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Opportunistic Defense Fuels OSU Against Wildcats

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

It took the Oklahoma State offense a while to show up in the second half but it chose the right time to get its act together.

After failing to get a first down through the first 24 minutes of the second half, the Cowboys finally got over the hump and strung together four in a row for a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive that put OSU ahead for good. Then the defense took care of the rest, propelling No. 21 OSU to a come-from-behind 33-29 victory against Kansas State.

"Whoever flipped the switch, I wish they would've flipped it earlier. I don't know what to say," coach Mike Gundy said. "(That drive) was very well executed."

While that drive was executed nearly to perfection, the rest of the offense's performance was far from it.

The reason OSU won this game was because of its effort on defense.

The Cowboys' (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) defense was dominant for the vast majority second half, helping them stave off a second-straight bad loss. After KSU took the opening drive of the third quarter 79 yards for a touchdown, K-State's final seven possessions resulted in just 102 yards of offense, one touchdown, a punt and five turnovers.

With OSU trailing 21-17 in the third quarter, Kansas State took over possession at the 7:29 mark following a J.W. Walsh fumble at the OSU 31-yard line and looked to be on its way to a two-score lead.

But OSU's defense responded to the challenge and did so in a big way, forcing turnovers on three-straight KSU possessions.

The first coming just two plays after Walsh's fumble, as linebacker Caleb Lavey stripped quarterback Daniel Sams with defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah recovering the ball at the 23.

But OSU's offense was unable to do anything with it, going three-and-out and punting the ball away.

Lavey again answered the call, picking off a Sams' pass on the first play of the drive to give the Pokes the ball in the red zone at the 19. Again, OSU couldn't move the ball, settling for a 34-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 21-20.

On the ensuing possession, defensive end Tyler Johnson came from the blind side on third-and-seven to force a Jake Waters' fumble, giving the Cowboys the ball in the red zone again at the 6-yard line.

But even after being gifted the ball inside the 10, OSU gained zero yards and settled for a field goal but took the lead 23-21 heading into the fourth quarter.

All-in-all, the OSU offense mustered just eight yards on those three possessions but was able to re-gain the lead thanks to field position created by stellar defensive play.

Kansas State responded with an 11-play, 57-yard drive in the fourth that ate 7:02 off the clock and was capped by a 3-yard touchdown scamper by Sams and a converted two-point attempt to take a 29-23 lead with 6:09 left.

That's when OSU, devoid of a first down to that point, strung together arguably its most impressive – and important – offensive drive of the season .

J.W. Walsh connected with Josh Stewart for 12 yards on first down and immediately found Tracy Moore for a 26-yard pick up on the next snap.

The following play resulted into a hard-fought 16-yard run by Jeremy Smith down to the KSU 21 before Walsh threw a dart to Brandon Sheperd to get down to the 6-yard line.

After a misfire to Sheperd on the fifth play of the drive, Walsh found Charlie Moore on an out route in the front corner of the end zone to take a 30-29 lead with 4:13 remaining.

Then the defense responded by shutting the door on the Wildcats, stopping their final two drives with interceptions by Shaun Lewis and Daytawion Lowe, the latter of which was returned 72 yards to the 7-yard line before OSU took a knee to end the game.

Naturally, the victory is the most important part for the Cowboys and the play of the defense was encouraging. Another positive was the fact OSU committed just one penalty a week after committing 10 in Morgantown.

However, a lot of the road blocks the Pokes encountered against West Virginia returned against KSU.

The offense was a shadow of what fans have come to expect, totaling just 330 yards and 3.4 yards per rush, and the kicking game was inconsistent once again with a shanked punt and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.

But this week OSU won the turnover battle and was able to come up with big plays when they were needed.

Walsh was solid but not spectacular throwing for 245 yards and a score on 24-of-28 passing and rushing for 31 yards and another score.

Ten different Cowboys recorded a catch, led by Tracy Moore's six grabs for 52 yards. Jhajuan Seales had the most yards with 87 on four receptions.

Smith responded from the worst game of his career with 11 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown.

RELATED: OSU vs KSU By The Numbers

On the defensive side, the Cowboys got standout performances from Lewis, Lavey and Tyler Johnson. Lewis led the Pokes with eight tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Lavey and Johnson had seven tackles each with Lavey recording a forced fumble and an interception, while Johnson had two sacks and a forced fumble of his own.

Kansas State (2-3, 0-2) got a solid outing from Sams, who had attempted only four passes this season entering the game. He accounted for 299 yards of total offense and three TDs for the Wildcats. However, he also threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.

The Cowboys have a bye week this week before hosting TCU on Oct. 19 at Boone Pickens Stadium.

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