|Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was displeased with his team's discipline in a 59-38 loss to Arizona on Saturday. (US Presswire)|
"It was poor coaching and poor playing. Bad combination. And we're all responsible for way too many mental mistakes. We were out of control. It really comes down to just undisciplined football."
That was Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on Saturday night after his team traveled to Arizona as 13.5-point favorites and headed back to Stillwater with a 59-38 loss. The explanation was pretty simple. The Cowboys killed their chances with four turnovers, a school-record 167 penalty yards and an inability to force any turnovers themselves.
It was the anti-Cowboy way: Rack up the yards and limit the turnovers on offense; bend and gamble on defense.
A year ago that worked to the tune of a Big 12 title and 12 wins. Oklahoma State finished third in the nation in total offense, second in scoring offense, 107th in total defense, 61st in scoring defense and first in turnover margin.
As our Patrick Southern wrote before the season, turnover-margin has become the golden number in the Big 12. All of the last five Big 12 champions have finished no worse than 25th nationally in turnover margin and the last four have all been 15th or better. That was a drastic change from 2003 through 2006 when only one Big 12 champ finished better than 42nd in turnover margin.
As more Big 12 offenses went to the spread and began putting up video game numbers, bend-and-gamble became the way to succeed.
K-State finished second in the Big 12 last year despite the fact that the Wildcats were outgained on the season. Their plus-12 turnover margin (second only to Oklahoma State) was enough to pull out close wins.
The Big 12 standings and turnover margin leaders nearly mirrored each other a season ago. Oklahoma State led the conference at plus-21 and won the title; K-State was second in turnover margin and finished second, and Baylor was third at plus-five and also finished third in the standings.
Through two weeks of non-conference games in the Big 12, turnover margin has again played a huge part. The following chart is a look at the turnover margin for the seven legitimate Big 12 non-conference games that have had a spread of less than 20.
Tulsa at Iowa State
Iowa State +1.5
Iowa State, 38-23
SMU at Baylor
Rice at Kansas
Texas State at Texas Tech
Texas Tech -17
Texas Tech +1
Texas Tech, 58-10
Miami at Kansas State
Iowa State at Iowa
Iowa State, 9-6
Oklahoma State at Arizona
Iowa State's 9-6 win at Iowa -- can be explained by where the Cyclones' turnovers occurred. They were all in Hawkeye territory and three of the four were in the red zone, so the Cyclones never gave the Hawkeyes a short field.
The Cowboys have reason to believe that the Arizona game can be an outlier to their season. Last year, they had one big turnover game -- giving the ball away five times at Iowa State --and that was their only loss. The good news is that they lead the nation in total offense through two games -- they outgained the Wildcats 636-501 -- and only one of freshman QB Wes Lunt's three interceptions at Arizona were his fault.
Also, the orchestrator of last season's greedy defense, coordinator Bill Young, missed the Arizona game because of an undisclosed medical procedure. Young's return date is undetermined, The Oklahoman reported, but he is back in the offices this week.
While Gundy instills some discipline, Young is likely trying to figure out how to get the Cowboys back to their takeaway ways.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow@CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern) as well.