Fans love to pick on coaches. It's easy and sometimes it's right. You should never pick on student-athletes. The players are not paid and all they do is go out and give their best. Sometimes they attempt to give their best but don't, but they are young and in many cases still learning life lessons that will forge their future.
On the other hand, coaches are paid handsomely, and when the team isn't playing well they get a lot of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and every day quarterbacking out of fans. It's part of the job but it also needs to be part of the job that after a game like Saturday night's victory that those coaches get a little love. Check that, maybe a lot of love.
"Our coaches are doing a great job," Gundy said during our conversation in the locker room. "In all three phases, I thought it was as good a plan as we've had. The players are buying in and studying well. We've had guys that get hurt and individuals, other guys, step up. The offensive and defensive staff kind of manipulate, here and there, to try and play to the strengths of the guys that are healthy."
On defense, the Cowboys devised a plan to play multiple corners instead of two safeties, despite the iffy condition of star cornerback Justin Gilbert. When Baylor was in their "10" personnel package with four wide receivers or when they went "empty" with five wide receivers the Cowboys used three and four cornerbacks and sometimes Gilbert was available.
"We had a defensive plan tonight to use corners as safeties," Gundy explained. "If Gilbert would have been healthy we may have used four corners (more) and put D. Lowe at linebacker in this game.
"When you play them and they are spread out across the field, you basically need corners out there. I listened to our defensive coaches and they had a great plan. What they did that was really important was they didn't try to do too much."
Spencer, as usual, was very humble about the defensive effort and plan, but also very prideful. He was reminded of earlier in the week how he built Baylor as a huge test for his defense, and it was. It turned out to be a test his defenders passed with the highest grades you can give.
"You know that is why you play the game, you don't know sometimes what is going to happen," Spencer said. "You start off the week very, very worried and concerned and then we had good practices, and I've got some great players. Those guys they are unfazed and every drive we come out and say, 'here we go another period of practice, let's go practice.' They execute. They executed and we tackled well on the perimeter."
The effort went even further in establishing a new identity for defense at Oklahoma State.
"I'm so proud to be a part of this," said Caleb Lavey. "We wanted to do this and to be able to take this defense where it is makes everything worth it."
"It starts with our coaching staff," said senior safety Daytawion Lowe, who finished with 10 tackles, nine of those unassisted. "They preach to us and make us keep our heads up and we have just kept getting better each week. We knew we didn't want to have another feeling this season like Morgantown (loss to West Virginia) and that has led us to where we are today."
Three turnovers -- all fumble recoveries -- were important in the win. None was more instrumental than the fumble forced at the goal line after Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty had stumbled on what looked like a jaunt into the end zone on a quarterback keep off the zone read.
After a stop on first-and-goal, Baylor running back Shock Linwood held the ball out for Cowboys defensive tackle James Castleman to steal.
"It was a reaction and I'm glad he was at the top of the pile, and when the ball was out there it was just a natural reaction to take a swipe at it," Castleman said of his role in that crucial play. "I ended up hitting it instead of his hand and it came out, and I picked it up and was going to try to take it to the house (99 yards) but there was a big pile in front of me and I ended up getting tripped up."
"That's because he's hustling, right?" Spencer reacted. "He's hustling to make that play like they are supposed to be. Caleb (Lavey) had the textbook strip just like we work on all the time. I just give the kids a lot of credit. We have good players and we played with an edge. They found their edge and they stuck to it. I'm proud of this family."
Lavey's strip was the second forced turnover. The third was really unforced when a low snap, again inside the 5-yard line, led to Tyler Patmon's scoop and 78-yard score. Baylor's late touchdown, a 32-yard pass from Petty to Levi Norwood, was disappointing to Spencer.
It's safe to say that the guy may be a little bit of a perfectionist. "We gave up a few things," Spencer lamented. "I hated that last score. Isn't that sick, I hated that last score. We were giving a cushion because we didn't want to get beat deep."
As for the offense, the diversity and the courage to change things up with the two tight-end package, using Staley to carry the ball, and the execution on all the "special" plays had a theme with Yurcich and the offensive staff, Gundy said.
"Offensively, you know number 6 (Ahmad Dixon) for them is a really good player and we tried to use formations and motions and different things on the field to get him to where he would just be standing over there and not really be involved in the play," Gundy said of the offense which introduced a "12" personnel package with one back and two tights ends, something that had not been shown by OSU in a long time.
The Cowboys also used the fullback package with Staley as a featured ball carrier and a series of "special" plays (quarterback throw back and reverse pass) that were designed to catch the Baylor defense off guard.
The offensive staff was simply taking the head coach at his word when on Monday in his news conference he was asked what OSU had to do to beat Baylor and he simply said, "score, you have to score a lot of points."
"I give a lot of credit to the staff on that side of the ball for coming up with that plan," said Gundy. "We had a number of plays designed to throw the ball down the field and you watched us in practice this week.
"You have to have an answer when you're playing a team this explosive because when they are hitting on all cylinders then you have to have an answer to give your players a chance to win. It doesn't matter if you lose a game 65-to-10 or 65-to-55. We had to find a way to score.
"It was an unusual game plan offensively, and it cost us some negative yardage plays but we also got some big plays out of it. You have to give credit to the players. It's all about the players and I couldn't be more proud of them for buying in, and we've got some work ahead of us."
Now the Cowboys have a week off, a week to get this win out of the system, before saddling up with another plan for one more regular season game that because of the Baylor win becomes extremely important. The Bedlam showdown on Dec. 7, like the last edition played in Stillwater in 2011, is for a Big 12 Championship.
"There's a little meat on the bone, there's another game left," Spencer said before going home with his two sons for some fried chicken. A delicacy for a southern man with southern roots and on Saturdy night my guess is there was no meat left on the bone. The same desired result for the Cowboys in close to two weeks in Bedlam.
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