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Oklahoma State football: Cowboys relying on defense while offense sputters

BY GINA MIZELL Published: October 4, 2013

STILLWATER — Mike Gundy took the stage at a hotel on a late summer day in Dallas and made this proclamation:

“I feel better now than I ever have about our defense since I've been the head coach.”

That was in 2012, not 2013.

Optimism surrounded the unit entering last season, where the belief was that the Cowboys would need to rely a bit more on the defense as the offense transitioned from the dynamic duo of Weeden2Blackmon to a kid quarterback in Wes Lunt.

Maybe Gundy was just a year off in his prediction.

While the defense floundered in big moments last season — eventually leading to Glenn Spencer replacing Bill Young at coordinator — that unit is holding strong so far in 2013, a particularly important development while the normally explosive OSU offense is sputtering. And that continued performance will be needed in Saturday afternoon's home contest against Kansas State, a squad that brings perhaps the best skill position player the No. 21 Cowboys have faced so far this season in receiver Tyler Lockett.

“It's hard to look at last season, because that's a totally different team,” linebacker Shaun Lewis said. “But this year, I feel like guys are more accountable. They know their jobs and it's more of a sense of urgency and it's getting better every week.”

A 59-38 September loss at Arizona hinted that last season's defensive expectations were a mirage. Then came the end of the regular season, where the Cowboys allowed a combined 1,233 yards and 92 points in back-to-back losses at Oklahoma and Baylor. And the turnover production, where the Cowboys led the nation the previous season, had severely dissipated.

So far this season, though, OSU ranks in the top 50 in the nation in total defense (367.5 yards per game) and scoring defense (17.8 points per game). The Cowboys have veterans at all levels, along with increased speed and athleticism. A much-maligned cornerback unit that recorded a grand total of two interceptions last season already has three in 2013.

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