AUSTIN, Texas — Texas quarterback Case McCoy took the bait.
And Justin Gilbert took the ball the other way.
“My Deion Sanders move,” the Oklahoma State cornerback called it.
A gamebreaker is what most others might call it. With 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter and faced with a third down, Justin Gilbert picked off a pass from McCoy and broke free for a 43-yard touchdown.
“It turned the tide so fast,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said.
Nearly as fast as Gilbert has turned his fortunes. Less than a year ago Gilbert was a head-scratching case. Speed. Hands. Instincts. An NFL talent. Only he never really showed it.
“Last year I was on him,” Gundy said. “(Defensive corners coach Van Malone) was on him. The media was on him. Everybody was on him for not playing well.”
Maybe it was because Gilbert didn't play so well his junior season – zero interceptions despite quite a few chances – that he didn't try and jump to the next level. (Although, now, some months after his decision to stay was made, Gilbert said in the back of his mind he always felt like he would stay at Oklahoma State.)
Staying has proven to be the correct decision. Gilbert, who added another interception in the third quarter, now has six on the season and is in the top three of NCAA stats in that category. He has also proven to be on of the top kickoff return specialists in the college game.
“What a great example of a young man not listening to outside sources and just worrying about what really matters,” Gundy said. “He has come back and he has played terrific this year. He has played the way he should.”
In doing that, Gilbert has inspired a defense to play the way all on that side of the ball believed they could.
“You have a potential first round guy and he is willing to do all those little things,” Malone said. “As a coach when I say, ‘Alright Justin you got to do this,' he jumps out there to do it.”
What he does on the defensive side of the ball is allow Malone to be more creative in his coverages and schemes. Against Texas, for example, Malone was able to lock Gilbert up one-on-one against Texas' top deep threat Mike Davis and keep him out of the end zone. Davis did have 112 yards but he only got behind Gilbert once for a 41-yard grab. Gilbert paid Davis back with his second interception of the game on a deep route in the third.
“Offensively they load the offense to one side of the field and as a defense you have to respect,” Malone said. “We are able to respect that and overload knowing that we have got (Gilbert) backside and he can handle the receivers to the backside.”
These days, with his junior year far behind him and a successful senior year in full bloom, Gilbert is proving there is not much that he can't handle.