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Jim Knowles’ ‘solid defense against’ Big 12’s madness has kept Oklahoma State steady in playoff race

Most things about Stillwater, Oklahoma, are simple. Small university town. The deserted stretch of Highway 55 running east to neighborhood 50,000 from I-35 could also be a sign of what’s ahead.

“I have a cigar bar and a sushi place. That’s about it,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles describes his ideal night out.

No distractions is probably a good thing this Week of the Big 12 Championship Game. If the Cowboys haven’t yet overcome the national sense of nationalism by now, that’s consistent with the simplicity of it all.

Towns and teams are easy to overlook.

Oklahoma is the 77th-floor national program to the south. But this week, the OU is in turmoil without a coach following Oklahoma State’s 37-33 win last Saturday. It was the Cowboys that advanced to the Big 12 title game against Baylor number 9.

Winning and placing 5th Oklahoma State is does not automatically participate in the College Rugby Round, but arguably the show will come close to the culmination of coach Mike Gundy’s 18 seasons with a legitimate chance to play for the national championship.

Before the campaign began, few expected a bright light to fall on a show led by a generation of defenders. It was the biggest surprise that came from the State of Oklahoma challenging a CFP landing.

You don’t need to say that they don’t usually play defensively in the Big 12.

The statement goes beyond the mold. The league has built its reputation on increasing scores. The problem is that opponents regularly do the same thing in front of the Big 12’s defence. Ten times since 2011, the Big 12 have produced the top six goalscorers. Only four times in a full season since that year have the Big 12’s defense broken into the top 20.

Knowles, a former Ivy-trained Cornell coach, served as Duke’s defensive coordinator four years ago to test himself.

“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone,” Knowles told CBS Sports. “I really thought, ‘Well, [it’s] Big 12. It’s a special kind of madness. Okay, let me see how I can hold out. ‘”

The 56-year-old Philadelphia native has been in such good form that he finds himself in demand. New Florida coach Billy Napier is said to be interested in his services. Knowles’

Oklahoma State’s defense is good at the Georgia level. You just might not have heard. The Cowboys are number 1 nationally for sacks, loss settlement and third conversion. They are fifth in scoring (16.4 points) and third in total defensively, behind only Georgia and Wisconsin.

No one saw it coming where 16 of the show’s 19 American consensuals were offensive players. That list includes one Heisman Trophy winner (Barry Sanders) and three others who finished in the top 10 in Heisman polls (Terry Miller, Thurman Thomas, Justin Blackmon).

“For me as a coach going into the 18s, this has been 360 degrees for me in terms of how I approach game day and the decisions I make during the game,” said Gundy, who was Sanders’ defender during that magical 1988 season, said. “Just let them play and [to think] Sometimes you can play the ball and position on the field. “

Knowles has painstakingly assembled a veteran unit that every beginner is in for his fourth season — at least. Full-back Devin Harper and full-back Christian Holmes are sixth, while full-back Malcolm Rodriguez is fifth.

They were part of the group that strangled Oklahoma in Bedlam. Oklahoma State has played in the shadow of its big brother for decades. It all vanished in a split second as the Cowboys – which won that game’s championship spot – beat the regulars for just the third time in Gundy’s tenure. The state of Oklahoma is now a heartbeat away from the bigger thing, CFP.

A close win in the OU couldn’t have been achieved without a second-half goal. Oklahoma State allowed Texas Tech to shut down for the first time since 1997. Its eight games against West Virginia reached a Power Five high this season. The Cowboys held their opponents with a cumulative score 184.3 points lower than their average.

Knowles is proud to have done it without recruiting five or even four stars.

The 2020 unit is a tease, leading the Big 12 with the third-lowest conversion rate of the competition. OSU went to March 8.

“I can feel the tides changing,” Knowles said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to convince them since I’ve been here, that we can win defensive games. We did that last year. I think we did. had a chance to be really good. But we’ve achieved what it’s like to be great, and that’s like tested air.”

Credit struggles. Gundy fell in love with the sport, having wrestled until he was halfway through high school. He wears the badge of honor of wrestling, a cauliflower ear. Still can’t detect this Cowboy wrestling ad from 2017. In about a decade of his dedication to the sport, Gundy found his wrestling skills could translate into soccer. Both are sports that are more about taking down opponents.

Rodriguez and defensive linebacker Brock Martin are both former state wrestling champions. Rodriguez is a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award for the best midfielder in the country. Martin led the defense with 34 tackles.

“Whenever we hear about people with a wrestling background, we’re very interested in recruiting them,” Gundy said. “Very few people know about wrestling because they don’t pay attention to it. It’s not on TV at all. It’s not a high-profile sport.”

Gundy is known for recruiting workers. Former offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich (2013-18) is from Division II Shippensburg State and spent six seasons with Oklahoma State. He is currently at Penn State. There was a bond between the two when Gundy became interested in Knowles after Duke in 2017 finished third in ACC scoring defense and returned four six.

Knowles .’s 4-2-5 possibly the most popular in the game. It emphasizes the ability to run and fight the ball in space rather than making a big shot. Like wrestling.

“Mike realized we could do it [at Duke] “Knowles said.” No longtime rookies, “He called me up. I flew out with a laptop. He picked me up, put me in a room full of staff – attack and defence. I went to town, four hours non-stop. I closed my laptop, left and never saw anything. Then he called and offered me the job.”

Knowles has become a local legend in his 33rd year of coaching. He spent a year on Wall Street when he first left Cornell.

“Then I found myself looking at the fence – maybe I’ll get caught today – staring at the high school practice papers,” he said. “The smell of grass. I grew up in the inner city, North Philly. There was no grass. When I first started playing football, I didn’t even know where the park was. When I got to the park, it smelled of grass.”

He was hooked, stopping at his alma mater (Cornell), Western Michigan, Ole Miss and Duke. His players are comfortable enough with him to call him an “evil genius” or “cartoon character”. They may have gone too far with the moniker “Goob”, which stands for “Goober”.

“They wouldn’t call me that in my face,” Knowles said.

Stillwater had become an idyllic place for a guy with a casual taste. How many bald, cigar-smokers, vegans anywhere?

“I’m healthy, and I take care of myself, but really I’m not,” Knowles said. “I’m a coach. When you put it that way, it makes me think, ‘What the hell am I doing?'”

Broke the Big 12 mold, for one thing. Maybe bring his team in College football Playoffs too. That would be a big thing.

https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/jim-knowles-defense-thriving-against-insanity-of-big-12-has-oklahoma-state-firmly-in-playoff-race/ Jim Knowles’ ‘solid defense against’ Big 12’s madness has kept Oklahoma State steady in playoff race

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