Markelle Martin was all over the field, racking up nine tackles, a forced fumble and three pass breakups, including one that should have been an interception near the Cowboys' end zone. Richetti Jones forced his way into the backfield and got pressure on the quarterback.
But some newer faces also emerged—ones that the Cowboys were already banking on filling key roles this season.
Linebacker Alex Elkins, who didn't even play football until junior college, recorded six tackles and recovered a fumble in his first Division I game. Nigel Nicholas, a new starter on the interior, had three tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. Freshman defensive tackle James Castleman had three tackles in his collegiate debut.
In the secondary, Hedgepeth had the Cowboys' only interception, while redshirt sophomore free safety Daytawion Lowe returned from shoulder surgery to record six tackles and a pass breakup while starting in place of an ineligible Johnny Thomas.
To see those inexperienced players that have been thrust into prominent spots already making an impact has to be encouraging for the OSU coaching staff.
Thursday's Alamo Bowl rematch against Arizona will surely be tougher a challenge for the Cowboy defense. The Wildcats still have their trio of outstanding skill players in quarterback Nick Foles, wide receiver Juron Criner and running back Keola Antolin.
But UA has also replaced all five of its offensive linemen from a year ago. The unit should be better than ULL's, but it's another line that the Cowboys' front seven will need to overpower if it wants to show it can be a force in the Big 12.
OSU is trying to prove that it has a good enough defense to win a national championship. It hasn't exactly done that yet. But Saturday night's performance was a promising start.