Defense will decide A&M-OSU showdown

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
1:00
PM ET
The excuses are there, if Oklahoma State wants them. It's fully acceptable to take them.

Tulsa ran the ball well for most of the night (morning, really) -- 365 yards worth -- but it was Oklahoma State's game.

Midway through the third quarter (it was a little after 2 a.m. at this point), the Cowboys led 45-6. Did anybody want to be there? OSU's defense didn't look like it.

"We had a couple letdowns from that point on," said OSU coach Mike Gundy. "Maybe they relaxed a little bit, I don’t know, but as a coaching staff, we have to keep that from happening."

[+] EnlargeTulsa's Ja'Terian Douglas
AP Photo/Dave CrenshawAfter being contained in the first half, Tulsa's Ja'Terian Douglas rushed for 142 of his 173 yards on two long second-half touchdowns runs against Oklahoma State.
In 19 seconds, the lead shrunk from 39 to 26, and though Tulsa never seriously threatened to win the game, the rest of the game provided plenty of film session fodder for the following week.

"We just played kind of soft. We just didn’t really keep them from moving the ball up front," Gundy said. "They just kind of pushed up back a little bit. Guys didn’t sit correctly and weren’t in the right gaps."

Added senior safety Markelle Martin: "We got in our gaps a lot of times, we communicated well, but just rotating a lot of guys, trying to keep guys fresh, we got out of gaps and we weren’t stopping some plays and they gashed us on them."

The good news?

"Everything that happened, there’s an answer for, and a way to correct it," Gundy said.

The bad news? They better do it fast. Texas A&M is waiting on Saturday. The Aggies boast one of the league's best offensive lines, quarterbacks, running backs and receivers.

In short, one of the best everything.

"If you just want to give them 5 yards, they’re going to take it. They’ll just progress down field, they’re going to break you down and keep coming," Martin said. "You never really know what to expect."

And for all the well-deserved attention paid to Oklahoma State's offense, its defense may ultimately decide this year's game against Texas A&M, just like last year. Timely turnovers and a second-half surge helped OSU notch a win and a share of the Big 12 South in 2010.

The same may be on the line in College Station on Saturday. Those problems that surfaced in a sleepy game against Tulsa will have to be eliminated.

"We understand that they’re going to make plays, but with our defense and our type of offense, it’s bend but don’t break, you know? Just stay focused, don’t get your head down," Martin said. "Understand that they’re going to make plays, but at the end of the day, stay in control, no dumb mistakes."

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