Corey DeMoss, News9.com
STILLWATER, Oklahoma – The Oklahoma State offense has been one of the most prolific in the nation this year, but it is the Cowboys' improvements on defense that have led them to become a major player in the race for a BCS National Championship.
The Cowboys have recorded 22 sacks this season, but their real progression has been in their ability to force turnovers. They lead the nation with 17 interceptions and have a total of 29 takeaways this season.
"Our team has been opportunistic about takeaways and forcing turnovers and our offense has done a nice job of taking advantage of it," head coach Mike Gundy said. "Winning the turnover margin in each game is obviously important. I think that's one area that's consistent across the country. Fortunately for us, we've been able to take advantage of that the last few games."
The Cowboys managed to force turnovers with incredible regularity. They have multiple takeaways in every game but one, and currently are on a streak of six consecutive games with at least three forced turnovers.
"It's something we work on in practice every day," safety Daytawion Lowe said. "We keep at it and the coaches are always telling us to create turnovers."
The defense is coming off one of its most impressive performances of the season against Baylor, which previously had taken very good care of the ball. The Cowboys forced quarterback Robert Griffin to throw two interceptions, matching his total for the rest of the season. Baylor also did score at all in the first half for the first time this season.
"We buckled down when we needed to buckle down," linebacker Shaun Lewis said. "We really did not want them to get that far into the red zone, but when it was time to shut them down, we did what we had to do."
But while OSU has managed to consistently force turnovers, it also has consistently given up big yardage. The Cowboys ranked 84th in the nation in total run defense and 101st in pass defense, and have allowed at least 370 total yards in every game this season.
"If you keep them out of the end zone, it doesn't matter if they go up and down the field," defensive end Jamie Blatnick said. "If you stop them - get a turnover, stop them on fourth down or stop them in the red zone - that's really what matters. We might we get a little more respect; maybe they won't say 'No D in Stillwater' anymore."