The no. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys trailed by 14 in the second quarter and 11 early in the third against the no. 25 Texas Longhorns on Saturday, but that was just part of the story. Thanks in large part to the defense, the Cowboys were able to score 19 consecutive points through the final 22 minutes of play to come out on top 32-24.
The wins moves the Cowboys to 6-0, and they sit atop the Big 12 standings as the only undefeated team in conference play along with the Oklahoma Sooners. In short, the offense struggled until the fourth quarter, but the defense was incredible outside of a couple of possessions, and in the end, Oklahoma State looked somewhat close to a complete football team.
The Cowboys struggled at varying moments throughout the night. The offensive line dealt with penalties and missed assignment, quarterback Spencer Sanders couldn’t find any level of consistency, and even the defense gave up a couple of important plays. Still, when it all came down to it, the defense got the stops, Sanders and company found the end zone, and Oklahoma State picked up a third consecutive win against an AP Top 25 team for the first time in school history.
Defense Reigns Supreme
Coming into Saturday’s matchup, Oklahoma State’s defense had performed at an incredible level through the first 5 games of the season. Still, there were some questions as to whether they were truly legit. After holding the Texas Longhorns to just 24 points, I think it’s safe to say that the Cowboys have the best defense in the Big 12, as well as one of the best in the country.
On the first possession of the game, Texas did what they’ve done throughout the season by marching down the field for an easy touchdown. It took the Longhorns just under 5 minutes to go 75 yards in 11 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. That was just the second time all the season that Oklahoma State allowed an opponent to score on the opening drive of the game.
From that point forward, the Cowboy defense was pretty stout. Sure, they gave up a 58-yard pass which led to a field goal, and Texas was bound to score a couple of a touchdowns, but when it counted most, the defense showed up.
Trailing 17-3 in the second quarter, Oklahoma State desperately needed a touchdown. Instead, Spencer Sanders made his first real mistake of the game as he threw his worst pass of the day, an interception to D’Shawn Jamison. All hope was lost, and it appeared like the game was a wrap, but Jason Taylor II entered the scene.
With 5:13 left in the second half, the Longhorns found themselves in the red zone once again, but on 3rd and 10, Jason Taylor II—Tre Sterling’s fill in —jumped a pass into the flats for an 85-yard pick 6. The play gave the Cowboys life, and from that point forward, the Longhorns only scored 7 more points.
In the second half, the defense truly came alive. Texas scored on their first drive—a 5-play, 80 yard masterpiece—to take a 24-13 lead with 11:43 left in the third quarter, but that was all they would get the rest of the way.
Texas had 6 more offensive drives after the 3rd quarter drive, but the first 4 ended in punts, the next one was a turnover on downs, and the final one was yet another interception thrown by Casey Thompson. In the fourth quarter, the Longhorns managed just a single yard of offensive production.
We’re only halfway through the season, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I feel pretty good at this point saying that Oklahoma State’s defense is a special one, and this will certainly be a year to remember. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles should be expecting a fat raise at the end of the 2021 campaign.
Jaylen Warren is a Dude
Utah State grad transfer Jaylen Warren has become a household name for Oklahoma State fans and with good reason. It took just one game as a Cowboy for him to take over as the starter, and he’s done a fabulous job ever since.
Warren continued his success running the ball against Texas on Saturday as he racked up 193 yards on 33 carries. He never did find the end zone, but if it wasn’t for his ability to fight for extra yards time and time again, there’s no way Oklahoma State would have been able to pick up the win in Austin.
At the half, Warren had just 13 carries for 55 yards. He was having success, but he wasn’t quite getting the numbers that he deserved. He added 7 more carries in the 3rd quarter, but those brought his rushing total up to just 75 yards. In the fourth quarter, however, Warren came alive.
Whenever the team needed him most, Warren made the plays necessary to push him team to victory. In the fourth quarter alone, Jaylen Warren carried the ball 13 times for 118 yards. Of those 13 carries, Warren had 3 runs of at least 20 yards, and they made all the difference. The Cowboys are lucky to have a running back like Jaylen Warren in the backfield because there’s no telling where they would be without him.
The Offense Needs Identity
Jaylen Warren aside, there is absolutely zero consistency in the Cowboy offense. The line struggles to block even poor defensive lines, Spencer Sanders is either throwing dimes or interceptions, and receivers can’t seem to hold on the ball at some of the most important times.
Running the ball seems like the obvious option, but if the line can’t get a push, then even a great running back like Jaylen Warren is going to get stuffed at the line. Without any protection, Spencer Sanders can’t find the time to go through his options, and if he can, he’s hit or miss when it comes to finding the open man. Then there’s the dropped passes: there’s absolutely zero excuse for a great pass that’s on time and on target to be dropped by a receiver.
Moving forward, there’s no doubt that Oklahoma State’s defense is going to play at an elite level. In fact, they’re likely to save the day once or twice, if not more, per game. Still, if the offense doesn’t work out some kinks, then that first loss is not a matter of if, but when.
Props to Tanner Brown
Oklahoma State’s kicker Alex Hale has struggled this season. Through the first 4 games, Hale managed to knock through 13-of-14 extra points, but he was just 2-of-5 on field goal attempts with all 3 of his misses coming from 40+ yards. Hale has been dealing with an injury, so there’s some reason for his poor play.
Tanner Brown took over for Hale 2 weeks ago against Baylor, and he was perfect in limited action. He knocked through all 3 extra point attempts, and he nailed his lone field goal, a 20-yarder. Saturday’s matchup in Austin, however, was a little more high stakes for the new guy.
Brown was the leading scorer for the Cowboys against the Longhorns, knocking down both extra point attempts in the 4th quarter and 4 field goals, hitting from 21 yards twice, 29 yards, and 39 yards.
Brown could not have had a better day for the Cowboys, and he hit them when they counted. Hopefully the kicking game has established some consistency moving forward so if the offense continues to sputter, at least we can count on our kicker to put some points on the board.
Onwards to Ames
The Cowboys are undefeated, but the tests are not coming to an end anytime soon. Next weekend, Oklahoma State will head out on the road to take on the Iowa State Cyclones in Ames. The Cowboys have some rough memories of playing in Ames, but Iowa State has played well below expectations so far this season.
Kickoff time and telecast for that game has yet to be determined, so stay tuned for more information on the matchup.