Defense Helps in Tech Win, Not with Stops, but with Scoring

Robert Allen

STILLWATER -- In a season of turnaround in the Big 12, you know, a season where scoring is down and the league is getting credit for playing more defense we present Oklahoma State 50 Texas Tech 44. Yes, the Big 12 and the Cowboys and the Red Raiders were back to their old tricks combining for the 94 points and 1,178-yards in total offense. In other words, old school Big 12 where the defense is just there for show. 

Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was a little dejected when he sat down for his Zoom conference with the media, but when director of athletic media relations asked him about his defense being opportunistic with a second half safety, two forced fumbles and recoveries, and safety Tre Sterling's pick six, Knowles perked up.

"Opportunistic, that's a good word for it," Knowles said. "I'll accept that. We made some plays and our defense has won some games for this team this year, but today we needed the offense and special teams. We did help score some points."

“That looked like a lot of the games we’ve played here over the last 10 years," head coach Mike Gundy said. "We got into the third and fourth quarter where neither team could slow the other team down other than a turnover. We were able to rally and make some plays and found a way to win. We had a few guys go out of the game who we had to replace with young players who came in and competed. It’s a good win for our team.”

Texas Tech was only 4-of-16 on third down conversions, but they were four-of-five on fourth downs. They converted with big plays. In fact, explosive plays got out of hand with three runs over 15-yards and six passes for more than 20-yards. They added up to a lot more!

However, so did the defense with some punishing tackles including a forced fumble by Malcolm Rodriguez and one by Jarrick Bernard- Converse, both recovered by safety Tre Sterling. 

Then there was Sterling's interception in the eventful third quarter that he broke in front of the receiver and took 65-yards for the touchdown. The "pick six" Sterling actually called back on Thursday in practice. 

“He played really well. He’s been beat up a little bit and hasn’t practiced much," Gundy said. "He got two days this week and had been practicing one day a week. He’s a veteran guy who has seen a lot. On his interception for a touchdown, on the sideline he told the coaches if they run that same route concept again that he was going to intercept it and run it in for a touchdown. He went back out and did exactly what he said he was going to do. He’s a pretty savvy guy, and he is intelligent and has had a lot of reps so he is generally in the right place at the right time.”

Ok sort of, Sterling said that during the game, but back on Thursday he made another prediction.

'We were doing the missed field goal return drill and usually the running backs come over and do that but they were too caught up in offense, so I got back there and returned," Sterling said. "The coaches were getting on me saying you can't return. I told them to go back and look at my high school tape. I can play more than defense.

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Oklahoma State safety Tre Sterling and his escort hit the end zone on a 65-yard pick six interception.Bryan Terry - The Oklahoman

"We were in a deep zone and I was disguised as playing man to man," Sterling said of the play in the third quarter. "I was outside shade on the receiver and the quarterback looked over to get a read and I didn't bite. Sure enough he raised up and threw it and I stepped in front and I took off with it."

There were other plays, but Sterling was brilliant and a fellow safety, Jason Taylor II had his second monster explosive play on defense for this season when he took the surprise Texas Tech onside kick for a 48-yard score. 

Lots of points and yards given up, but some turnovers seized and some points put up by the guys that usually guard against it is still a recipe for success.   

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