STILLWATER — They gathered on the green turf inside Boone Pickens Stadium, coming together as separate entities in becoming one.
A blessed union, of sorts.
Special teams, too.
Coaches regularly talk about the vital marriage between offense and defense, the ability to play off one another or to pick up each other up in times of distress.
For Oklahoma State, the marriage has seldom been so smooth.
These past two Saturdays especially, the Cowboys can claim a shared responsibility for handling the chores that were Iowa State and TCU. And together, offense and defense made it unexpectedly easy work.
Unexpected, perhaps, because the OSU defense has seldom felt — nor been treated by outsiders — like an equal partner.
“So many times before when I've been on this team, and we won the game, it was like the offense scored a lot of points and the defense was just out there,” said senior defensive end Cooper Bassett. “The defense didn't make many plays.
“The past two weeks, for the defense to really more than hold its own, with two second-half shutouts, force some turnovers, it's made it more fun. It's made it to where on the sidelines, instead of trying to rally the troops and say, ‘All right, let's make a play,' we're saying, ‘Keep making plays. Keep rolling.'”
This, after all, is who the Cowboys thought they were: A defense to trust and lean on until a transitioning offense found solid footing.
But breakdowns in losses to Arizona and Texas painted OSU's defense as the same old, same old — which wasn't good. Fortunately, through the challenges of rampant injuries and revolving rookie quarterbacks, the Cowboys' offense has kept rolling, ranking No. 1 nationally in total offense and No. 6 in scoring.
Special teams have always been a constant, with Quinn Sharp and Co. usually controlling the kicking game.
Now the defense, with improved health and improved play, seems capable of carrying its weight in the relationship.
For the first time since 1986, OSU has held three straight conference foes to fewer than 20 points. And the Cowboys have shown signs of dominance, shutting out the Cyclones on their final 11 possessions and blanking the Horned Frogs on their final 10.