Several Cowboys Step It Up On Senior Day

The Cowboys showed Texas Tech some new looks on defense, and players like Derrick Moncrief, Justin Phillips and Kirk Tucker made contributions in Saturday's 45-44 victory over the Red Raiders.

During the week Oklahoma State made some major defensive changes implementing more 3-4-4 and 3-3-5 personnel groups on defense and also injecting some looks and coverage that they haven't shown much. You can start with a three deep safety cover three look that none of us could ever remember seeing much of from the Cowboys.

I've already read the messages on the boards and there are some that are condemning the defense more than ever after the 45-44 win over Texas Tech. There is no doubt that Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes got it cranked up and got into a "sick" rhythm in the second half that made you think Tech could score virtually at will.

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Of course, they have done that to most people with Texas Tech being fourth in the nation in scoring averaging 46.2 points a game, which they didn't reach. Their passing offense was number one in the nation coming in to the game with an average of 485.8 yards a game. The Cowboys playing back and allowing plays or catches in front of them allowed 359 yards.

You see the difference wasn't the end of the game, except for the missed extra point. The difference was Texas Tech and Mahomes had three straight three-and-out possessions to start the game. The Cowboys new looks and new personnel on defense had Mahomes and the Tech coaching staff confused. Those three empty possessions were pretty darn important.

"Defensively, we started out really well, and then they made some plays," head coach Mike Gundy said working through the progression. "They're going to make some plays. I think (Patrick) Mahomes is a first-round pick, and he showed that today in different areas. I suggested to him after the game that he comes out early, and if he's looking for an agent, then we can find somebody. He's a nice young man. When you play a team like that, that has a quarterback with those capabilities, then it's going to be pretty exciting in the end."

More times than not it is not advisable to make wholesale changes in what you are doing in the middle of the season, but with the prowess of the offenses in this league, making changes, even radical changes, on defense is worth it. 

"The risk of making a wholesale swap is whether you can make your adjustments," Gundy added. "When it was taking place, I was a little uncertain. But I'm not a defensive guy, I don't micromanage and I let people do their jobs. They felt like that was what is best, so I said "If that's what you guys want and you're comfortable with that, we'll do it." I thought they were pretty dang good at it.

"There were times that we needed to make adjustments that were more difficult to make based on not knowing the in's and out's of the system, but I thought it was a good move... To me, it worked and I thought it was a good move. It was risky, but when you play a quarterback that is as good as (Mahomes) is, you're going to have to take some risks. It worked out well for us."

There were several players that did not play as much as middle linebacker Chad Whitener was out. Devante Averette moved from weak to middle bringing a little more speed, and then along with Jordan Burton, Kirk Tucker and Justin Phillips played a lot more. In the back end of the defense safety Derrick Moncrief got more duty. Darius Curry played some more at corner as did freshman A.J. Green. 

It was Phillips, who finished with 14 tackles to lead the team and a sack and forced fumble, who made the greatest splash. 

"That's my man," said Tucker. "We came in together, so I was glad to see him play so well. We all know that Justin is a really good player. He was all over the place out there."

The new schemes, the new players in the mix, it all added up.

"Man, just team camaraderie," Tucker kept on going on the team staying together and fighting throughout the contest. "Just staying together and making sure that we stayed pumped on the sidelines to keep the whole team going. That's really what got us going."

Even in the face of possible defeat with Texas Tech moving the ball on the final two drives, Tucker said everybody was pumped. He was pumped.

"It was really a lot of excitement going on in my mind. I love games like that, when it's just so close and both teams are competing," Tucker elaborated with excitement in his voice. "They have a great quarterback and a great offense. And we do as well. Our defense stepped up and their defense stepped up in big moments. So it was just exciting to see."

It was certainly something to see and that failed extra point was something welcomed to see.


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