By Matt Palmer
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- After giving up 83 points over the past two weeks at home, the Oklahoma State defense found a more manageable task in College Station, Texas Saturday.
While tradition-rich Kyle Field literally rocks with excitement during the game, the Cowboy defense resurrected itself from its near-death experiences of recent weeks, allowing the Texas A&M offense only 10 points.
"We were hopin' for a shutout, but things happen," said OSU safety Jon Holland, who managed a team-high eight tackles. "Anything can happen in the fourth quarter. We tried to shut 'em down, but they scored. That's all right, we won."
The Aggies 10 fourth-quarter points are a vast improvement over the past two games.
OSU's defense allowed
Kansas State quarterback Ell Roberson to pass for more than half of his 332
yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, barely eking a
Last week against Texas Tech, Red Raider quarterback B.J. Symons brought his team back from a 41-14 deficit almost completely in the fourth quarter.
The only solace?
The defense made the saving play when Holland defied modern understandings of gravity by soaring for the deciding interception. This week, a statement.
"We just came out here trying to prove a point," said defensive tackle Brad Girtman, who got his first career start Saturday. "Let everybody know that we're comin' strong."
OSU stunted Aggie quarterback Reggie McNeal to a paltry 11 rushing yards. McNeal came into the game as the Aggies second leading rusher.
McNeal only managed 183 passing yards and threw a detrimental interception.
With OSU leading 14-0, running back Tatum Bell fumbled the ball at the OSU 27-yard line. But on the next play, McNeal decided to go for it all, and it cost him.
"We were in cover-two. I was back there, and the receiver did a post corner," said OSU cornerback Darrent Williams. "He did his post and then broke out the corner, and I was just reading the quarterback the whole time. He threw it, and I just broke on the ball — interception."
Then, in typical Williams
fashion, he went for the other end zone, but only managed the OSU 28.
Quarterback Josh Fields and company managed the rest, though, taking it 72 yards for the 21-0 lead.
Part of the reason for McNeal's ineffectiveness can be credited to pressure. The Cowboys managed five sacks, including 1.5 sacks by linebacker Pagitte McGee and one apiece by safety Fath' Carter and defensive end Greg Richmond.
Richmond and McGee added seven tackles each.
The defense managed a shutout through three quarters, but even with a lead of 31-0, recent occurances left everything in the air.
Almost immediately, A&M started, scoring on a seven-yard run by Courtney Lewis. Lewis finished the game with 171 rushing yards, overshadowed only by Tatum Bell's 196 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Aggies racked 367 total yards, 183 rushing.
But OSU continued its defensive dominance after the score, allowing only three more points.
"We try to bend, but don't break," Williams said. "A team can get a big gain or get a long run and get in the red zone, but our main objective is for them not to get points on the board. They had a couple of big plays today, but, overall, we stepped up and didn't really let the team score."
Helping that cause, the Cowboys kept the defensive penalties to a minimum — two for 20 yards.
"We've been committing some mistakes late in the game, personal fouls, stupid things," said linebacker Paul Duren, who had seven tackles. "We're a more mature team, and we're playing with a lot more confidence. When you have confidence, and you're mature, things like that don't happen."
The defense's awakening couldn't have come at a better time.
Tomorrow evening, the Cowboys begin preparations for Oklahoma, a game that will decide the front runner in the Big 12 South or maybe more.
"You can't even put into words how big a game it is for both teams," Duren said. "It's got national championship implications. It is a big game."
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