The numbers say OSU has its best defense in years. Maybe since 1997. Maybe since 1984.
But Cowboy defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer isn’t so quick to discount some of the previous OSU units. Particularly the 2011 defense that helped produce a Big 12 title.
The numbers favor 2013.
Points per game: 18.8 in 2013, 26.8 in 2011.
Yards per game: 380.4 in 2013, 456.8 in 2011.
Takeaways per game: 2.2 in 2013, 3.4 in 2011.
So 2011 seems more vulnerable, but also more opportunistic.
But while we always look back at the Big 12 quarterbacks of that era, we don’t always look at non-conference games. If we do, we stumble into even more great quarterbacks that played against the 2011 Cowboys.
OSU in 2011 played against four QBs now starting in the NFL. Plus several other solid college quarterbacks.
* Nick Foles. The current Philadelphia Eagle phenom was an Arizona senior in 2011; he completed 37 of 51 passes for 398 yards and a touchdown vs. OSU. The Cowboys won 37-14.
* Ryan Tannehill. The current Miami Dolphins starter was a Texas A&M senior in 2011. Tannehill completed 28 of 47 passes for 309 yards, two TDs and three interceptions, in OSU’s 30-29 victory over A&M.
* Robert Griffin III. The current Washington Redskin starter, RG3 was in the middle of his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2011. He completed 33 of 50 for 425 yards, one TD and two interceptions in OSU’s 59-24 rout of the Bears.
* Andrew Luck. The current Indianapolis Colts starter was a Stanford star in 2011, when in the Fiesta Bowl he completed 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards, two TDs and one interception. OSU won 41-38 in overtime.
The Cowboys also played against OU’s Landry Jones, Kansas State’s Collin Klein and Missouri’s James Franklin.
That’s quite a lineup of quarterbacking.
So Spencer is in no mood to hear about how his defense finally has arrived. He believes it was playing at a high level on several occasions.
“Two or three people say it, nobody does their research, they’re just gonna believe what the other person says,” Spencer said. “Those guys playing in the NFL, having all the great success…
“I get offensive, because I’ve been a part of it, and I know how these guys got hammered, and it was unwarranted.”
But Spencer also defends OSU defenses before 2011.
“Now, were we great? No. But nobody come in here and tell me we were bad, that we were just hanging on. I hate that.”
The 2013 Cowboys dominated Baylor’s high-flying offense on Nov. 23, in a 49-17 victory. Now OSU gets its shot at OU’s ground-oriented attack.
The numbers say OSU will do well. But sometimes you have to look past the numbers, which is where you find a 2011 OSU defense that held up against top-shelf quarterbacks.