AUSTIN, Texas — Oklahoma State players and coaches still field the magic question every week.
Are the Cowboys good enough on defense to be a serious championship contender?
Yet there was OSU getting Texas' offense off the field when Fozzy Whittaker fell just shy of the end zone early in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down catch that threatened to cut into OSU's 14-point lead.
And yet there was Daytawion Lowe stripping the ball out of UT quarterback David Ash's hands with less than five minutes to play to all but seal the Cowboy win.
In an overall performance that Mike Gundy described as “good, not great,” the Cowboy defense, not the offense, made the key plays in the fourth quarter in No. 6 OSU's 38-26 victory over No. 22 Texas on Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium. OSU became the first team in 100 years to beat UT in Austin in back-to-back seasons.
“It's just one of those things that when it's time to go and get it done, we get it done,” said OSU defensive end Jamie Blatnick, who had a career-high nine tackles and two sacks in the game. “I've got a lot of confidence in my teammates and we work hard and we know it'll come our way.”
It was an afternoon where Brandon Weeden only passed for 46 yards after halftime and Justin Blackmon did not reach 100 receiving yards. The Cowboys (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) punted a season-high six times.
But of the Longhorns' 26 points, only 17 were allowed by the defense, and one touchdown came on a 15-yard drive after an OSU punt hit Andrae May in the leg and was recovered by UT. OSU allowed a season-low 370 yards, forced three turnovers and recorded five sacks.
That gives Weeden confidence that the Cowboys are not one-dimensional.
“We put so much pressure on ourselves offensively to score and put up huge numbers,” Weeden said. “It's not going to be like that all the time. That's just not reality, especially when we play really good football teams. Sometimes it's going to swing and (the defense will) win games for us and they'll do what it takes to push us through.
“That was the case for the most part today, without a doubt. They played outstanding.”
And the Cowboys made their biggest defensive stands in the final period.
Down 38-24 late in the third quarter, UT (4-2, 1-2) staged a 16-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes of clock and amassed 63 yards. But the Longhorns needed 64 yards, as Whittaker fell to the ground before crossing the goal line after catching a short pass from Ash on fourth-and-goal from the three-yard-line.
OSU's next two drives resulted in a safety when Weeden stepped out of the back of the end zone and a three-and-out, but the Cowboy defense answered by forcing a UT punt before Lowe's forced fumble on UT's final possession.
“Those were big,” Gundy said. “Even though we stubbed our toe there by taking the safety, that momentum was huge at that time and obviously took points off the board for them.”
The defense also set up the Cowboys' first score, as Caleb Lavey recorded his first-career interception on the Longhorns' second possession. On OSU's ensuing drive, Weeden hit Josh Cooper over the middle for a 37-yard pass to the 1 before Joseph Randle took the ball into the end zone on the next play to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.
Not all was good for the Cowboy defense. It allowed UT freshman Malcolm Brown to run for 135 yards and two touchdowns on only 19 carries.
But OSU was not often fooled when UT began running more gimmick plays in the second half, other than when it gave up a 24-yard touchdown run by Brown on a Statue of Liberty play.
When the first BCS rankings are revealed Sunday evening, OSU is projected to be in the top 5.
The Cowboy offense is already regarded as one of the nation's elite. And Lavey hopes Saturday's performance shows that the defense can pick up that offense when it is not at its best.
“We have an awesome offense, and it gets so much credit,” Lavey said. “But we're trying to prove ourselves as a defense to the nation, as well. We're trying to make plays and we're just trying to prove that we're part of the team, too.”