:

Position Fouls
Offense 17
Defense 13
Special Teams 6

The biggest culprit on the offensive side are the offensive line and cowboy backs who are both responsible for six penalties each. That’s 12 of the offense’s 17 penalties.

On the defensive side, A.J. Green and Calvin Bundage have been the biggest problems. Green has accounted for four penalties, while Bundage has three on the season.

I think most of this can be explained by a few things:

  • The offensive line is good not great and mistake prone, which we all know through five games.
  • The special teams have issues, even beyond backbreaking penalties that renew opponent drives and negate nice returns.
  • Calvin Bundage is awesome, but sometimes gets too excited and makes mistakes.

The other problem is, it’s not one specific penalty plaguing the Cowboys, it’s everything from false starts to holding to personal fouls to pass interference (offensive and defensive). That’s the sign of a team that’s just not buttoned up.

Combine that with the fact that the offense and special teams have combined for 23 of the team’s 36 penalties so far this season, and at least one finger needs to be pointed at head coach Mike Gundy. Yurcich is the offensive coordinator, but you’ll never convince me Coach Gundy doesn’t involve himself in it. And we all know Gundy likes to take blame (and credit) for the special teams.

The biggest takeaway is that I don’t recall watching an OSU team as mistake prone as this one during the Gundy era. I have no idea how to solve this problem. What I do know is that the team hasn’t shown any signs of improvement through five games. If this trend continues, it’s one that is likely to cost the Cowboys a game somewhere down the line.