Oklahoma State's defense, already stressed and pressed to perform following its stumbles at Arizona, quickly found even more pressure heaped upon its shoulder pads Saturday.
With starting quarterback Wes Lunt injured and out and the game plan shifting safer for replacement J.W. Walsh, the offense needed assistance from the Cowboys defense.
And the defense delivered.
Somewhat lost in Walsh's breakout during a 65-24 rout of Louisiana-Lafayette: the defense's major role.
Ignore the 24 points allowed — only 10 were scored against front-line players and seven of those came on a play where backup cornerback Devin Hedgepeth crumpled to the turf with a lower-leg injury, allowing ULL's Darryl Surgent to streak free and open for a long touchdown.
Focus on what the defense did in the crucial string of series after Lunt limped off in a Boone Pickens Stadium rendered so quiet Mike Gundy said you could “here somebody talking 50 rows up.”
After Walsh finished the game's opening series with a drive to a field goal and a 3-0 lead, the Ragin' Cajuns' next eight possessions went like this:
Missed field goal.
Just what Mike Gundy ordered.
“I went down and visited with the defense,” Gundy said. “One thing I mentioned to them was they need to take control of the game. No matter what happens on offense, that doesn't affect their play at all. We need to get stops and we need to put (the offense) back on the field.
“It just worked out that, for the most part, we didn't miss a beat. It was different, rushing for 330 yards. But they needed to take control of that game. And they did a great job.”
Initially, the Cowboys leaned on their running game, the constant in building the lead to 10-0 and then 17-0 after the first quarter. But with the defense dominating, the reins on Walsh were eventually loosened — successfully — which can only help if he's still the man behind center when OSU returns to action on Sept. 29 against Texas.
Coming off a loss, quarterback down, crowd in mourning, things could have gotten quite dicey on Saturday, even against an overmatched opponent like ULL, which must have been sniffing blood in the water.
Instead, things turned out more than OK.
Thanks, first, to the defense.
By halftime, the Cowboys were cruising, 44-0, with 450 yards of offense, wearing out a Cajuns defense that was on the field for 54 plays — in two quarters.
ULL, meanwhile, had just five first downs and 104 yards against an aggressive Cowboys defense that limited the Cajuns to just 3.58 yards per play.
“We played off our defense,” said OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “When your defense is stopping them and they're going three-and-out and you're getting the ball right back, the offense has rhythm.”
That rhythm went missing at Arizona, when OSU's offense got bogged down during a stretch during the middle of the game and the defense kept surrendering yards and points.
“Last week, we never got out of that rut,” Monken said. “We couldn't get moving, we kept getting penalties and our defense wasn't getting stops.
“This week it was like make it, take it.”
Monken often talks about the marriage between offense and defense, the importance of playing off one another and building upon each other.
Last year, that was evident with a nation-high 44 take-aways that kept flipping possessions. Saturday, it came with repeated stops.
“It's a team game,” Monken said. “We didn't turn it over and they couldn't get first downs. That's when you play off each other well. We didn't do that last week. And that's why we lost.”
This time, offense — and defense — delivered.