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Oklahoma State football: Cowboys should be better on short-yardage

by Berry Tramel Modified: August 26, 2013 at 11:00 am •  Published: August 26, 2013

OSU experimented with J.W. Walsh running a short-yardage package last season, but the Cowboys didn’t use it enough to get a good amount of data. Let’s see. It debuted in the Texas Tech game and was used some in Bedlam, Baylor and the Purdue bowl. That’s about it.

But Walsh quarterbacked three other Big 12 games to give us an idea of how effective he is in general as a short-yardage quarterback. Clint Chelf, too.

“We’ve tried to improve in all areas, with or without J.W. in the package.” Mike Gundy said. “My opinion in this style of offense, if there’s an area of concern, it’s inside the 3-yard line and short yardage. We’ve worked considerably on it the last ninth months.”

Here is the good news. The Cowboys were a good short-yardage team in 2013. In Big 12 games, on third downs needing less than four yards to go, OSU converted 24 of 34 times. That’s not great, but it’s not bad for a spread team that doesn’t use fullback much or tight ends at all.

On 3rd-and-1, OSU converted 12 of 15. It twice passed on 3rd-and-1, converting both, so the Cowboys were 10 of 13 running on 3rd-and-1.

On 3rd-and-2, OSU converted just five of 10. The Cowboys converted just three of seven runs on 3rd-and-2 but converted both times they tried passing on 3rd-and-2.

On 3rd-and-3, OSU converted seven of nine, including all four times they tried to run. The Cowboys converted three of five times they tried passing on 3rd-and-3.

We can do this by quarterbacking.

With Wes Lunt on the field, OSU converted just two of seven short-yardage situations. In Lunt’s defense, he played against the league’s two best defenses, TCU and Kansas State. TCU, for example, stuffed three OSU runs on 3rd-and-2.

With Chelf on the field, OSU converted eight of nine times in third-and-short. That’s a remarkable ratio. The Cowboys ran all but two of those nine times and their only failure with Chelf came on a pass.

With Walsh on the field, OSU converted 13 of 17 short-yardage plays on third down. A few of those were the special package, but most came with Walsh running the full offense. On third-and-short running plays with Walsh, OSU converted nine of 11.

“We have the same offense,” no matter who quarterbacks, Gundy said, “but we try to play to the strengths. They all are comfortable with the style of offense. But they’re different what they bring to the table. I would hope we’d call the plays that benefit the guys in the game at that particular time.”

Chelf is fairly mobile and Walsh is really mobile, so the Cowboys should have more options than ever before on short yardage.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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