STILLWATER – The nation's best offense pulls into Payne County on Saturday night for college football's game of the day, and my, how times have changed. Trepidation is nowhere to be found in Cowboy Country.
These days, OSU plays a little defense. Who would have thought?
When the Cowboys were getting beat 61-41 (Bedlam 2008) and 45-35 (Houston 2009) and 51-41 (Nebraska 2010), this day seemed impossible. A showdown in which Pistol Pete could hang his Stetson on defense.
“We've started to change the tradition in football at Oklahoma State,” Mike Gundy said. “But we're just kind of a tip of the iceberg on defense, because we haven't been as consistent. Played OK for a couple of years.”
Baylor, of course, is the ultimate test. The last-standing Big 12 force playing video-game offense. The Bears lead the nation in scoring (61.2 points a game, no team is within 8 1/2 points) and total offense (684.8 yards, more than 100 ahead of the runnerup).
The ultimate test. But nothing the Cowboys haven't seen over the last few years. In the last four seasons, OSU has played 10 games against offenses that eventually finished in the top-10 nationally in total offense.
OSU has given up 34.4 points and 520.1 yards a game in those 10 games. And won seven of them.
This might explain why defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is a little defensive about all this finally-a-defense-in-Stillwater talk.
“I don't feel that way. I don't feel that's how it's been,” Spencer said. “I think people know now maybe we weren't that bad in the past, what the perception is, what the media put out there.
“What is it? Is it great offenses we were going against, maybe we weren't that bad. If you count it like that, then everybody was awful. That's hard for me to believe.”
I'm in no mood to argue. Not with OSU playing stingy defense — 14th nationally in scoring, allowing 19.0 points a game — and sporting veteran seniors like Shaun Lewis, Calvin Barnett, Justin Gilbert, Caleb Lavey, Daytawion Lowe and Tyler Johnson.
Not with the OSU defense making a case for Spencer to be a Frank Broyles Award candidate as the nation's assistant coach of the year.
“Yeah, it's great to have that image change for these kids,” Spencer said. “For whatever reason, we're playing good.
“I'll say it again. If we go out there and Baylor does what they've been doing against everybody else, who's going to be the first one to say it's the same old stuff. Right? It's all about what happens this week.”
Baylor and Bryce Petty might light up the Cowboys. Heck, if Baylor scores just half its average, that might be enough to win.
But the Cowboys have to go into this game more confident than ever that they can hold up against an elite offense.
“We don't think it's going to take a superhuman effort,” Spencer said. “We don't think we need miracles. We just gotta play really well and be in position and have great discipline. The same message that's been said since we started. Exact same message.
“Because in reality it is. It's another game. In reality, do they take it that way? Naw, they feel something. But we as a staff gotta convince it's about the gameplan, executing the gameplan, making tackles and keeping ‘em off the scoreboard.”
Do that. Hold Baylor to 30 or so, maybe less, and it will be time to proclaim the culture change complete.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.