Oklahoma State players aren’t the only ones still learning the defensive scheme under first-year coordinator Jim Knowles.
After the season opener against Missouri State in Boone Pickens Stadium, Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said it’s been a learning experience, but he feels he’s starting to grasp it.
“I don’t know all the Xs and Os but I can tell if it’s good or bad,” Gundy said Monday at his weekly press conference. “So I wanted to ask him if I was in the ballpark of where we were (on defense), and for the most part I was. We agreed on some certain things.”
Gundy didn’t watch tape on the new defense with Knowles from the season opener.
But he has his reasons.
“I don’t do that a lot for two reasons. One, I don’t understand the ins and outs and schemes of defense he has going on there,” Gundy said. “There is probably a better chance I can disrupt than doing anything that can help them. Two, that would take time away from me being in there chewing on (offensive coordinator Mike) Yurcich and I really enjoy that.”
While he didn’t dissect the game film with the defensive coordinator, he did still have some critiques of the defense from the Missouri State game.
“I felt like we were in position the majority of the time. Obviously we got out of position on quarterback power and quarterback draw, but for the most part, I felt that we were in the right spot,” the Cowboy head man said.
Gundy did see some mistakes made late game from the depth of the defense.
When the first-team veterans were subbed out in garbage time, he said he saw some “younger players … that didn’t play as well as we would have liked them to.”
“But that’s fairly common when young people get out there for the first time. He and I were on the same page there,” Gundy added.
That’s not to say the veterans were without their flaws, too.
While Missouri State was held to just 89 yards of total offense in the first half, the Bears did manage to put together one scoring drive aided by a 29-yard quarterback draw on a third-and-4.
Peyton Huslig, Missouri State’s starting quarterback, also had a 58-yard run in the middle of the fourth quarter to finish with 109 yards rushing – along with 150 yards passing with two touchdowns.
“We’ve had some issues over the years with that (giving up big plays) and we need to try to minimize that the best we can,” Gundy said. “There has to be a lot of focus and trust. We will continue to work at it. I thought for the first game, it went really smooth.”
Missouri State also presented Knowles with a surprise, and an early glimpse at what to expect come Big 12 Conference season.
At times, the Bears utilized a more up-tempo offense, forcing the new coordinator to be quicker with the calls onto the field to the Cowboys that have had less than three months of direct contact learning the system of their coordinator.
“They used a little bit more tempo than what we expected. They were playing faster than what we thought, they didn’t play fast at all last year,” Gundy said. “So it was a good warmup for coach. Knowing that as we progress through this year, it’s going to get really fast. I thought he handled it well.
“In my opinion, being a sound defensive coordinator in this league, you have to think really fast and make really good adjustments and you have to be able to get the information to the players on the field in less than five seconds so they can be lined up. I thought he did pretty well so we will see how it goes Saturday.”
But as the season progresses, the talent of opposing offenses will greatly increase.
Missouri State is an FCS program that hasn’t had a winning record since 2009 – and just 10 winning seasons in the past 32 years.
Even a South Alabama team, which OSU beat 44-7 a year ago, should bring better talent into Stillwater this weekend for Saturday’s 7 p.m. kickoff in Boone Pickens Stadium.
“This week’s game will challenge us a little more on the perimeter with maybe more skilled athletes that can go get the ball,” Gundy said. “It will be interesting to see how we play against those guys. I think the players bought in. I thought we tackled pretty well up front (in the opener); we closed the gaps most of the time.”