TROY, Ala. — At Big 12 media days in San Antonio the general consensus was if Oklahoma State's defense improved, the Cowboys could improve, possibly challenge in the South. Stop laughing. Improve? OSU's defense supplied some clunkers during the Bill Clay and Vance Bedford eras. Few games, though, were as embarrassing as defensive coordinator Tim Beckman's third game — a humbling 41-23 loss Friday night at Troy. Troy senior quarterback Omar Haugabook completed 33 of 48 passes for a career-high 388 yards. It would have been a lot more if the Trojans didn't start milking the clock after building a 41-10 lead after three quarters. The harsh reality for Beckman, OSU's defense and orange-clad fans is it could have been worse. A lot worse. Troy had two first-and-goal chances in the first half in which the Trojans came up empty. The Trojans compiled 562 total yards but shut it down after Haugabook sliced and diced the Cowboy secondary for three quarters. The most telling stats were Troy compiled 529 yards — after three quarters — and 343 in the first half. OSU hasn't allowed 400 passing yards since the Bill Clay era. That's right. Bedford's often maligned secondary never allowed 388 passing yards like the Cowboys did Friday night. The last time the Cowboys allowed more was four years ago when Texas Tech's B.J. Symons threw for 552 yards in a 51-49 loss in Stillwater. The sobering news is Mike Leach and the Red Raiders — who do what Haugabook and Troy does even better — visit Boone Pickens Stadium next Saturday in the Big 12 opener. It wasn't as if Haugabook threw bombs over the secondary. It the dink-and-dunk attack that has burned the Cowboys repeatedly over the years. With cornerbacks playing much too soft, giving receivers five or more yards of air, the Trojans used short, safe seam passes to pick up 29 first downs. On many occasions they needed only two plays to move the chains. The Cowboys trailed 27-10 at halftime. They were fortunate it wasn't 41-10 a quarter earlier. Troy marched inside the OSU 10 on its second possession, but the drive ended on a Perrish Cox interception. Late in the first half the Trojans marched to a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Out of timeouts, they botched a chance to score. No one expected the Cowboys to turn into the Monsters of the Midway. But it is surprising that OSU's defense struggled from the opening kickoff at Movie Gallery Stadium. That's why watching this film this weekend will be difficult for Beckman and coach Mike Gundy. The score and stats could have been worse. Improve? No way. The Cowboys took a giant step backward in the Deep South.
Oklahoma State safety Ricky Price takes down Troy's Stanley Jones in the first quarter Friday night. The Cowboy defense allowed the Trojans to rack up 562 total yards in OSU's 41-23 loss. BY MATT STRASEN, THE OKLAHOMAN