Cowboy Defense Is Singing A New Tune

STILLWATER – Rod Johnson has been from coast to coast with the Oklahoma State football team the past four years but the Cowboy senior said no plane ride home was more enjoyable than the one Saturday evening from Lincoln, Neb. The Galveston, Texas, senior had reason to be happy following OSU's 45-14 victory over the Cornhuskers.

"It's a great win," said the Cowboy defensive end/linebacker, who made a diving catch of a tipped pass for the first interception of his college career. "We hadn't won there in 47 years. I'm happy for Coach (Mike) Gundy. I'm happy for Oklahoma State. I'm happy for everybody that played in the game. I'm happy for everybody who watched the game.

"I'm just happy all the way around," Johnson said Monday during the Cowboys' weekly news conference.

Johnson – who was still happy about the victory on Monday, in case you couldn't tell - and the team celebrated on the flight back to Stillwater.

"One thing that we are very disciplined and strict on around here is travel," Gundy said. "I just want them to act like they're supposed to – kinda like you'd want your children to act if you go to a restaurant to eat. But I allowed them to get on the airplane microphone and do whatever they do – rap or whatever they do. So they had some fun with it. They did have a good time."

The Cowboy defense had reason to be happy with Saturday's performance, creating three turnovers and getting up 38-0 before the Cornhuskers put any points on the scoreboard. That's quite a change from just a few weeks ago when they allowed Troy 562 total yards in a 41-23 loss and Texas Tech to set a school record with 718 total yards in a shootout that the Cowboys won 49-45.

In the past three weeks, Tim Beckman's defense is allowing an average of 353 total yards (against Sam Houston State, Texas A&M and Nebraska).

"The defense is progressing every week. The players stay motivated, the coaches do a great job of keeping us motivated and getting us ready to play, and the players have bought into what coach Gundy and coach Beckman have been preaching," said Johnson.

Gundy said, "I was very proud of the defense. (Derek) Burton had to step up and start because (Marque) Fountain couldn't go. Chris Collins is still not playing. We've had kinda musical chairs at the linebacker spot. (Jeremy) Nethon had to step in, Marcus Brown and Pat (Lavine) have had to move around a little bit. I'm proud of those guys for stepping in and playing hard, and not worrying about who wasn't there and just taking care of who is there."

Johnson played his own version of musical chairs during practice last week. "We had to move Rod back to 'backer for two days, and then we had to move him back to defensive end when we found out Marque got hurt," Gundy said. "Rod didn't practice two days in a row at any position, which probably helped him because then he just went and played, and that's usually when he plays best when he goes full speed and doesn't think a lot."

Johnson and the Cowboys face another challenge in Kansas State and quarterback Josh Freeman Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium. Freeman rallied the Wildcats from a 10-point deficit with two touchdowns in the final 3:04 for a 31-27 victory last season in Manhattan, Kan.

"He's mobile. That's one of the challenges we face, you've got to stop him from running," Johnson said. "He can throw the ball. He's a great leader for that team. He's a big guy. It's kind of intimidating when you walk up (to the line) and see a 6-7 quarterback. You say, ‘Holy crap.' He's intimidating just by his size… but we need to go in there and do what we've done the whole year, and stay composed and go out and do our job and not worry about too much else."

Johnson believes the Cowboy defense is coming together as a unit, and he predicts only better play in the coming weeks.

"This is the most confident we've been in the ability each other – looking to the left and the right knowing that they're going to do their job. The defense has come together, starting over the summer when the defense would do group activities. That helped us get to know each other before we actually played together as a team. That was awesome and I think it's starting to carry over now," he said.

"The guys are just buckling down and … the guys are more confident. The younger guys are more confident in what they're doing, and we just have a lot of playmakers on our team right now – on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball. Those guys continue to show up each week, and as long as they continue to do that we're going to win a lot of ballgames."

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