Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said on Monday for the second week in a row the plan will be to limit the reps of the defense in practice this week. On the heels of defending 94 snaps in Lubbock, Texas over a week ago the Cowboys were out there defending 110 snaps against the Frogs in the mammoth impacting 49-29 win over TCU on Saturday.
It's time to go light on the defense.
"We love it. We play defense, so that's what our job is and we go make plays," defensive tackle Vincent Taylor stated with pride, seemingly for the effort and for the mount of effort required. "Any time we're on the field with the crowd behind us, we love it. It exhausts us, but like coach Gundy says, we have a lot of depth, so go out there, play our hearts out, and when you're tired the next guy will come."
"We didn't play great every snap. We played great in a lot of possessions. People forget about the fatigue factor that's involved also," defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said in sounding like he will be right there with the head coach in keeping it light for the defense in practice.
"Naturally, in their mind and heart they think they're playing like they were in play one in play 110 and that's what we try and coach them, but you're really not. There's physical limitations and I'm sure that played a role," Spencer added. "The whole talk was steal possessions, any way we can. Let it be by a three-and-out, we had a couple of those; make them punt, a few of those, [and] turnovers, a few of those. And our offense did a tremendous job by getting up on them fast and it kind of changed the way that you try and win a game in the second half, when you're up three scores. It was a great team effort, it really was."
Now, Spencer and the Cowboys change speeds. It's like going from 45 rpm on an old turntable to 33 and a third. Iowa State will spread but more often the Cyclones will pack it in and run the football behind a big, physical offensive line. The Cyclones have fired offensive coordinator Mark Mangino over a quarterback issue and they are going with sophomore Joel Lanning over Sam Richardson. Lanning is a big physical quarterback and fits in well with Lawton, Okla. native and the back that is third in the Big 12 in rushing in Mike Warren.
"It's just a change of speed now. Now you got a big physical line, you're going to get some inside zone, you're going to get a tough quarterback. He isn't looking to run out of bounds, he's not looking to avoid contact," Spencer added. "He's looking to lower his head and run over you, he's got a strong arm. Big receivers that you worry about them creating separation just by being physical with some corners. It's just different challenges.
"Playing on the road up there, we’ve got to go and really play a tremendous game because they're going to play better at home. So you've got to play a tremendous game and you're not going to get a lot of gifts and they're going to have a lot of emotion and a lot of intensity, so you've really got to step up to that challenge."
Spencer did say he has already shown the defense the 2011 Iowa State game, or at least part of the game, that cost the Cowboys a shot in the BCS National Championship Game. The double overtime loss on a Friday night did knock OSU out of the mix.
"This past Sunday, coach Spencer asked how many guys were on the 2011 team," Taylor revealed. "Only three guys raised their hands. That's in the past now. We don't want the same thing to happen to us, so we have to prepare and stay focused."
It shouldn't. This team is different. A great example of where this team is in attitude and effort is the situation at defensive end where the loss of Jimmy Bean with an ACL tear that will end his season and unfortunately, as a senior, his career. Trace Clark stepped in and young pups in redshirt freshmen Jordan Brailford and Jarrell Owens produced similar numbers on Saturday against TCU. Clark started but all three made it happen.
"First, I just want to give all of the glory to God. He blessed me with an opportunity and the ability which has allowed me to go out and perform on the football field," an emotional Clark said. "I appreciate everything Jimmy Bean has done for the defense and myself. My goal is to honor him when I'm filling in his spot. He was definitely a huge motivator for us.
"We wanted to play for him, especially on the defensive line. He was also a coach for us. He would let me know where my eyes needed to be on the next play or how I could take my steps. It was a big help for all of us."
That is where this team is, all about helping each other, all about doing whatever it takes. That is what should help the Cowboys survive the last two weeks of heavy work load, a change of pace for this week with the offense they are defending, and any injured players that need to be filled in for. It's what makes championship teams.