Carlson: No Tylan Wallace, Chuba Hubbard? The OSU defense made sure it was no problem for Cowboys
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Tyler Lacy wanted to have a little more fun before leaving the field.
Taking off his helmet and sitting it on the turf, he turned a cartwheel. It wasn’t a great bit of acrobatics, but for a defensive lineman, it was pretty darn good.
So was the Oklahoma State defense.
OSU 20, Kansas State 18.
On a day the Cowboys were without some of their best players on both sides of the ball, there were lots of reasons OSU was able to keep alive its Big 12 title game hopes. Spencer Sanders didn’t turn the ball over even once. No Cowboy did. LD Brown found a way to push through an injury that early Saturday was expected to keep him out of the game. Even special teams were rock solid a week after a couple disastrous plays.
But more than anything, this was a game won by the OSU defense.
“I told the team after the game this was a really big game for them,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “We limped through practice this week on both sides of the ball. We didn’t get quality work.
“But they found a way to win the game.”
- Related to this story
- Article: OSU football: Five takeaways from Cowboys' 20-18 win over Kansas State
- Article: OSU football: Cowboys' 20-18 win vs. Kansas State by the numbers
- Article: Carlson: Injuries made for tough grading curve for OSU football, but Spencer Sanders, adjustments scored high marks
- Article: OSU football journal: Injuries, limited practice reps can’t stop Cowboys from rallying at Kansas State
- Article: How OSU football overcame key injuries to survive trip to Kansas State: 'Go out and be a baller'
- Article: Tramel: After win at Kansas State, OSU stays No. 1 in Big 12 football power rankings
- Article: OSU football: Tyler Lacy continues to grow during second season as starting defensive end
- Article: Big 12 football roundtable: Who plays in the title game? Wins player of the year? Is the biggest surprise?
- Article: OSU football: Examining Brennan and Braylin Presley's big week
- Video: OSU Football: Defense key in Cowboys win against Wildcats
- Video: OSU Football: Short-handed cowboys scratch out a win against Kansas State
The way was defense.
OSU had every reason to lose this game. The Cowboys were on the road. Against a good team. Without so many top players. It was a recipe for disaster.
And in the first half, disaster was brewing.
The Cowboys were without receiver Tylan Wallace, who was injured during practice this week, and then on the second possession of the game, right tackle Teven Jenkins went down and scrambled the offensive line.
The Cowboys had less than a hundred yards of offense in the first half. Worse, they had nine yards rushing.
The Cowboys converted just once on third down and punted six times.
About the best thing you could say about the OSU offense in the first half was that it didn’t turn the ball over. A week after three first-half turnovers against Texas, that was no small thing, and still, the Cowboys were struggling mightily.
A 12-point deficit felt somehow insurmountable.
If not for the OSU defense, the Cowboys might’ve been done for by halftime. Even though they gave up a few big plays and allowed the Wildcats into the red zone three times, OSU allowed only two field goals and one touchdown.
Cowboy defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said the Wildcats’ scheme uses tons of backfield movement, and even though his bunch expected it, such things can be difficult to handle at first.
“It took some getting used to,” Knowles said. “We took the body blows. We took the best shot.”
And when the Cowboys went to the locker room at halftime only down a dozen points, they felt like they had seen everything the Wildcats would throw at them.
“They’ve done everything that they have,” Cowboy safety Tre Sterling remembers guys saying at halftime.
There was a confidence boost in that.
Armed with that and some adjustments from Knowles — “He saw what was affecting us,” Cowboy linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga said, adding that patience and sticking with their keys was critical — the defense came out and got three consecutive three-and-outs in the third quarter.
“I thought it was the turning point in the game,” Knowles said. “I’m always extremely confident in our offense. It was just a matter of us getting the ball back to them.”
And the OSU offense took advantage in the third quarter. Even though Chuba Hubbard joined the list of the wounded during the game, looking like he tweaked something in his lower right leg, the Cowboys answered the Wildcats’ punts with scores.
Field goal. Touchdown. Field goal.
Just like that, the K-State lead was gone.
“With our defense, we’re never out of it,” Cowboy receiver Dillon Stoner said. “They’ve kept us in every game we’ve played so far.”
The defense wasn’t done.
In the fourth quarter with K-State driving for a go-ahead score, Israel Antwine dislodged the ball from K-State quarterback Will Howard’s hand. It popped up in the air and right to Jason Taylor, who ran 85 yards for a touchdown.
Then after K-State put another touchdown on the board, the defense came up with another stop on a two-point conversion that would’ve tied the game. Brock Martin stripped the ball from Howard, and Cam Murray pounced on it.
Then when the Wildcats got the ball back one last time, Sterling came up with a win-sealing interception.
“Guys played hard,” Knowles said. “They just always believe they are going to make the play.”
Ogbongbemiga said, “We bowed up in the second half.”
They sure did, and when all was said and done, Lacy punctuated it with that cartwheel. He laughed, then skipped off the field, throwing back his head and letting out a bellow.
The game wasn't easy, but the result sure was fun.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.