COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Down 20-3 on the road in one of the rougher environments in the Big 12, the Oklahoma State defense rolled into the locker room at halftime to find Glenn Spencer waiting.
What a lift.
Not just emotionally, but strategically, Cowboys players and coaches said Spencer played a critical role in the defensive side to OSU's stirring Kyle Field comeback. And what a comeback for Spencer, too, who endured a devastating week with the loss of his wife, Angela Spencer, and a funeral back home in Georgia on Thursday.
“Glenn Spencer had everything on the board when we got in there, all the adjustments we needed to make,” said Bill Young, who shares defensive coordinator duties with Spencer. “We talked about it a little bit as coaches, rolled the board in there to the players and went over every detail. They took the coaching and responded.”
The pair work together throughout a game, with Spencer the eyes in the sky, surveying things from the press box, communicating what he sees to Young on the sideline.
For Young, there was comfort in having Spencer on the other end of the headset. And as for the game plan, Spencer caught up on the fly.
“We coached him up,” Young said. “We don't change a whole lot week to week. He could anticipate a little bit what we were doing. We had a few new wrinkles and he adjusted on the run.”
Then he orchestrated the adjustments.
“That's big,” said Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert, “for him to go through what he went through this week, to come on the road and stay in tune with us…”
The adjustments? Nothing complicated, which may come as shocking considering the massive change in direction.
In the first half, the Aggies averaged 7.5 yards per snap in piling up 301 yards. They did it rushing (147) and passing (154). And they did it seemingly with ease.
“We just made some mistakes,” Young said. “We didn't carry out assignments. We missed tackles. We had some misalignments. We had some busts. In pass coverage, we didn't lock down on certain things. It was an across-the-board thing.”
After halftime, the Aggies managed but 15 rushing yards. And the Cowboys, who thrive on turnovers but failed to get any through 30 minutes, struck for four takeaways in the final two quarters.
“We were hawking the ball, going for it,” Young said. “We had two or three tips. We had a couple of sacks. I was very proud of the effort.”
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy talked of the difficult week that was, in the wake of what was going on with Spencer, who is beloved by the players.
Angela Spencer struggled with heart disease and received a heart transplant in February 2010.
“It affected our staff, it affected our team,” Gundy said. “And it was, because their family is very special to us.”
Glenn Spencer didn't have to be there on Saturday; Gundy instructed him to take any and all time necessary for him and his sons Luke and Abraham to properly mourn and heal.
The Cowboys co-defensive coordinator wanted to be there.
“We would all only wonder what we would do,” Gundy said. “But the greatest thing for him was to get on that plane, bring his boys with him, be with this team and coach football.
“You don't sit at the house and think about it. Because it's tough enough. He's going to have a long time to do that.
“So he called and said, ‘I know I haven't been there all week, haven't watched tape and haven't coached, but I want to be with the team.'”
And the Cowboys wanted him there.
Needed him there.
“He was ready,” said OSU safety Daytawion Lowe.
Spencer was not made available for comment Saturday. But in the game's final minutes, he made his way down to the field and headed for the far side of Kyle Field, clearly emotional, giving and receiving embraces up and down the OSU sideline.
“It's indescribable,” Young said. “It really is. I don't know if anything could be tougher than what he went through.
“But it was good to have him here. We love Glenn and his family.”