Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles watches during football practice at the Sherman Smith Training Center.

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Syndication The Oklahoman

Buckeyes hire DC Jim Knowles away from Oklahoma State

After a season of spotty defense and 11 days after giving up 42 points to Michigan, Ohio State coach Ryan Day announced Tuesday that Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has been hired to fill that role for the Buckeyes.

Knowles spent the past four seasons at Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys’ defense in 2021 was a major reason why they finished atop the Big 12.

He will stay with Oklahoma State through a Fiesta Bowl appearance against Notre Dame and join Ohio State after the Buckeyes face Utah in the Rose Bowl, also on New Year’s Day.

“Starting Jan. 2, Knowles will be the Buckeyes’ new defensive coordinator,” Day said. “What is most important at this time is that we put our players in the best position possible to finish this season with a win in the Rose Bowl. To that end, we will continue our planning and preparation for the game with our current staff of 10 assistant coaches.”

Significantly, the 56-year-old Knowles helped turned the Cowboys from an offense-oriented program into one that improved its defensive numbers in each of the past four seasons.

While Ohio State was flailing around trying to slow down Michigan as the Big Ten title slipped away from the Buckeyes, Oklahoma State was finishing the regular season with the third-ranked total defense in the country (278.4 yards per game) and was eighth in scoring defense (16.8 points per game), and second in third-down defense (26.1 percent).

Ohio State was 50th in total defense (365.4 ypg), tied for 25th in scoring defense (20.1 ppg), and – notably — tied for 97th in third-down defense (41.4).

Day relieved defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs of play-calling duties after the Buckeyes lost to Oregon, 35-20, back on Sept. 11. Secondary coach Matt Barnes handled that role through the rest of the season, but with the addition of Knowles after the bowl games, Day did not indicate whether Coombs or Barnes will remain on the Buckeyes staff.

Knowles was previously defensive coordinator at Duke (2010-17), head coach at Cornell (2004-09), and linebackers coach at Ole Miss (2003) after earlier stops at Western Michigan (1997-02) and Cornell (1988-96).

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Baylor Bears running back Abram Smith (7) hurdles Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive tackle Israel Antwine (95) during the first half of the Big 12 Conference championship game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 Baylor wins Big 12, ends No. 5 Oklahoma State’s CFP hopes

Blake Shapen threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns to help No. 9 Baylor hold on for a 21-16 win over No. 5 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.

The Bears (11-2) kept their faint College Football Playoff hopes alive and secured at least a Sugar Bowl berth with the win while the Cowboys (11-2) await their bowl fate Sunday after having their CFP hopes dashed.

Jairon McVea made a diving stop of the Cowboys’ Dezmon Jackson on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the final minute, thwarting Oklahoma State’s comeback hopes and giving the Bears their first Big 12 title since sharing it in 2014 and first solo title since 2013.

Baylor led 21-3 in the second quarter but the Cowboys didn’t go away, chipping away and making it 21-16 with Tanner Brown’s 20-yard field goal with 8:17 remaining.

Oklahoma State’s defense had been the best in the Big 12 all season and kept the Cowboys’ in it, with a pair of four-quarter stops after Brown’s field goal.

The Cowboys got the ball back with 3:23 left, needing 90 yards to take the lead for the first time since late in the first quarter.

With running back Jaylen Warren out with an injury, and Baylor making yardage hard to come by on the ground, Oklahoma State leaned heavily on Spencer Sanders.

Sanders was 7 for 9 on the final drive to give the Cowboys a chance.

Sanders threw for 257 yards but was picked off four times by Baylor.

Oklahoma State needed just two yards to take the lead after a pass interference call in the end zone.

But Baylor’s defense stopped Jackson on consecutive plays, Sanders’ pass to Austin Jarrard was broken up by Jalen Pitre, then McVea made his stop on the edge, knocking Jackson out just short of the pylon.

With starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon out for the second consecutive week with a hamstring injury, the Bears had to lean heavily on Shapen, a redshirt freshman, and a tenacious defense that made life difficult on the Cowboys.

Two Baylor interceptions set up early scores, helping the Bears go up 21-3 late in the second quarter. Shapen completed his first 17 passes and finished 23 of 28.

Ben Sims, Drew Estrada and Tyquan Thornton caught the Baylor scoring passes.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Blake Shapen (12) rolls out to pass against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Oklahoma State needs win over No. 9 Baylor to maintain CFP hopes

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy admits he didn’t expect his team to be in the Big 12 championship game and on the cusp of a College Football Playoff berth after the Cowboys started the season with three consecutive one-possession wins.

“After the nonconference (schedule), I thought the chance was zero,” Gundy said. “I was just trying to get to where we can function to play the next game.”

The Cowboys steadily turned things around from there, including winning their final five games to make the Big 12 championship game. They will square off against No. 9 Baylor on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.

Oklahoma State (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) jumped up two spots to No. 5 this week, moving into position to make the program’s first CFP appearance with a win on Saturday.

To have a chance at that, they’ll have to beat the Bears again.

When the teams first met, a 24-14 Cowboys win on Oct. 2 in Stillwater, Okla., both sides were still working out their identity.

Now, those identities are solidified.

Oklahoma State’s rests with their defense, led by coordinator Jim Knowles.

When Baylor head coach Dave Aranda was LSU’s defensive coordinator from 2016-19, he’d often call Knowles to talk defense.

“He just wants to talk ball and get into it and go through all this stuff,” Aranda said. “Those times were fun.”

Oklahoma State’s defense is the best in the Football Bowl Subdivision in sacks per game (4.08) and third-down defense (.247), is tied for first with 8.2 tackles per loss per game, tied for fifth in scoring defense (16.42 points per game) and ranks sixth in rushing yards allowed per game (93.6).

“You can see, when you watch their film, there is an intelligence about them, there is an edge about them,” Aranda said. “They play with a confidence and they play with a respect-all, fear-none (mentality), and it screams off the tape.”

The Cowboys are coming off a 37-33 win over Oklahoma, when they overcame a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

“They burned a lot of energy, they burned a lot of emotion last Saturday night,” Gundy said of his players. “So if our guys don’t reprogram themselves this week, then they don’t give themselves a chance to play at the highest level Saturday morning. You just can’t.

“We don’t get any guarantees in winning the game, but we can control the guarantee that we can play at the highest level we can based on our commitment this week.”

While Knowles is a finalist for the Broyles Award, which honors the top assistant coach in college football, so is Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.

The Bears (10-2, 7-2) are averaging 446.4 yards per game, although the Cowboys held them to a season-low 280 yards, including just 107 rushing yards.

A big piece of the Bears’ offensive success has been quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who has thrown for 2,160 yards and 17 touchdowns with six interceptions. He also has nine touchdowns on the ground.

Baylor secured its title-game berth — its second in school history after also appearing in the 2019 contest — by earning a 27-24 win over Texas Tech last week without Bohanon.

Bohanon sustained a right hamstring injury in the Bears’ Nov. 20 win over Kansas State. His replacement, Blake Shapen, finished off the win over the Wildcats and then went 20 of 34 for 254 yards and two touchdowns last week.

Bohanon was expected to return to practice in some capacity this week, but his status for the Saturday game was up in the air.

“I know he’s awfully eager,” Aranda said.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) runs out of the pocket during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Eight sacks, defense power No. 11 Oklahoma State past West Virginia

Spencer Sanders passed for 182 yards and two touchdowns and the defense did the rest as No. 11 Oklahoma State stayed in the thick of the Big 12 race with a 24-3 victory over West Virginia Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.

Sanders completed 21 of 31 passes and had touchdown tosses of 6 and 12 yards to Tay Martin as the Cowboys (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) shut out the Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4) 14-0 in the second half. Jaylen Warren scored on a 13-yard burst up the middle early in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Oklahoma State’s defense posted a season-high eight sacks with linebacker Devin Harper and defensive end Brock Martin combining for half of them with two sacks each.

The Mountaineers managed only 133 yards in total offense with a net 17 rushing and failed to score a touchdown for the first time since a 42-6 loss at Iowa State in their 2020 regular-season finale. Oklahoma State finished with 285 yards.

Jarret Doege was 15 of 22 passing with an interception but for a season-low 109 yards and Leddie Brown, who had topped the 100-yard mark rushing in West Virginia’s wins over TCU and Iowa State his last two outings, managed only 24 yards on 10 carries.

Both defenses dominated early. The Mountaineers scored on Casey Legg’s 30-yard field goal on their first possession but had three-and-outs on three of their next four drives. They let time run out in the first half after running three plays on their final possession and finished with 61 yards in total offense, — minus-2 in rushing in the first two quarters.

The Cowboys weren’t much more productive with just 173 yards in the first half, 116 coming on Sanders’ passing. They punted twice and gave up the ball on an interception in the first quarter before scoring on Sanders’ first touchdown toss to Martin and Tanner Brown’s 34-yard field goal in the second to go up 10-3 at the break.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA;  Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Jaylen Warren (7) runs the ball as Kansas Jayhawks safety Kenny Logan Jr. (1) closes in during the first quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

No. 15 Oklahoma State pounds Kansas in Big 12 mismatch

Spencer Sanders passed for 157 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 53 rushing yards and a score Saturday as No. 15 Oklahoma State blistered Kansas 55-3 at Stillwater, Okla.

The Cowboys (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) rebounded from their first loss of the season a week earlier at Iowa State by holding the Jayhawks (1-7, 0-5) without a first down in the first half while rolling to a 38-0 margin.

Dominic Richardson paced the Oklahoma State rushers with 79 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown. Tay Martin snagged five receptions for 84 yards and a score.

Sanders did not even finish the first half, going 12 of 19 before yielding to backup Shane Illingworth on the Cowboys’ last possession before halftime.

Illingworth also fired two touchdowns as Oklahoma State substituted liberally in the second half. The Cowboys remain tied for second in the Big 12 behind undefeated Oklahoma.

At halftime, Kansas had just 49 total yards on eight empty possessions and turned it over twice on interceptions picked by the Cowboys’ Jason Taylor and Kolby Harvell-Peel. The Jayhawks eventually managed seven first downs on the night.

Big 12 tackling leader Malcolm Rodriguez finished with five stops and 1.5 tackles for loss as Oklahoma State allowed just 143 yards, while gaining 535.

The victory extended the Cowboys’ win streak in the series to 12 games, their longest ever against one opponent. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks’ Big 12 road losing streak climbed to 56, a skid that dates to 2008.

Jason Bean managed a passer rating of minus-1.6 before being replaced by backup Miles Kendrick in the third quarter. Kendrick passed for 34 yards and led Kansas rushers with 32 yards.

When the Jayhawks finally recorded their initial first down on a Kendrick keeper with 9:16 left in the third quarter, the Cowboys had already generated 26 first downs and 400-plus yards.

A week earlier, Kansas carried a lead into the fourth quarter against Oklahoma before fading. The loss Saturday marked the six-month anniversary for Lance Leipold as the Jayhawks first-year coach. He arrived April 30 following the ouster of Les Miles.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (20) warms up before the game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 Oklahoma State faces Iowa State as unbeaten underdog

No. 8 Oklahoma State is undefeated and has passed every test to date. But the Cowboys nevertheless are seven-point underdogs heading into Saturday afternoon’s game at Iowa State.

The spread might be more of an indictment on the style of football the Cowboys (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) have played more than anything else. Four of their six wins have been decided by eight or points or less, including last week’s 32-24 victory at Texas.

Still, the Cyclones (4-2, 2-1), fresh off a 33-20 win at Kansas State, are starting to round into the form that caused AP voters to place them No. 7 in the preseason.

“This will be a big challenge for us,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “Statistically, arguably, whatever comment you want to make, (this is) the best defense we have played or could potentially play based on what people say. They’ve been good for a number of years; they’re starting to come around, in my opinion.”

Iowa State is giving up league lows in points per game (16.3) and yards per game (251.3). Defensive end Will McDonald has forced three fumbles and recorded 5 1/2 sacks. Fellow defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike has four sacks, and linebacker Mike Rose is the top tackler on the team, averaging 7.2 per game.

And after a slow start to the season, running back Breece Hall has sprung to life with four straight 100-yard performances, including last week’s season-high 197 yards and two touchdowns.

“No. 28 (Hall) is very patient and runs a lot like Thurman Thomas used to run,” Gundy said. “He’ll wait and then hit a seam. He’s a very patient runner and productive at what he gets accomplished.”

The Cowboys bring their own offensive stars to the matchup in Ames, Iowa, with Jaylen Warren at running back (705 yards, six touchdowns) and Tay Martin at wide receiver (27 catches for 365 yards in four games), though as usual, the Cowboys will need quarterback Spencer Sanders to perform, too.

On defense, Cowboys linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez leads the Big 12 with 10 tackles per game and has forced a pair of fumbles. Oklahoma State is the second-stingiest defense in the Big 12, surrendering 307.2 yards per game.

“Very talented in the skill positions, very talented on the defensive side of the football,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “(They) have really become one of the standards on the defensive side of the football in our conference, and I think for years have been the standard on offense. (It’s a) really well-coached football team that we have a lot of respect for.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson (5) runs for yardage in the red zone in the first half of the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Warren, No. 12 Oklahoma State use big 4th Q to top No. 25 Texas

Jaylen Warren rushed for 193 yards on 33 carries, with 118 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter, and Tanner Brown kicked four field goals as No. 12 Oklahoma State charged back for a 32-24 win over No. 25 Texas on Saturday afternoon in a key Big 12 Conference contest in Austin, Texas.

The Cowboys (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) dominated the game after the early minutes of the third quarter, scoring 19 unanswered points once falling behind by 11. After taking the lead with 4:37 left on Brown’s fourth field goal, Oklahoma State stopped the Longhorns on a fourth down and added a 10-yard touchdown run by Spencer Sanders with 2:18 to play.

Bijan Robinson ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns and added a TD reception as Texas built a 24-13 advantage. But for the second straight week, the Longhorns were outplayed in the final quarter, and had no answer for the Cowboys late.

Sanders (19 of 32 passing) also produced a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brennan Presley during the Cowboys’ comeback and finished with 178 yards through the air.

Casey Thompson passed for 179 yards for the Longhorns (4-3, 2-2 in Big 12) but threw two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown.

Robinson plowed into the end zone on a 1-yard TD run on the game’s opening drive, culminating an 11-play, 75-yard march. Oklahoma State got on the board with a 21-yard field goal by Brown at the 3:41 mark of the first quarter before Cameron Dicker countered with a 28-yard FG for the Longhorns on the ensuing possession.

Texas expanded its lead to 17-3 with a 13-yard scoring pass from Thompson to Robinson with 8:36 to play before halftime.

The Cowboys’ Jason Taylor II flipped the script on the game with an 85-yard interception return that brought Oklahoma State to within 17-10 at the 5:13 mark of the second quarter. Brown added a 39-yard field goal with 8 seconds to play in the half to bring the Cowboys to 17-13 at the break.

Robinson got the Longhorns back on track with a 38-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. Brown answered with another 21-yard field goal for Oklahoma State with 4:49 to play in the quarter and then then put Oklahoma State in front for good with his fourth FG of the game.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA;  Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Tay Martin (1) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the Kansas State Wildcats in the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sarah Phipps-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 Baylor, No. 19 Oklahoma State prepare for ranked showdown

Saturday’s Big 12 dustup between No. 21 Baylor and No. 19 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., could determine which of the undefeated surprise teams will have the staying power to be contenders for the conference title.

Then again, the battle might also be an early weed-out game to figure out if the Bears or Cowboys are mere pretenders. Such is the week-to-week gauntlet of play in the Big 12.

Both teams jumped into the AP Top 25 after wins at home last week over ranked conference opponents.

Baylor (4-0, 2-0 Big 12) outlasted No. 14 Iowa State 31-29, stopping the Cyclones on the deciding 2-point conversion attempt in the waning seconds and beating a ranked opponent for the first time since 2015.

Gerry Bohanon passed for 164 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a third score, and Trestan Ebner scored on a 98-yard kickoff return to lead Baylor to the win. Isaiah Hankins’ 34-yard field goal with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter ended up producing the winning points for the Bears.

In the first half, the Bears racked up 212 yards and 21 points on a team allowing fewer total yards and points coming in while running out to a seven-point lead. Ebner’s kickoff return and the Baylor defense did just enough after halftime to finish off the upset.

“The guys are a confident bunch,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said. “There’s a good, healthy amount of ego there, and there’s a good amount of love for their brother. Whatever is in front of us, we’re going to try to knock it down. For us to be able to take the next step from this is to be able to do the little things with really strong discipline.”

The Cowboys (4-0, 1-0) moved into the rankings after a definitive 31-20 victory over No. 25 Kansas State. Spencer Sanders passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns and added another on the ground, and Jaylen Warren amassed 204 total yards (123 rushing, 81 receiving) in the win over the Wildcats.

Like Baylor, Oklahoma State dominated the first half, racking up all of its points and 295 of its 481 total yards before struggling in the final two quarters. The Cowboys have not scored after halftime in their past two games.

The Oklahoma State defense held Kansas State to minus-6 yards of offense in the final quarter while producing three consecutive three-and-outs to secure the victory.

“I told the team I was proud of the way they continue to play together as a unit,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “This team plays together more than any team I can remember since I’ve been the head coach. The defense played well, and offensively we played much better, and the first half looked like what we have been the last 15 years.”

Saturday’s contest will be the 40th overall meeting between Oklahoma State and Baylor in a series that dates to 1914. The Cowboys hold a 21-18 all-time advantage, including a 13-7 edge in games played in Stillwater.

–Field Level Media