Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

Oklahoma State gets just defensive enough to keep the Big 12 title in its sights

Oklahoma State 30, Texas A&M 29.
It's impossible to write good things about Oklahoma State without fawning over the warp-speed offense, and now is not the time to start trying. The Cowboys lit up A&M for 518 yards* on a whopping 94 plays, the vast majority coming via the right arm of Brandon Weeden. Faced with a 20-3 hole after a dismal first half, OSU rode out of the locker room at full speed, guns blazing on back-to-back-to-back touchdown drives covering 80, 90 and 56 yards to move into the lead by the end of the third quarter, and would have put the game away sooner if not for Justin Blackmon's unforced fumble at the end of a 90-yard drive in the fourth. Backed into a corner, OSU basically shot its way out.

Oklahoma State gets just defensive enough to keep the Big 12 title in its sightsBut that much, we could have guessed. What you could not have guessed — especially if you watched Texas A&M's offense eat up yardage in a dominant first half — was the ball-hawking one-eighty by Oklahoma State's defense in the second half. In the span of 17 plays in a little under 17 minutes of game time, the Cowboys forced A&M into a fumble, two interceptions and two punts on five consecutive possessions. At one point, the Aggies went 14 minutes without a first down or even a completion by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. By the time they found their rhythm again on the back end of the fourth quarter, OSU had held the ball for nearly 18 of the first 22 minutes of the half and was already in prevent mode in defense of a 10-point lead.

If this is the season that Oklahoma State breaks through for its first conference championship since the Calvin Coolidge administration (ask your parents… to ask their great-grandparents), the offense is the engine. But the Cowboys couldn't have recovered from their first half stall without the defense repeatedly putting the brakes to Texas A&M's runaway offense, and it won't get to the Big 12 title unless it gets the same kind of clampdown — even if only temporarily — on road trips to Texas, Missouri and Texas Tech, and especially in the season-ending visit from Oklahoma. It's an offensive league, and OSU proved against it can run and gun with the best of them, even if it takes a while to get the guns warmed up. But if the question was how will the Cowboys win the Big 12, we already knew the answer. Today, though, with just their second win over top-10 team in seven years under Mike Gundy, was the most significant indication that they can actually pull it off.

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Officially, the box score credits OSU with 482 yards, thanks to a negative-39-yard "run" by Justin Blackmon for an intentional safety on the game's final play. That goes down as an anchor on the Cowboys' rushing numbers, but isn't really a reflection on the offense.
Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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