LUBBOCK, Texas — Lyndell Johnson turned toward the Texas Tech student section and waved with his whole arm swinging back and forth.
Then, he blew a kiss.
Red Raider fans were more than happy to see the Oklahoma State safety go. Same for the rest of the Cowboy defense.
OSU 52, Texas Tech 34.
The high-powered, high-scoring Red Raider offense had 18 possessions and ran 97 plays on Saturday night. What do these guys think this is, last season? And yet, they managed only 27 points.
Thirteen empty ones.
“The defense was tremendous,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “This is not an easy place to play at night when they're throwing it around.”
It was another successful night for the Cowboy defense. In a season that has taken a ton of wacky twists and turns for the Cowboys because of the offense, the defense has been solid throughout the season.
Maybe, just maybe, that steady play on defense has given the offense a chance to get its legs under it. Maybe, just maybe, what we saw Saturday can carry over the rest of the season.
Because, hey, the Cowboys are still in the hunt. They can win the Big 12.
And if they do, they'll have the defense to thank for it.
The defense came out and set a tone against Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders' first possession: three-and-out punt.
Second possession: punt.
Third possession: fumble.
Fourth possession: blocked punt.
There were a couple of constants in the Cowboys' early success that carried through the rest of the game.
First, they tackled well. They didn't make every tackle — a Justin Gilbert whiff resulted in Tech's first touchdown — but a vast majority of the night, the first man to make contact with the ball carrier brought him down. That is key against the Red Raiders, who do lots of their damage in space and with yards after the catch.
Second, the Cowboys got pressure on Davis Webb. The Red Raider quarterback has been really good this season, but he is still just a freshman. He will make freshman mistakes if you fluster him a bit, and the Cowboys did. He ended up throwing long and low and wide of receivers. He never settled into a rhythm.
Yes, he finished with 425 yards, but he threw the ball 71 times. That means he averaged less than 6 yards per attempt. That's a stat any defense can live with against the Red Raiders.
“We had to pick our places when to pressure and when not to,” Cowboy defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “And we had some injuries on our side, so that meant it totally disrupted our sub packages. ... But I'm proud of their effort.”
And lastly, the Cowboys caused turnovers. The opportunistic defense of a couple seasons ago is back and as good as ever. Saturday, it came up with three turnovers — two interceptions and one fumble recovery — and pushed its takeaway total to 15 in four games.
“We're getting the ball on the ground,” Gundy said. “We're making catches.”
Being able to pick off those passes is something the Cowboys worked on diligently during the offseason. After dropping a bunch of would-be interceptions last season, they wanted to make sure they didn't do that again this season.
That and many other things have come together for this defense.
“Great coaching, unbelievable effort on the perimeter, guys up front played their butts off,” Cowboy linebacker Shaun Lewis said. “It was just a team effort.”
When the Red Raiders rallied at the end of the first half, the Cowboys came out in the second half and shut the door. Texas Tech's first three possessions after halftime went punt, punt, interception, and it allowed the OSU offense to build the lead back to three scores.
“I feel like we've got this thing rollin',” Lewis said. “It was going to happen eventually; our offense has always been good.”
And the defense gave the offense a chance to get its bearings, to get stabilized, to get going.
Who know where this all leads for the Cowboys, but Saturday night, the Red Raiders were glad when the road led out of town.
They were more than happy to see the Cowboys get the heck out of Dodge.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.