So what happened on Sept. 8 when the Cowboy defense allowed seven touchdowns and 501 yards, with no turnovers, in a loss to Arizona?
Linebacker Shaun Lewis has a theory: controlled chaos.
"We try to stress that every time we take the field," Lewis said. "Saturday, we had a lot of chaos, but it wasn't controlled. It kind of shot us in the foot with the penalties and missed assignments."
Defensive end Cooper Bassett has heard his teammates talk about playing with hate when the Cowboys line up against Louisiana on Monday.
"I kind of had an epiphany," Bassett said. "I want to play with a bunch of love in my heart – for my teammates. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure we're celebrating at the end of the game … We're ticked off, we're angry. But we're a more focused, disciplined team this week."
The idea is simple enough. Play angry, but within limits. As Lewis said, a combination of personal fouls, coverage mix ups and no turnovers led to a lackluster performance. If the Cowboys are to contend in the Big 12 this season, they'll need to find some control on defense.
"We're going to use every angle and every method we can to motivate our players," defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "Getting your tail beat? I can't imagine anything that would make you want to play better than that. You failed, what are you going to do now? Are you going to sulk? Or are you going to work hard to try and correct it?"
In the past few seasons, the Cowboys have not been accustomed to entering a game after a loss. But the last time OSU fell, they responded with a dominating Bedlam victory at home. Not that Lewis cares.
"After Iowa State, but that's last year," Lewis said. "That has nothing to do with this year."
This year, the Cowboys face a Rajin' Cajun team that's fresh off a 37-24 victory against Troy. If the OSU defense wants to prove it's a team strength, it has to start Saturday.
"The first thing we did in Sunday night practice is run 10 or 12 plays we just didn't run very well," Young said. "We make sure the players know what we're supposed to be doing on those particular plays. Everybody is going to scout our film out, we're going to see those plays down the road … (Louisiana) is going to be a real challenge for us, without question."