How About a Hand<br>for the Defense

COLUMBIA, MO – A week ago the Cowboys defense and their leader, defensive coordinator Bill Clay, were seriously questioned by many of the Cowboy faithful. Why are they using a three-man line? Why do the defensive backs give so much cushion? Does Bill Clay's 4-2-5 defense really work?

Those were just some of the questions that made an appearance on talk radio shows, the Internet, and local hangouts like Mickael's Bakery and Deli where fans drink coffee and ponder those kind of questions. The 36-20 loss to Texas A&M really shook the Cowboy fans, and it was a huge downer, maybe the biggest since Clay arrived in Stillwater.

What a difference a week makes. The Cowboy defense held the team together in the first half against Missouri, while the OSU offense struggled with the Big 12's top defense. Three and outs by the offense, along with a creative, but failed, fake field goal, put Missouri in prime field position and opportunistic situations the entire first half.

But by showing a variety of new looks and a familiar player in a new position, the defense gave up only 17 points, and didn't feel as good about it as they should have.

"That first half we did not play well at all, and then we made some adjustments and looked at each other thinking we had not played yet at all," said defensive tackle Clay Coe. "We said, let's go play and we did. I know we lost contain on him (Smith) a few times, and he made me look like a fool one time. That's going to happen, he's a good quarterback. Fortunately, we came out all right."

Coe finished with 3.5 total tackles and two tackles for losses. It was an important game for him in family bragging rights in that his younger brother Clint was part of Troy's upset over Missouri earlier this season. But it was more important for Clay because he wanted to brag about his players on that side of the ball.

"Really proud of them," said Clay with satisfaction. "We fought back from some adversity from a week ago against Texas A&M. They did what they needed to do to get the bad taste out of their mouth from that game."

Did they ever. In the second half they limited Missouri to just 87 total yards. For the game they allowed 168 yards rushing and 96 yards passing – just 264 yards of total offense and an average of 3.4 yards a play. It was their best effort against a higher regarded team. Part of it was scheme, but Clay agreed it was primarily just good solid fundamental defense.

"That's always the case, you get guys in position to make plays and they make them good things happen," said Clay. "If they don't then defensive coordinators look pretty dumb."

Nothing dumb about this one for the defense. They knew they had to stop Brad Smith and they did.

"We were fortunate that we could contain him, and our kids executed very well," added Clay. "I thought our secondary did a good job of covering and gave us a chance to get some pressure on him. When they did catch a ball we were in position not to let them get many yards and that was a key."

Clay did switch some things up as he moved linebacker Victor DeGrate to defensive end this week. The Cowboy also used a new defensive scheme with a 3-3-5 defensive look, that the Cowboys call "Jack."

"We've always worked on disguise, and making the quarterback make a read after the snap rather than a pre-snap read," explained Clay. "I thought our secondary did a great job of that. They would come up and show blitz and then back off into zone. Sometimes they came up and get after him, and I think it gave him trouble."

"The coaches had a real good game plan, and we had watched a lot of film and knew that he (Smith) was a real slippery guy," said weak safety Jaime Thompson, who had 6.5 tackles including the Cowboys only sack as he trapped Smith for an 18-yard loss.

The adversity continued during the game as cornerback Daniel McLemore missed the second half because of an A-C shoulder separation. McLemore was subbing for the third straight game for starter Darrent Williams (out with a broken forearm).

"We had Martel Van Zant finish the game at one corner and Ricky Coxeff at the other, and that's what good football teams do, when a guy goes down then there are others ready to get out there and contribute," said Clay." "We had that happen for us."

The game even ended in fitting fashion. After the Cowboys had scored 20 unanswered points to take the lead on freshman Jason Ricks' 28-yard field goal, Missouri had a last ditch effort that ended with a failed "Hail Mary" just a week after A&M finished a strong first half with a successful home run pass.

"A Hail Mary at the end of the game, and our defense gets in position and knocks it down to seal the victory," said excited head coach Les Miles.

Clay thought it was a good example of what the program is all about.

"I think it shows the character of our football team and the character of our coaching staff. We got some high character football players and coaches with good character. It's like it's been since we got here, if we stay the course good things are going to happen. We're going to recruit well, and this will help in recruiting. We'll keep plugging guys into slots and this is going to be a good football team for a long time."

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