Cowboy Defense Paints Its Masterpiece

Defense wins championships. It's a saying that goes back as long as you care to look in football lore. It has long been believed that Oklahoma State didn't have the defense needed to be a champion, believed even as recently as say Saturday at 6:59 p.m., but this Cowboy defense has chosen all season long not to buy into the doubter's cries.

OSU's ability to force turnovers? Luck.

OSU's dismantling of Texas Tech? Inferior opponent and wind.

The Cowboys' beatdown of Heisman Trophy candidate Robert Griffin III and Baylor? "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes," as stated by an OU fan on an OSU message board.

If OSU's defense needed to paint its naysayers a picture of how good it can actually be, Saturday night was its Sistine Chapel.

"I had mentioned to our defense that this was a time for them to shine and be on the big stage in the spotlight," coach Mike Gundy said. "They had taken some heat some throughout the year and if they wanted to prove to people that just half of what I said during the season was right, that they needed to do it tonight. I thought our defense was better than what people thought or what people said. They had been out there for a number of plays; we had forced turnovers, but there wasn't anything statistically to back it up. I mentioned to them that tonight was their night, and I don't think there's any question they showed up in a big way."

Even saying they came up in a big way would be putting it mildly.

OSU's defense dominated the Sooners' throughout the game and forced five turnovers and came close on several other occasions.

Perhaps the most telling play of OSU's defensive tenacity was when the Sooners were in the red zone trailing 10-0 and looking to score. Instead OSU linebacker Alex Elkins stripped OU quarterback Landry Jones and defensive end Jamie Blatnick picked up the fumble in stride for a 59-yard return to set up a 2-yard Joseph Randle touchdown.

Rather than a potential 10-7 game, the defense played its part in making it 17-0. Blatnick said that he should have scored but joked that he knew his running back needed to pad his stats.

"I just ran a straight line. I hurt my hip earlier, but there was no way I was sitting on the conference championship," Blatnick said. "I should have laid out, but Randle probably needed the rushing touchdown and I'm a team player."

Joking or not, the message was accurate: He, and the rest of his defensive teammates, were team players against Oklahoma. They filled their gaps, held up their assignments and had excellent communication in causing mass confusion for the OU offense. A trend that has been there all season with now 42 forced turnovers, ending with it's finest performance to date.

Bill Young's defense is opportunistic but the vast majority of those opportunities are created by the execution and communication of the Cowboy defenders and the way they shut down the Sooners was a great exhibit of that.

OU moved the ball at times but never really threatened to make a dent in the Cowboy lead or appeared to find a rhythm, finishing with a misleading 358 yards of offense. Even the two Sooner scores were a little misleading. The field came on a desperation drive at the end of the first half and the Blake Bell touchdown run came against the Cowboys' reserves in the waning minutes of the blowout.

Even OU coach Bob Stoops didn't count the touchdown in his mind.

"I don't even consider that a touchdown," Stoops said. "They probably have their 2's and 3's in and we get lucky on a fourth-and-1 with, what, two minutes to go in the game.

"We didn't get any touchdowns today."

And that success was because of the OSU defense's finest performance of the season and one of the better defensive showings in recent memory for a Cowboy team. A defensive showing that might prove good enough to get the Pokes back in the national title game.

While that is still a possibility, Young didn't worry about what will happen Sunday. All the former Cowboy player and current defensive coordinator cared about Saturday night was the performance of his defense and beating the Sooners.

"Sometimes it's just blind luck, and then other times it's hard work and preparation. I think it's just a mixture of all those," Young said. "We beat a really, really good Oklahoma football team. That's really a thrill."

And in beating Oklahoma, OSU secured its first Big 12 Conference title and it has its defense to thank.

Maybe there is something to defense winning championships after all.

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