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Oklahoma State football: Cowboy defense doesn't live up to expectations

After the performance the defense turned in Saturday, OSU's best bet may again be to saddle up the offense and prepare to win some shootouts.
by John Helsley Published: September 9, 2012

Remember the preseason posturing, propping up Oklahoma State's defense as the leaning post for an in-transition offense?

Seems like so much summer spin now.

Once again, the Cowboys' best bet at success may be to saddle up the offense and stock the Air Raid with ample ammo to win its share of season shootouts.

What else to glean from Saturday night's 59-38 happening in the desert, where Arizona piled up 501 yards and 32 first downs and scored a perfect 8-for-8 in the red zone with five touchdowns?

OK, so it's a bit premature to write off the OSU defense just one real game into this 2012 season. And, yes, Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott looked good, especially in Rich Rodriguez's still lethal system, totaling 375 yards and three touchdowns of run-pass offense.

“I'd say he's pretty danged good,” said defensive tackle James Castleman, one of the few Cowboys defenders to play well. “He's shifty. He knows how to run. And he's smart.”

But the Cowboys D was supposed to be special in spots, too, with supposed lockdown corners in Brod Brown and Justin Gilbert and a trio of returning attackers at linebacker. And this stage of the season figured to be when the OSU offense would lean on its defense most, while breaking in the kid quarterback Wes Lunt.

Instead, it was Lunt offering all hope for a cardiac comeback in Tucson, throwing for a Big 12 freshman record 436 yards and flinging 60 passes, matching Brandon Weeden for the most in program history.

And it was the defense looking lost on the big stage, struggling to locate Arizona's playmakers and revealing its frustration with five personal foul penalties.

Even OSU's one signature strength of recent seasons — collecting turnovers — was absent, with the Cowboys unable to produce a single takeaway.

“That's what we thrive on — turnovers,” said safety Daytawion Lowe. “And we didn't get any.”

Critics of OSU's defense have pinned the luck factor a significant contributor to the impressive turnover totals of the past few seasons. The Cowboys claim they're making their own luck, with an extreme emphasis on takeaways in practices and games.

But so far in 2012, the turnovers haven't materialized the same way they did — seemingly on cue — in big games the past few years. The Cowboys have but two in two games (with both coming against hapless Savannah State), leaving them far off the pace of a year ago, when they led the nation with 44.

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by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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