STILLWATER — A goal-line stand at West Virginia is defined as a symbol for one of the more impressive recoveries by a Mike Gundy-coached Oklahoma State football team.
On Oct. 19, the Cowboys hosted Baylor. During the final 25 game minutes, the Bears rolled for 337 total yards, 14.7 yards per play and five touchdowns. After having held a 20-10, third-period lead, OSU was beaten 45-27.
One week earlier, the Cowboy defense gave up nearly 600 yards in a 45-35 defeat at Texas Tech.
After the Baylor loss, OSU was 1-3 in the Big 12.
Since the Baylor loss, as the Cowboy defense has been so unexpectedly effective, Oklahoma State is 4-0 in the Big 12. The Cowboys take the momentum of that win streak into Bedlam, scheduled for Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium.
This four-in-a-row run happened in spite of two massive personnel setbacks. Before the TCU game, superstar wide receiver Tylan Wallace sustained a season-ending knee injury. Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders, because of a thumb injury on his passing hand, did not play in last week’s 20-13 triumph at West Virginia and will not be available for the Oklahoma challenge.
With Chuba Hubbard and the defense, the Cowboys now have two components on which they can hang their hats. While OSU hopes that Dru Brown and the passing game can flourish on the Bedlam stage, there will be the typically heavy reliance on Hubbard in the run game. Against the Sooners, he needs 168 yards to reach the 2,000-yard mark and 15 carries to reach 300 for the season.
In the Bedlam home loss two years ago, the Cowboy defense gave up 62 points, 785 total yards and 598 passing yards. This week, there is the reasonable expectation that Oklahoma State’s defense can stress Jalen Hurts and the Sooners.
During OSU’s last four contests, the Jim Knowles-coordinated defense achieved quite a body of work.
In a 34-27 victory at Iowa State, a 34-27 home win over TCU, a 31-13 conquest of Kansas and a 20-13 win at West Virginia, the Cowboy defense forced 10 turnovers (nine of which were interceptions). Additionally, there were 26 pass break-ups. Safety Kolby Harvell-Peel is on a roll with four-game totals of four interceptions and 10 pass break-ups. He also recovered a fumble.
Late in the first half at Iowa State, there were three pass knockdowns near the goal line. The revival of the Oklahoma State defense seemed to start there, and it led to a tremendously impactful sequence at West Virginia.
As OSU led 7-0 early in the second quarter, a six-minute drive carried the Mountaineers to the Cowboy 1-yard line.
On first down and again on second down, West Virginia QB Jarret Doege was stuffed for no gain. On each play, Cowboy linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga and tackle Cameron Murray combined to get the stop.
On third down, West Virginia was flagged for a false start. On third-and-goal from the 6, OSU freshman end Trace Ford barreled into the backfield and with his left hand clipped Doege’s right arm during a pass attempt. The football fluttered to the turf.
West Virginia did get three points on a field goal, but the goal-line response from the OSU defense energized the Cowboy sideline.
“That’s when the game was won, right there,” Gundy said on Monday.
Last season, in the four conference games that preceded Bedlam, the Oklahoma State defense gave up 19 touchdowns while getting only two takeaways.
In the past four games that precede this week’s Bedlam spectacle, the OSU defense allowed only nine touchdowns while getting the 10 takeaways.
While Hurts makes the 40th start of his Alabama-OU career, Brown starts for the first and only time on the Boone Pickens Stadium turf.
That imbalance on quarterback experience only intensifies OSU’s need for sustained excellence on defense.