'Can we play better?': How Devin Harper and OSU defense shut out OU in second half of Bedlam

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  • Caleb Williams
    US American football quarterback, born 2002

STILLWATER — More than an hour had passed since the end of the game and Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper still had on his orange pants.

Teammates had long since showered and left the stadium, but Harper still wore the remnants of an epic Bedlam struggle.

Ragged white tape clung to his thick arms that in the hours before had been used to wrap up elusive Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams.

Now they were supporting more delicate cargo: Harper’s 2-year-old son, Camden.

Harper stood at the podium, smiling, holding his son and answering every question the media had for him after the seventh-ranked Cowboys’ 37-33 win over No. 10 OU on Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Harper had all sorts of reason to smile.

The win was OSU’s first over its Bedlam rival since 2014 and the third in the last 19 meetings. The win strengthened the Cowboys’ College Football Playoff hopes heading into the Big 12 championship game against Baylor at 11 a.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper (16) had 10 tackles and a quarterback sack in the Cowboys' 37-33 Bedlam victory over Oklahoma on Saturday
Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper (16) had 10 tackles and a quarterback sack in the Cowboys' 37-33 Bedlam victory over Oklahoma on Saturday

The Oklahoma State defense didn’t give up a point in the second half, holding strong even in the third quarter, when it felt like all the momentum was going the Sooners’ way.

OU scored nine second-half points directly off offensive and special teams miscues. OSU allowed 180 yards on eight OU possessions, but five of them ended with punts, two on downs and one with a fumble.

Oklahoma State needed some fourth-quarter offense to pull out the win, but the defense paved the way.

Fans rushed the field after the wild, back-and-forth game, but Harper had other celebratory plans.

“I was getting my son, man,” Harper said.

All day, it seemed, Harper got what he went after. The sixth-year senior linebacker had 10 tackles and a quarterback sack.

His sack came on a crucial third-down play on the Sooners’ next-to-last possession, setting up a fourth-and-10.

On fourth down, Harper had another shot at a sack, but the quarterback slipped Harper’s grasp. He slid on the ground, but bounced back up and continued to pursue, wrangling Williams to the ground five yards short of the first down.

“Devin missed the quarterback on that one, then got up off the ground and made the play,” OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “Those are some of the tenets that we preach all the time. There was never any flinching by our guys.”

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At halftime, with the game tied at 24 — after OU had racked up 261 yards — Knowles made some subtle adjustments. He had seen his defensive backs losing one-on-one battles on downfield passes, so he shifted to more zone coverage to give his guys some help.

With that, he needed more pass rush from a smaller group up front, and the Cowboys produced.

“The one thing I asked them at halftime was, ‘Can we play better?’” Knowles said. “And they all agreed that we could. And that was the most important thing, that we control what we can control. I knew we had all the tools to turn it around in the second half.

“We were able to slug it out and hang in there and start making those third-down stops, and get them behind the sticks and start getting some tackles for losses.”

The Cowboys finished with five sacks and three more tackles for loss. Malcolm Rodriguez led the defense with 11 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss, plus a late pass breakup.

Harper, whose speed was used in pursuing Williams much of the night, was credited with four quarterback hurries.

But the final score is the only stat that means anything to Harper, who came to OSU in 2016 and finally got a Beldam win in his final chance.

“It means a lot,” Harper said. “First win against OU since I been here. It was a good fight and we came out victorious, so I can’t complain at all.”

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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: How Devin Harper, OSU defense shut out OU in second half of Bedlam

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