We all know the Cowboys lost a bunch of starters but the returning leaders like linebacker Ryan Simmons, cornerback Kevin Peterson and the returning members of the defensive line were enough to buoy the unit to continued success. Even when it requires a few pups to fill in like Ramon Richards did for Ashton Lampkin at corner and Tre Flowers did for safety Larry Stephens last Saturday the defense still holds its own.
The Cowboys defense is sixth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing an average of 25.6 points per game. The defense is seventh in total defense, allowing 376.8 yards a contest. But they make big plays with 15 sacks, a third-down defense percentage of 35 percent, and a very strong red zone defense.
One interesting aspect of the defense is that the defensive line is challenging the secondary for passes broken up. They had two against Iowa State with defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah having a forceful swat on Sam B. Richardson. In fact, in a category that features almost exclusively defensive backs and linebackers among the leaders, Ogbah ranks in the Big 12 stats with four passes defended.
"Yeah we had two, and I think our defensive line is doing a good job of getting back there and influencing the opposing quarterback and it isn't limited to sacks or passes deflected," Spencer said. "The defensive line is doing a good job in that area and really supporting the secondary."
There are two ways to defend against the pass and a strong combination up front and on the back end is the best situation. Peterson is second in the Big 12 in passes defended with seven break ups and an interception.
When asked if he hopes Peterson's performance is rubbing off on teammates, Spencer answers, "Hopefully what's rubbing off is his approach to practice. He does the same thing in practice, so it shouldn't be a surprise when it happens on Saturday. That's what I hope rubs off on them."
As for Peterson's play, I think he is the best corner in the Big 12 and one of the best in college football. The stats and the performance show that. "He gets tested, and he makes plays," Spencer said. "Hopefully we're saying that this time next week."
Peterson's influence has paid off and been passed down. One example is Richards, who in his first start last week as a true freshman just followed along with the example he has been given every day by Peterson.
"He's played really good," Spencer said of Richards. "We've played a couple of different defenses just with him in mind. As the ball game went on we said, ‘All right this kid is playing pretty good, let's let him play.’ He's responded well."
Pass defense coming from the front and from the back with players that I think will see some honors coming their way at seasons end, but the only honors they and their defensive teammates want right now is for the wins to keep coming/