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Oklahoma State football: Can Cowboys get back on the turnover train?

OSU FOOTBALL — Oklahoma State had the nation's best turnover margin last year and were ranked among the best in turnovers forced. But this year, the Cowboys are struggling to force turnovers and the ones they have created are coming from second-teamers.
BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer, gmizell@opubco.com Published: October 6, 2012
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/articleid/3716655/1/pictures/1851496">Photo - Oklahoma State's Brodrick Brown (19) is called for pass interference on Texas' Mike Davis (1) during a college football game between Oklahoma State University (OSU) and the University of Texas (UT) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman <strong>BRYAN TERRY</strong>
Oklahoma State's Brodrick Brown (19) is called for pass interference on Texas' Mike Davis (1) during a college football game between Oklahoma State University (OSU) and the University of Texas (UT) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman BRYAN TERRY

In fact, all turnovers gained by the Cowboys so far this season have come from non-starters. Ashton Lampkin, Lyndell Johnson and Tyler Johnson each have an interception, while Joe Mitchell has recovered a fumble.

There's still plenty of time in the season to shift those numbers, of course. In 2011, OSU forced 13 turnovers in September, but its most successful month was October, with 16 takeaways and a plus-13 turnover margin.

And there have already been some potential turnovers that just didn't bounce the Cowboys' way. James Castleman dropped an interception at Arizona. Brown had a pick stripped away against Savannah State. Lewis forced a fumble against Texas that was recovered by the Longhorns.

The lack of takeaways also isn't the only issue facing the OSU defense. The Cowboys allowed UT to convert 9 of its 17 third-down attempts and all three fourth-down attempts. They gave up 52 points against Arizona. Coach Mike Gundy said multiple times during the bye week that they must improve at defending the deep ball.

And though OSU ranks much better this season in statistical categories like total defense (No. 54 entering Saturday, 364 yards per game) and rushing defense (tied for No. 38, 121.25 yards per game) compared to 2011, the Cowboys have regressed in Fremeau's efficiency ratings in categories that have nothing to do with turnovers like forcing three-and-outs (No. 66 in 2011 to No. 77 so far in 2012) and surrendering available yards (No. 42 to No. 87).

But forcing turnovers has become the Cowboys' identity. That's why they say they did extra drills during Tuesday's practice, which focused on the proper fundamentals of forcing a turnover and recovering the ball. And Young still has faith the takeaways will come this season, starting with Saturday's game at Kansas.

“As a staff, we still believe that turnovers can come in droves,” Young said. “We could get four or five in one game, and then all of a sudden, we're on a roll. That's what we've got to do and we just have to keep emphasizing it and keep pounding that rock till it cracks.”


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