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OSU football: Cowboys see familiarity in Missouri offense

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OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles speaks to media members during a press conference at Embassy Suites in Memphis, Tennessee on Dec. 28, 2018. 

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For most teams, facing a top-20 offense in the country is a daunting task. 

For the Oklahoma State football team, and specifically the OSU defense, that’s just another week in the Big 12.

When the Cowboys take the field Monday to face the No. 24-ranked Missouri Tigers in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, they will be facing a high-powered offensive attack, something they're used to. 

Entering Monday’s game, they’ll have faced three offenses ranked higher than Missouri in total yardage this season. But that won’t make it any less of a challenge.  

“The offense we’re playing is very good, not just in numbers but in depth,” OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said on Saturday. “Depth at the running back position, depth at the tight end position, depth at the wide receiver position and the quarterback is outstanding. He basically reads the defense on every play and has the ability to find the weakness.”

The quarterback Knowles spoke of is Drew Lock, who has etched his name into the Tigers' record books. Lock is second all-time in passing yards for Missouri, trailing only the Chicago Bears’ backup quarterback Chase Daniel, who starred for the Tigers from 2005-08. 

Knowles mentioned how similar the Missouri offense looks compared to other Big 12 teams, especially with the amount of run-pass option (RPO) plays they run. He explained the concept of RPOs and what makes defending them so difficult. 

“It’s about having the ability to exploit the defense and not be locked into a certain play or a certain read,” Knowles said. “That’s what the Big 12 is. ‘Hey, we don’t care what play is called, the weakness of the defense is over here, so we’re going to go after you there.’ That’s how the Missouri offense is built too.”

The Cowboys struggled with covering these explosive offenses all season. They rank 99th nationally in total defense, giving up more than 437 yards per game. 

But A.J. Green, a junior cornerback from DeSoto, Texas, thinks going against those offenses all season has prepared the defense well for this game. 

“That’s leaning to our side a little bit,” Green said. “They are more like a Big 12 team, or similar. We been playing Big 12 teams all our career so I just feel like that’s an advantage for us.”

Knowles’ first season as defensive coordinator for the Cowboys has been up and down to say the least. He said his unit is excited for the opportunity to play a tough Missouri team though, and hopefully gain some momentum heading into the offseason.

“It is definitely is a form of insanity to be a defensive coordinator in the Big 12,” Knowles said. “I can’t claim insanity though. I knew exactly what I was getting into. But like anything, when you see it from afar, it’s a lot easier to watch on film than it is to experience close up. The reality of it had a big impact on me and I know will give me a lot to work on in the offseason.”