OSU football: Decimated by injuries, Cowboys' secondary couldn't hold up at TCU
FORT WORTH, Texas — As TCU quarterback Max Duggan lofted a pass toward Quentin Johnson in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt, Oklahoma State true freshman cornerback Jabbar Muhammad did everything he could to knock the ball to the ground.
Johnson caught the pass, despite Muhammad’s tight coverage, and capped off what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown in TCU’s 29-22 victory over the Cowboys on Saturday.
If Amon G. Carter Stadium was the fire, Muhammad had been thrown in it.
The first meaningful defensive snaps of his career came in the fourth quarter, on the road, in a tight ballgame.
It’s a testament to what the OSU coaches think of the DeSoto, Texas, native, but also a sign of how crippled the Cowboy secondary was on Saturday.
Starting cornerback Rodarius Williams, the star of the group this season, didn’t play in the second half because of injury. His replacement, Christian Holmes, has struggled the last few weeks and was pulled after a pass interference penalty at the end of the third quarter.
Safety Tre Sterling was injured in the second quarter, and like Williams, did not return.
The strength of the defense had been whittled to a shell of itself, with its best coverage player and leading tackler both sidelined.
- Related to this story
- Article: OSU football at Baylor: Broadcast info, betting lines, matchup breakdown
- Article: OSU football: Stillwater's Luke McEndoo commits to Cowboys
- Article: OSU football: Analyzing the Cowboys' 2021 recruiting class a week ahead of National Signing Day
- Article: OSU football: Cowboys' left guard Preston Wilson is learning at a faster pace
- Article: OSU football: Projecting the Cowboys' bowl possibilities
- Article: OSU football: The Six Shooter pregame thoughts on the Cowboys at Baylor
- Article: OSU football at Baylor: Kickoff moved to 2:30 p.m. on ESPN
- Article: OSU football at Baylor: Kickoff time, betting odds, matchup breakdown
- Article: OSU football: Can the Cowboy defense find its way at Baylor?
- Article: OSU football: Mike Gundy, Larry Fedora meet again in Waco, 24 years after working on Baylor staff
- Article: Carlson: OSU football has mind-boggling offense — but not in a good way
- Article: OSU football: Chuba Hubbard has 'chosen to go to the NFL'
- Video: OSU Football: Cowboys fall to TCU
- Video: OSU Football: Cowboys falls to TCU
“It’s obviously difficult,” coach Mike Gundy said. “We got other guys in there. But when you lose guys like that, it’s not gonna be as easy. The other guys came in and competed hard. But it made it a little more difficult.”
The absences impacted the calls defensive coordinator Jim Knowles made, particularly late in the game.
“It’s definitely something that you have to consider when you’re calling the defense,” Knowles said. “You try to make up for that with some calls and some different things.
“It certainly doesn’t put us at full strength, but you know, that’s the nature of college football. Guys have to step up, and I thought the guys who came in competed. It was just a case of, they made one more play than we did.”
For Knowles, a coach who likes to isolate his defensive backs in man coverage a lot, the limitations hurt his attacking nature.
“At times, you lose your stinger a little bit,” Knowles said. “There’s a lot of one-on-one matchups all over the field and those are the situations we had been succeeding at this year and we had been gaining confidence. I feel like the last couple games, we took a step back when it comes to explosive plays.
“We’ve got to find other ways to try to not allow that to happen.”
Scott Wright covers OSU athletics, especially football. You can send your story ideas to him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ScottWrightOK. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.