Cowboy defense throttles Mississippi State of the SEC
One of the best teams in the Big 12 beat a middle-of-the-pack team in the Southeastern Conference as Oklahoma State opened the year with a solid 21-3 win over Mississippi State in Houston.
Known for its offense, the Cowboys relied more on solid defense in keeping MSU out of the end zone.
OSU will host its home opener this Saturday against the University of Texas at San Antonio.
UT-San Antonio opened their season last Saturday with a 21-13 win at New Mexico. UTSA scored 21 unanswered points after falling behind, 13-0, and they finished the contest with 394 total yards (157 rush/237 pass) of offense. They face OSU at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Cowboys had just 46 total passing yards in the first half against Mississippi State – the fewest passing yards in a half for OSU since the second half of the Cotton Bowl vs. Ole Miss on Jan. 2, 2010.
Oklahoma State is now 9-1 in its last 10 games against current Southeastern Conference teams, including newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M.
Senior Clint Chelf started at quarterback for OSU but sophomore J.W. Walsh surpassed his career single-game high in rushing yards in the first half with 75 vs. the Bulldogs. He finished the game with 125 yards rushing.
Walsh became the first QB to rush for 100 yards in a game since Zac Robinson compiled 144 vs. Baylor in 2007.
“(Walsh) will be our starter in the next game,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “We had plans to play him in the third series. We weren’t very good in the first two obviously and then when J.W. came in he kind of gave us a spark and we certainly could make an adjustment at that time so we just continued to move forward from that point.”
Walsh took off on a 46-yard run that turned momentum in the Cowboys’ favor.
“It certainly did for us because before that we hadn’t done anything,” Gundy said. “We were about as ‘blah’ as we’d ever been … The concerns that we had early on offense in this game were the same thing that I’ve told our local media for months. When you try to get two quarterbacks ready it’s difficult, and then we had some guys playing on the offensive line that are new for the most part. You’re always concerned about that. I don’t think we gave up a sack so I was pleased with that.”
“There were some tough moments at the beginning there,” Walsh said. “Once we hit our stride, we were good.”
Oklahoma State favored the left side on zone-read running plays because they were successful early and often.
“We kind of had an idea of when they lined up in formation and we saw it and just exploited it over and over again,” Walsh said. “They didn’t really adjust to it, so we just kept exploiting it.”
It was a new twist for the Cowboy offense.
“…they haven’t seen it before,” Walsh said. “We never ran it before and it was the first time they had seen it. They weren’t prepared for it. They weren’t ready for it. For it to work over and over again like that, it was exciting to be that successful. It was a lot of fun and exciting.
“To see our run game be so successful is nice to see early on in the season, especially against a big physical defense like that. You’ve got to give credit to them because, at the beginning of the game, they were downhill and they were coming at us. To be able to still run for however many yards we ran for was exciting to see and I think we’re going to build on that and be able to expand.”
Better defense had been an emphasis in the spring and fall practices.
“I think there’s no question that the story of the game for us was our defense,” Gundy said. “There hadn’t been many games at OSU over the last five or six years or maybe longer than that where the defense is the story. It’s a team game, but the defense certainly kept us in and allowed the offense to get going in the third and fourth quarter.”
The Cowboys made some early adjustments on defense.
“We weren’t very good really in the first two series,” Gundy said. “They went right down the field on us. We allowed them to convert third and what I call extra long. We weren’t getting enough pressure; we can’t let them stand back there for five seconds. That’s too long. We made some adjustments on some alignments, and techniques up front, Glenn (Spencer) and Joe Bob (Clements) did a nice job with that and we were able to get more pressure on them.
“Really what happened was up front on both sides of the ball we wore them down as the game went on. We had more energy than they had and we were able to get to them.”
“When you look at this game, we said coming in here sometimes this first game can be a benchmark,” said MSU coach Dan Mullens. “It doesn’t define your season in any way, shape or form, but it can be a benchmark against a team that is supposed to win their conference championship. Where are we at? And our guys can really learn from that, see where we are, and the little things we have to do to fix so that we can be a team that contends for the conference championship this year.”
Senior cornerback Justin Gilbert’s interception with 5:05 remaining in the first quarter was the sixth of his career and his first since the Fiesta Bowl game against Stanford on Jan. 2, 2012.
“That part just came to me from running to the ball like Coach (Defensive Coordinator Glenn) Spencer coaches us every day,” Gilbert said. “Run to the ball and hopefully something will happen.”
The defense showed a lot of energy.
“Yeah, we had guys flying to the ball,” Gilbert said. “We were making substitutions and our defense was flying on and off the field, moving around, showing different coverages and confusing the front. Our guys were just making plays.”
The play of the defensive line helped the linebackers make plays.
“Our guys up front did a terrific job, I mean, a good job up front just holding point and allowing us to run free and make tackles,” said Cowboy linebacker Shaun Lewis. “So kudos to them, I mean they really won this game for us.”
This game goes against the idea that Big 12 defenses are soft.
“We play physical in the Big XII, too,” Lewis said. “It’s just we run so many plays, people overlook it. But we play physical in the Big XII as well.”
OSU’s 286 yards rushing are the most since the Cowboys racked up 330 vs. Louisiana last season, a span of 11 games. The 432 yards of total offense are the most since compiling 436 at Arizona last season, a span of 12 contests.
OSU running back Jeremy Smith finished with 15 carries, matching his career high he set vs. Grambling State on Sept. 26, 2009. Smith’s 1-yard TD run with 10:41 remaining in the third quarter was the 26th of his career.
“All the credit to the O-line (offensive line),” Smith said. “‘J. Dub”‘ (J.W. Walsh) did a great job out there and the defense played impressive. I really just want to give this game to the defense. Those guys went out there against an SEC team and did their thing, so the game goes to them.”
The up-tempo took a toll on the MSU defense.
“Our up-tempo offense kills people,” Smith said. “Not taking anything away from Mississippi State, they’re a great team and I know that they will do good in the SEC, but as long as we can keep playing fast, that’s going to hurt a lot of people.
“As long as we can (control time of possession) and keep scoring, we’ll be good. They did their thing in the first half and we did our thing in the second half. We came out in the second half and really put it on them.”
Walsh (125 yards rushing) and Smith (102 rushing yards) combined to give OSU two 100-yard rushers for the first time since last year’s season opener vs. Savannah State.