DALLAS — Channeling the 2011 version of themselves, the Oklahoma State Cowboys closed the season with the defensive performance they'd been seeking all year.
OSU forced five turnovers and didn't allow a point until 18 seconds remained in the third quarter of an eventual 58-14 victory at the Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium Tuesday.
Purdue hardly resembled a Big 12 Conference offense, but it wasn't just about production or talent. It was about speed.
“In the Big 12, most of the teams run a spread, no-huddle,” linebacker Lyndell Johnson said. “After the play, you've got to look to the sideline, get the next call, line up and get going. Today, we got to look around and talk to our teammates about all the gidgets and gadgets. It gave us time to catch our breath and get ready.”
That led to fewer tired players, and better preparedness — which ultimately helped produce a season high in turnovers. In 2011, the Cowboys led the nation in takeaways with 44, but had just 17 this season entering Tuesday's game.
“It just happens,” said OSU co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. “You preach it every week, you practice it every week. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't. Not like all of a sudden we came up with a turnover cure in these last few practices. If we'd have done that, we'd have turned it on earlier in the season.”
The definition of a team effort, turnovers came from interceptions by Shamiel Gary and Andrae May, and fumble recoveries by Lowe, Brodrick Brown and Joe Mitchell. Four of the five turnovers came off assists – Calvin Barnett tipped the Gary interception, and the fumbles were caused by Lyndell Johnson, Justin Gilbert and Tyler Johnson.
Gary seemed to be all over, making seven tackles in addition to his interception, while providing good pass coverage throughout the game. Tyler Johnson did the same up front, finishing with six tackles and two quarterback sacks.
After two frustrating losses to close the season at Oklahoma and Baylor, Tuesday's performance was something the defense needed.
“This was a good way to end the season here in the first game of the new year,” Gary said. “All we can do is try to build on this success through the offseason and spring and try to take it into next season.”