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OSU Defense Improving Under Spencer

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Glenn Spencer has the Oklahoma State defense trending upward, but the first-year coordinator said he still sees plenty of room for improvement.

And the defense was one of the lone bright spots to come out of the Cowboys' trip to Morgantown last Saturday.

"For the most part, the kids played well," Spencer said. "(West Virginia) threw it deep 17 times and completed four. I was hoping we would get more turnovers with how many times the ball was in the air. That was a disappointment. The goal is to force three per game, or one every 25 plays."

The Cowboys didn't hit the magic No. 3 but did manage to force a pair of turnovers against WVU and held the Mountaineers to 1.7 yards per rush in a 30-21 loss.

Wherever and whatever Spencer decides to nit-pick, there's no masking the defensive improvements. Take a look at where the Cowboys rank nationally in several defensive categories.

Rushing Defense – 23rd (108.8 yards per game)

Third-Down Defense – 24th (.307 percent)

Scoring Defense – 29th (17.8 points per game)

Pass Efficiency Defense – 19th (104.85)

Red Zone Defense – 19th (.692 scoring percentage)

But one of the most telling stats from the defensive side of the ball is yards per play. Oklahoma State ranks 22nd nationally and second in the Big 12 in yards per play with 4.61. That's ahead of Stanford, Ohio State, TCU, OU, LSU and Alabama to name a few.

On an individual basis, it's hard to argue against Justin Gilbert as the most improved Cowboy defender. Gilbert logged five interceptions as a sophomore in 2011 and then didn't register one a year ago. He's already picked off two this season in Spencer's more aggressive scheme.

From a statistical standpoint, Caleb Lavey leads the OSU defense. Lavey leads the team and is seventh in the Big 12 with 8.3 tackles per contest and also leads the team in tackles for loss (4.5). The senior won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week the first week of the season.

Still, it's just four weeks into the season, and the Cowboys' toughest tests are ahead of them, but there is no mistaking that OSU has made strides on defense.

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