HOUSTON — Glenn Spencer was the first Oklahoma State player or coach off the Reliant Stadium field Saturday, quickly disappearing into the tunnel before the band could even finish playing the alma mater.
He certainly didn't need to make an early break for the locker room. In fact, nobody in orange likely would have argued had he stood there and relished in the start of his tenure as the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator.
In a contest where the No. 13 Cowboys' normally explosive offense surprisingly sputtered, the defense dominated, keeping Mississippi State out of the end zone in a 21-3 victory that pegged the Big 12 favorites against a formidable SEC foe.
“I don't think there's any question the story of the game for us is our defense,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “There hasn't been many games at Oklahoma State over the last five or six years — maybe even longer than that — where defense is the story.
“It's a team game, but defense certainly kept us in and allowed the offense to get things going in the third and fourth quarter.”
It's the first time since the 1995 Bedlam game that the OSU defense held a BCS opponent to three or fewer points. And it was quite a debut for a new-look unit that was so maligned down the stretch last season but promised to be more aggressive in 2013.
The day didn't start so well on that side of the ball, as Mississippi State (0-1) capped a 13-play drive that lasted more than six minutes with a field goal to give the Bulldogs the early lead. OSU then gave up 48 more yards before a Justin Gilbert interception — his first since the Fiesta Bowl two seasons ago — ended that possession.
After that, the Bulldogs' drives went a little something like this: Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt. Turnover on downs. Punt. Punt. Missed field goal. Interception.
“They grinded that one out,” Spencer said. “It felt like, to me, our backs were against the wall the whole day, and they were just so in tune on the sideline.
“I think after that first drive, they knew they were in for a war and we were going to have to keep this thing low (scoring), and they went out and performed.”
The best stretch came in the third quarter, when the Cowboys (1-0) allowed just 10 yards and zero first downs. By then, replacement quarterback J.W. Walsh and the OSU offense had found its rhythm, using a run-heavy attack and a pair of Jeremy Smith touchdowns to take a 21-3 lead in the opening minute of the final period.
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