Mike Gundy preached his team’s speed on the defensive side all offseason, and then broached the subject again this week.
And after only seeing glimpses of it against Tulsa, the Cowboys turned it up a notch against lesser competition and gave hope to those trying to dispel the “Big 12 doesn’t play defense” theory.
In front of a crowd smaller than most Texas high school football games, the Cowboys took time to get the motor running on offense. But the defense Friday in Mobile, Alabama, kept shifting gears as the game progressed.
And it was the defensive line that was at the wheel – and must continue to be the wheelman for this defense.
With the depth that the Cowboys have at the front four, it should should be that group that leads the defense just as was the case Friday against South Alabama.
Oklahoma State recorded four sacks against the Jaguars, from four different players, with three of them coming by defensive linemen: Jordan Brailford, DeQuinton Osborne and Enoch Smith Jr. (with the other sack going to linebacker Kirk Tucker).
It wasn’t just constant pressure on the backfield from the defensive line that created havoc in a game the Cowboys led by only 20 points at halftime.
That same line created the two takeaways by the Cowboys as Oklahoma State stretched its lead in the second half.
With USA starting to pick up ground with the opening drive of the third quarter, defensive end Cole Walterscheid poked the ball out of the arms of Jaguars running back Xavier Johnson with Osborne jumping on the loose ball to give OSU’s offense the ball at the USA 43-yard line – and would score in four plays.
The Cowboys’ second defensive touchdown in as many games was made possible by junior defensive tackle Darrion Daniels, who tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage, and after defensive end Trey Carter had it bounce out of his hands, linebacker Justin Phillips snagged it out of the air and ran it into the end zone for 25 yards out.
But this all came against an opponent from the Sun Belt, against a backup quarterback – after that same line injured the starting QB Cole Garvin early in the contest – and they will face much stiffer competition, even as early as next week at Pittsburgh.
This type of performance from the big men in the trenches should be the standard going forward for Oklahoma State.
With injuries – and an ejection – in the linebacker corps, and the cornerbacks slowly gaining experience, it is up to the group in the trenches to set the tone for what many consider the weak link of this squad.
The Cowboys will only go as far as this defense allows them, and the defense will go far if this defensive line – that calls themselves The Decepticons, the villains of the popular 80’s animated TV show Transformers, and want to take over the world – can copy this performance every week going forward.