Cowboys face stiff test against underrated TCU defense
With two conference losses, TCU must win in Stillwater Saturday to have any chance to win the Big 12 in football.
Oklahoma State must win to keep pace with Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor who are all undefeated in league play. OSU and Oklahoma both have one loss each.
By inheriting Texas A&M’s Big 12 schedule, in which the Aggies owed the Cowboys an extra home game, the Horned Frogs are playing in Stillwater for the second straight season. Oklahoma State’s first Big 12 visit to TCU and Fort Worth will be in 2014. Last year, OSU won 35-14 in Stillwater.
“TCU is a team that I don’t think their record exemplifies the type of team they are,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “They are playing real well on defense. They are trying to run the football and spread you out to throw it a little bit on offense so they have a good return game. We definitely have our work cut out for us.”
How does TCU’s defense stack up to the others that OSU has played and will play this season?
“Up to this point, they are as good of a defense and physical of a defense as anyone we have seen on tape up to this point,” Gundy said.
Gundy is encouraged by the play of quarterback J.W. Walsh in comparison to last season.
“He’s very similar,” Gundy said. “He obviously knows more about our offense. His playing has been similar to what it was last year. He handles what comes with being a quarterback very well.
“I think anytime that you’re a quarterback you get a lot of credit when you’re winning and playing well. If you’re not playing as well as some people think you should then you get too much of the blame.”
The Big 12 is not getting too much credit this season and ongoing upsets are part of the reason.
“Spread offenses, quarterback play and nine game schedules is the reason,” Gundy said of the upsets. “The future for the coaches is a nightmare but for the media and people who like to watch college football it’s going to be a heck of a deal. Conference play is going to be a battle each week in most cases in my opinion no matter who is playing. Unless you have an NFL type quarterback playing for you, then you’re susceptible each week. I think it’s all across the country not just in this conference.”
OSU still needs refinement on offense.
“We have to make sure we’re getting quality reps on every snap,” said Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich. “We want to be sound on our assignments and make sure we know where we’re going and know the adjustments we have to make based on the defense. At times, we need to take our foot off the gas in regards to tempo to do that.
“We’re working hard on it, and our guys know it’s part of our identity, so we don’t want to lose that. We want to continue to progress and be fast on offense.”
The bye week was helpful.
“We got back to the fundamentals and the basics,” said Yurcich.”We got back to our base schemes and ball security. We’re continuing to work to get better at those things.”
That will be critical against TCU’s defense.
“Well, I expect every team to be physical, but I think TCU is very physical,” Yurcich said. “From a talent standpoint, from their front four to their front seven to their safeties, playing aggressively in the box, they want to tighten you down and want to stop the run. From a physical standpoint, it will be one of our toughest battles all season.”
Running back Jeremy Smith is also impressed by the TCU defense.
“They fly around,” Smith said. “They play relentless football. Whoever has the ball, they get after them. They play sound ball, and I think it makes them pretty good. I like their interior guys.
“Each week, it’s about how we prepare for the game. Not taking anything away from them, but if we go out there and take care of business, anything is possible.
“Actually, we did something different this bye week. We did a lot of one-on-one’s, just to keep our minds straight and keep our speed going, which I think was a great idea. We really didn’t take a week off because we’re still competing against each other. Coach Gundy and all of the coordinators have been doing a really great job, so it’s really up to us to stay focused and keep going week by week.”
Smith sees improvement in the running game for OSU.
“I think we’re getting better each and every week,” Smith said. “We had one setback, but we make running the ball a big emphasis every week because it opens up a lot of opportunities for us.”
Wide receiver Josh Stewart has seen parity in the conference.
“I watched the OU game, the Texas Tech game and the Kansas State versus Baylor game,” Stewart said. “The Big 12 is evenly matched. You can win everywhere. We’re excited and we’re ready to go because last week shows you that anybody can get beat at any time in the Big 12.”
OSU Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer said it is important for the Cowboys to contain TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin.
“We got after him pretty good last year, and he was kind of new to his role at the time,” Spencer said. “Now, I think it’s been a smoother transition for him this year after their starter was hurt before the season. They know what he does well, and I think they’ve built on that. I think we’ll see a lot of similar things this time. They’ve got new wrinkles, but he’s been able to make the throws and put pressure on the defense with the run.”
As always, the Cowboy defense wants to create turnovers.
“I don’t think it’s a secret,” Spencer said. “I think any coach in America would tell you being where you’re supposed to be is important. If you’re in a defense with more zone and people have their eyes on the quarterback, it’s about knowing where the ball is going and breaking on it. It’s fundamental football that gets you closer to those opportunities.
“If the ball comes out, then people are there to get it. A lot of people teach that, though. I think good players just seem to be around the football more often.”