It started with the very first play from scrimmage after Oklahoma State kicked off when Trevone Boykin tried to get a pass off to the outside and All-American candidate Emmanuel Ogbah, the same Ogbah that was snubbed by the his hometown Houston Rotary Club in naming the semifinalists for the Lombardi Trophy, deflected that first pass.
The Cowboys finished by holding Boykin and vaunted TCU offense to 29 points, but football purists and Big 12 detractors, of which there seem to be many, will point to 110 plays from scrimmage, 445 passing yards, and 663 yards of total offense and discredit the Pokes defensive effort.
"I want someone to look at the stats and tell me we had a bad game so that I can laugh it off. For these guys, this was outstanding, and I'm so proud of them," defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer stated after the game. "It was a huge night. There were 110 gradeable snaps so they probably played 120 when you take off penalties and such. Those guys are exhausted."
They were and in between all those yards were empty possessions and turnovers that led to a lot of numbers but not much substance and in the end a gut-wrenching loss for the Frogs and a stay alive in the CFP chase win for Oklahoma State.
TCU may have had 110 plays on offense and 663 yards, but a first quarter drive that took six plays and covered 76 yards added up to a Jaden Oberkrom field goal. In the second quarter a 12-play, 61-yard drive that ate up 4:43 on the clock ended on a fourth down miss. Later, just before halftime, TCU ran 12 plays and covered 68 yards with 3:24 off the clock and Oberkrom missed a field goal.
The second half was worse with an eight-play drive for 23 yards stalling and a punt. Then the King Kong of empty drives, TCU badly needing to score to stay in the game but unable to pick up their usual chunk plays, the Horned Frogs ate 7:01 off the clock with 19 plays covering 89 yards and even thought they had a touchdown but a review put it on the one for a fourth down.
The Oklahoma State defense came up as big as you can as linebacker Seth Jacobs and teammates pushed Boykin wide toward the pylon on the keeper. Jacobs took out his legs and cornerback Kevin Peterson, working outside-in, stood the Heisman candidate up and wouldn't let him through to the goal line. It was a huge play that went right along with the four interceptions and many other big plays, but it symbolized a will that this Oklahoma State defense has.
"I was doing my job and, yes, we have a lot of pride and I feel really strong about the guys that I am out there with," Jacobs said.
"I'm always a pessimist," Spencer added on that particular play. "I'm always thinking 'they got it in.' The two-point play is what I was thinking of. That was a seven-minute drive. That's another thing people don't understand looking at that yardage is that the only way for us to get beat in that game was for them to throw over the top of us. They burned seven minutes and ended up not getting anything, which was tremendous.
"Even if they had gotten a field goal or a touchdown, the only way for us to lose it was for me to play it like that time Michael Hunter got beat – that was a bad call. He was in press and by himself. At that point in the game, I kicked myself in the tail. I should've protected those guys more because that was the only way we were going to lose that game."
Safety Tre Flowers had big hits all afternoon and an interception of his own, and almost a fumble recovery too.
"We've had the same motto all year, WTIB, which means we're taking it back," Flowers said. "It's been the same every game, every week because we have to force turnovers as a defense to be great, and that's our goal. It's been that way from the beginning."
Linebacker Chad Whitener had two picks, one set up J.W. Walsh's 1-yard touchdown run and the other he returned for a pick six, the second for the Cowboys late to seal a game in the past two weeks. Whitener was also a big part of stopping Boykin.
"It was a very difficult task. Coach Spencer put us in the right position, and everybody just executed," the linebacker said.
Sounds simple but it is amazing stuff. My favorite play was the goal-line stop of Boykin, but admiration for that effort had to start with play one and end with Whitener's pick six, despite the numbers a complete defensive game.