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Defense provides knockout coverage against McNeese

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Oklahoma State cornerback A.J. Green runs towards the end zone after making an interception during the Oklahoma State vs. McNeese State Football game on Saturday September 7, 2019 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Jim Knowles said his defense had a lot to work on following the Oklahoma State football team’s victory against Oregon State last week.

With eight days between the victory and the Cowboys’ home opener against McNeese State, the second-year defensive coordinator had plenty of time to realign his schemes.

After shutting out McNeese State in the first half, the defense continued to dominate to a 56-14 victory on Friday night at Boone Pickens Stadium.

The defense’s first shine came not even a minute into the game. 

On 2nd and 9, cornerback A.J. Green, not to be confused with the NFL wide receiver, got a jump on a pass from quarterback Cody Oregeron. The senior from DeSoto, Texas, intercepted Oregeron’s pass and ran it back 27 yards for the pick-6.

The defensive touchdown was Green’s first interception since the Cowboys’ week six loss to Texas Tech last season and the sixth of his career.

“It was awesome," Knowles said. "We knew they we're gonna do that, we had it set up and he pulled his trigger and made a great play."

While the defense kept McNeese at bay, OSU’s offense lit up the Cowboys from Lake Charles, Louisiana. 

Redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders once again got the start from coach Mike Gundy. Sanders connected with his favorite target, Tylan Wallace, five times. Wallace ended up in the endzone after three of his receptions. 

Running back Chuba Hubbard, who led the nation in rushing yards last week, was held to only eight carries. He turned it into 44 yards and one touchdown, his first at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Malcolm Rodriguez has always been one of the hardest hitters on the Cowboys’ defense this season. The junior from Wagoner made the transition from safety to linebacker this season and has continued to use his hard-hitting mentality.

“We were just talking all week, we gotta get to a better start and I just feel like we did that," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, a former state-champion wrestler, provided 11 tackles including two on third down.

“Obviously he's done really well,” Gundy said. "I saw him show up a lot and he's been really productive."

Going into the second half, Gundy decided to tone down the offense by putting in backup players. But that didn’t stop the Cowboys from adding to their lead. 

Quarterback Dru Brown came into the game for Sanders and decided to show the fans why he has a chance to lead the team.

Brown went 7-for-10 with 142 yards and two touchdowns. 

The game started with a defensive touchdown and the Cowboys were close to adding another one in the second half. Redshirt senior Philip Redwine-Bryant provided lockdown coverage against McNeese throughout the game. 

The former walk-ons’ game highlight came when he intercepted Orgeron at the 12-yard line and dashed to the endzone. Redwine-Bryant extended to try and score but was stopped just before the endzone at the 2-yard line.

Knowles said it was a great contribution to the defensive effort.

“We count on him in a lot of ways, he's a great leader," Knowles said. "It's good to see him get some success."

McNeese started to shine some light in the second half but continued to have trouble finding the endzone.

McNeese’s one and only offensive touchdown came off a 16-yard pass from Oregeron in the third quarter. It had two more chances in the red zone but the Cowboys came up big on 4th down and stopped McNeese’s offense at the goal line.

The Cowboy defense against Oregon State and McNeese were polar opposites. If OSU can continue to shine on defense similar to how it did on Friday night, the Cowboys’ Big 12 opponents will more trouble coming to them.

“We gotta learn how to make the offense go the complete field and got off on third down when we have our chances," Knowles said.

sports.ed@ocolly.com