STILLWATER — In the spring of 2010, recently hired Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made a trip to Stillwater to spend time with former Oklahoma State offensive lineman and future Seahawk draftee Russell Okung.
During his visit, Carroll took in an OSU spring practice, and coach Mike Gundy utilized the opportunity to ask the former USC coach for some friendly advice.
“I said, ‘What could I do here that you've done (at USC) that could help our football team?'” Gundy recalls. “And he said, ‘Double the time you practice on forcing turnovers.'”
Gundy took Carroll's casual tip and has turned it into a full-fledged defensive philosophy, one that thrives on halting opponents' drives by taking the ball away even when sometimes giving up yards in bunches.
And the results so far this season have been staggering for the No. 3 Cowboys. OSU leads the nation in turnovers forced (29) and interceptions (17) and is tied for first in the country in fumbles recovered (12). Those takeaways have helped offset the amount of yards given up by the Cowboys, who rank 111th in the nation in total defense (455.63 yards allowed per game).
“We feel like forcing turnovers is a nature — it's just like putting on a helmet,” linebacker Shaun Lewis said. “We expect to go out there and get turnovers. We work at it so much, it's second nature to us.”
A shirt worn by safety Daytawion Lowe on Monday illustrates the mindset of the Cowboy defense. On the front, it said “Ball Hawk.” On the back, it said “Rip. Pick. Strip. Score.”
“We expect that we're going to work for (turnovers),” defensive end Jamie Blatnick said. “We don't expect them to just give it to us.”
That has been the longtime philosophy of OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young, who oversaw a Kansas defense that led the Big 12 in turnovers forced in 2007 before joining OSU's staff in 2009. The Cowboys finished Young's first two seasons ranked in the top 3 in the Big 12 in turnovers forced, including first in the conference in 2010 with 34.