Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has led the Cowboy defense to improve consistently over the past four years and the unit has now become one of the most dominant in the nation and in the history of the school. His performance on the field speaks for itself as the Cowboys rank among the national leaders in 3rd Down Conversion Defense (No. 2), Total Defense (No. 3), 10-plus Yard Plays Allowed (No. 3), Rushing Defense (No. 4), Team Tackles for Loss (No. 5), First Downs Defense (No. 5), Yards Per Play Allowed (No.6) Scoring Defense (No. 9),Team Sacks (No. 11), Team Passing Efficiency Defense (No. 14) and Defensive TDs (No. 15). The Cowboy defense is also No. 1 in the conference in every one of those categories and more. (Rankings as of November 10) Knowles’ performance off the field is just as deserving, as he is universally loved by the players he coaches for his knowledge of the game, his skill as a play-caller, his coaching style and several aspects of his quirky personality. While Oklahoma State was known for its offense for decades before Jim Knowles arrived, he came to Stillwater with a goal for the Cowboy defenders to make the program known for its defense, and he has succeeded in that goal far beyond what most thought was possible.
In 2020, OSU led the nation and third down defense and they have taken that momentum into every area in 2021. Here’s how the Cowboys have improved each season under Jim Knowles and how the 2021 numbers compare in school history at the bottom:
at least 1940
Notes:OSU’ defense has held its opponent to three points in each of the past two games, marking the first time OSU has held its opponent to three or fewer points since 1934.OSU and Georgia are the only two teams in the FBS who have held two straight teams to three points or less this season, and it marks just the sixth time in the history of the Big 12 and the first time since 2004 that its team has held two straight conference foes to three or fewer points.The 133 total yards allowed vs. WVU and the 143 yards allowed vs. KU make OSU the only school in the FBS who has held opponents under 150 yards in consecutive games this season. The WVU total marked the lowest for an OSU opponent since 1999.OSU held WVU to 2.3 yards of offense per play, it was the Cowboys’ best performance against an FBS school since at least 2000.OSU’s defense has faced nine sudden change situations this season and held the opponent scoreless on the ensuing drive in eight of the nine. OSU has held opponents under 100 offensive yards in 9 of 18 halves this season.Season Stats and Rankings:
Big 12 Rank
3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense
Punt Return Defense
10+ Yard Plays Allowed
Team Tackles for Loss
First Downs Defense
Yard Per Play Allowed
Team Passing Efficiency Defense
Passing Yards Allowed
4th Down Conversion Pct Defense
Senior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez has been the leader of the Cowboy defense for the past two seasons and was a vital part of it before that. He is a Butkus Award semifinalist and the Big 12 leader with 9.7 tackles per game. (No. 12 in the FBS).Additionally, Rodriguez ranks No. 4 among all active FBS players with 226 career tackles and No. 1 in the FBS with 36 career six-tackle games since the beginning of the 2018 season.LB
– Malcolm Rodriguez
Butkus Award semifinalist
2021 Big 12 leader in tackles
Leading player on a defensive unit that ranks among the
FBS leaders in in 3rd Down Conversion Defense (No. 2), Total Defense (No.
3), 10-plus Yard Plays Allowed (No. 3), Rushing Defense (No. 4), Team
Tackles for Loss (No. 5), First Downs Defense (No. 5), Yards Per Play
Allowed (No. 6) and Scoring Defense (No. 9).No. 4 among all active FBS players with 226 career solo
No. 5 among all active FBS players with 366 total
His four 10-tackle games this year are No. 5 in the nation.No. 10 among all active FBS players with two defensive
He has recorded at least five tackles in 17 straight
Has recorded 36 games with at least 6 tackles since
2018, the most in the nation.
Led all Power Five linebackers in solo tackles in 2020.
OSU’s leading tackler in three straight seasons.
S – Kolby Harvell-Peel.
2021 Big 12 leader in
No. 4 among all active
FBS players with 10 career interceptions
No. 11 among all active
FBS players with 32 passes defended.
Leading DB on a defensive unit that ranks among the FBS
leaders in in 3rd Down Conversion Defense (No. 2), Total Defense (No. 3),
10-plus Yard Plays Allowed (No. 3), Rushing Defense (No. 4), Team Tackles
for Loss (No. 5), First Downs Defense (No. 5), Yards Per Play Allowed (No.
6) and Scoring Defense (No. 9).