Gundy called them his most physical practices ever. They are paying off

Gundy called them his most physical practices ever. They are paying off

A Pro Football Focus analysis reveals the Cowboys have drastically cleaned up their early-season tackling woes. Plus other OSU revelations from advance metrics.

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

| Oct 17, 2023, 6:08am CDT

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

Oct 17, 2023, 6:08am CDT

STILLWATER — Fixing an alarming number of missed tackles required sweeping changes, but Oklahoma State’s progress is apparent.

The Cowboys missed just three tackles in their 39-32 win against Kansas, according to a Pro Football Focus analysis. A week ago, the missed 10 against Kansas State.

In its first three games, OSU missed a combined 52 tackles.

“We were awful,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said Monday. “We’ve worked really hard the last four, five weeks. Particularly four weeks on tackling. The first few games, I told the staff it was my fault because I didn’t force them to tackle and be as physical in practice as they needed to. I leaned toward health, and it didn’t work.”

Gundy said altering OSU’s practices in the last month has helped tremendously.

“The last four weeks, we’ve tackled more than we’ve ever tackled since I’ve been a head coach,” Gundy said.

The Cowboys received a 90.2 grade in tackling. That’s an elite number. It is OSU’s first 90+ grade in any of PFF’s 11 offensive or defensive categories this season.

OSU’s offensive line was a strength

Like Gundy, PFF looked kindly on the OSU offensive line’s performance against the Jayhawks. It built on a good game last week when OSU beat Kansas State.

“Our offensive line has played considerably better the last month,” Gundy said.

It was OSU’s best run blocking performances (81.4) and pass blocking performance (80.6) of the season, marks comfortably above average. The unit’s big day translated to the stat sheet, and most importantly, the scoreboard.

The Cowboys averaged 5.7 yards per carry and racked up 218 rushing yards. Both running back Ollie Gordon and receiver Brennan Presley had rushing touchdowns.

Pass protection wise, quarterback Alan Bowman was sacked just once.

“Protection has been really good the last three games,” Gundy said.

Rashod Owens had 12 targets

Unexpectedly, Owens was a focal point of OSU’s best offensive game this year. 

The redshirt junior receiver had nine receptions for 112 yards. Bowman targeted Owens 12 times. Entering the game, Owens had been averaging 2.6 targets this year. 

Gundy said Owens has been a good leader, especially since De’Zhaun Stribling incurred a hand injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season.

“(Owens) has done everything we asked him too,” Gundy said. “His role has increased considerably since Stribling was out. He’s stepped up and done things that maybe some people didn’t expect he could do.” 

The 12 targets were a career-high for Owens, and it matched the combined amount of targets he got in twelve games last season. The nine catches and 112 yards were also his career-highs.

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Sam Hutchens covers Oklahoma State sport for Sellout Crowd. He interned for The Stillwater News Press in 2021 and The Guthrie News Leader in 2022, where he won a first-place OPA award for in-depth reporting. He has also covered sports in southwest Oklahoma for The Lawton Constitution. He strives to tell you the OSU sports stories that you want to tell your friends about. You can email him at [email protected] and connect on Twitter (X) @Sam_Hutchens_

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