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Oklahoma State's defense taking center stage

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)

No. 7 Oklahoma State has grown into a Big 12 power behind a potent offense. Now the Cowboys' defense is getting some attention, too.

Holding down Baylor's point-a-minute offense to a season low for scoring put the spotlight on Oklahoma State's defenders.

''It's a shame that it's taken people so long to notice (how well our defense has played),'' said senior cornerback Justin Gilbert, who was restricted to spot duty against Baylor but should be ready for Oklahoma after an extra week to heal. ''Everybody's been doing a great job of locking in and focusing on their assignments and just working hard every day, in practice and in meetings, just doing whatever it takes to get better.''

Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12), now riding a seven-game winning streak, heads into its final bye week of the year before facing No. 20 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) on Dec. 7 at home with the Big 12 Conference championship at stake. Making sure the players maintain the same focused determination, especially on defense, will be the Cowboys' biggest challenge as they seek their second Big 12 title in three years.

The Cowboys were able to overcome Gilbert's limitations against Baylor. Senior Tyler Patmon took most of Gilbert's snaps against Baylor, and made perhaps the most significant play of the night when he scooped up a fumble and returned it 78 yards for a fourth quarter touchdown.

''That just lets you know how much talent we have on this defense,'' Gilbert said. ''Those guys up front and the guys on the back end are doing a heck of a job playing together.''

In its last three games, Oklahoma State has surrendered 36 points, with an overall season average of 18.8 points per game, which ranks 11th in the nation.

OSU's 4.73 yards allowed per play also ranks 14th in the country, while their average of 5.9 yards allowed per pass attempt is tied for ninth.

Having a strong defense backing them up has energized the offense as well.

''It's a big relief knowing that our defense is really just that good,'' said senior receiver Tracy Moore, who had 125 yards and a touchdown on five receptions against Baylor. ''Our offense really can't take much of the credit, because the defense is doing so well. It feels good and it's a good thing for the team confidence going forward.''

As good as they have been, a loss to Oklahoma would cost Oklahoma State the Big 12 championship.

''We talk a lot about being humble after a win,'' OSU coach Mike Gundy said. ''Human nature is to start listening when people tell you you're good, then you let up and that's when you get it the next week. We talk about that as a team to try to avoid that happening to us.

''I told the team that they're only as good as the next practice. That's just the way it is. You see it in every sport, team sports, individual sports - as soon as people start thinking they're pretty good, they don't prepare. Being focused in college football is one of the most important areas. There's a lot of distractions, you have to focus on the only thing that matters, and that's the next meeting, the next practice.''

And with such an important game also coming against their biggest rival, there will be a lot at stake when the Cowboys next take the field.

''We have a lot of work to do, still. The win (over Baylor) was great, but we have to forget about it now,'' running back Desmond Roland said. ''It's a lot of motivation coming into this game - Big 12 championship, bragging rights in Oklahoma, BCS Bowl on the line, but it doesn't put any more pressure on our team, it motivates us. We're so close, we just have to finish what we started.''

Tagged: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Justin Gilbert

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