Here’s what’s most maddening about OSU’s 30-21 loss at West Virginia on Saturday. The Cowboys played solid defense.
A year ago, OSU was relegated to an 8-5 season because of defensive collapses. But the Cowboy defense did not collapse in Morgantown.
West Virginia had 17 possessions, not counting the two that the Mountaineers just ran out the clock at the end of half.
On those 17 possessions, OSU allowed two touchdowns and three field goals. That’s a defensive efficiency of 79.4 percent.
The Cowboys gave up the equivalent of 31/2 touchdowns in 17 possessions. That’s winning football in the 21st century, even against an offensive-challenged team like the Mountaineers.
And OSU’s defense got better the longer the game went. Here is how West Virginia’s second-half possessions ended: punt, missed field goal (from 50 yards), punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, field goal, field goal. The two late field goals came after 42- and 19-yard drives.
But OSU’s offense was so inept, even a second-half shutout wouldn’t have been enough.
The Cowboys had 19 possessions and scored three touchdowns. That’s offensive efficiency of 15.8 percent. OSU is accustomed to efficiency in the 30s.
Last season, in a 55-34 rout of West Virginia, the Cowboys had 13 possessions. They scored six touchdowns and kicked two field goals (one OSU TD came on Justin Gilbert’s kickoff return). That’s offensive efficiency of 53.8 percent.
Sure, West Virginia might be better defensively this season, but the Mountaineers aren’t that much better.
One game is an aberration. Two games are a trend. In the two games that matter so – Texas-San Antonio and Lamar are walkovers that don’t really count – the OSU defense has come to play, and the OSU offense has been ineffective.
Against MississippiState, OSU had 11 possessions and scored three touchdowns. That’s offensive efficiency of 27.3 percent. Not good enough to win most Big 12 games.
But the Cowboys won easily 21-3 because MississippiState managed only a field goal in 11 possessions. That’s 95.5 defensive efficiency.
For comparison, I ran the numbers on the Big 12 teams that have played at least two games other major-conference teams.
OSU (Mississippi State, West Virginia): Offense 20.0 percent; defense 85.7 percent.
OU (West Virginia and Notre Dame games): Offense 27.1 percent; defense 84.0 percent.
West Virginia (OU, Maryland, OSU): Offense 10.5 percent, defense 77.3 percent.
Texas (Brigham Young, Ole Miss, KansasState): Offense 28.9 percent, defense 62.9 percent.
TCU (LSU, Texas Tech): Offense 19.6 percent, defense 66.0 percent.
So OSU’s defense is playing as well as any defense in the conference. But OSU’s offense is no better than TCU’s.