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Cox's Corner: Linebacker

After a pretty sloppy first half, the Oklahoma State linebackers helped the defense get some much needed stops.

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma State defense faced its toughest test to date. Texas Tech puts up some pretty impressive numbers, especially at home. The Red Raiders boast one of the best offenses in the country, ranking near the top in most statistical categories. Saturday they came out firing, punching OSU in the mouth to take a 17-0 lead, scoring on their first three possessions.

You're on the road in a hostile environment and you've just put yourself in a hole. Not a great recipe for success. A ton of missed tackles during the game, especially in the first quarter, made it pretty frustrating to watch. Jakeem Grant is a stud. He was a mismatch for most and he made the Cowboy linebackers look silly a few times.

Whether it was quick passes across the middle or running backs coming around the edge, the linebacker group allowed Tech's playmakers to break free for big plays time and time again. In the first half, they looked about as bad as we've seen them all year.

Glenn Spencer put it on himself in the postgame "When you get out executed and you call a bad game, that's bad coaching," but he went on about the tackling, "It's execution. It's angles and knowing where your help is on tackles." I'm guessing the Spencinator's halftime speech was something awesome about missed opportunities tied into some type of warrior analogy. Whatever it was, it seemed to have worked.

Oklahoma State's defense held Tech scoreless in the third quarter. Jordan Burton, the touted juco transfer, had a few big time open field tackles ending the game with 13 total tackles (10 solo). He's been solid all season totally 53 total tackles (37 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He's fun to watch in open space and can really drop the hammer.

Chad Whitener added six tackles Saturday in Lubbock and although he gave up a big play in the second half, was the only one who could catch Jakeem Grant in the first half (albeit from behind after a 90 yard dash). This was not his best outing but the former walk-on redshirt sophomore has played well filling in for injured Ryan Simmons, sitting at six tackles for loss, two sacks on 40 total tackles for the year. Look for him to be a big part of this team over the next couple of years.

Speaking of Simmons, you have to think the Pokes could have used their defensive leader on a couple of those big plays they gave up. The senior was a mainstay before going down with a season (and career) ending knee injury a few weeks back. He had started 30+ games for the Pokes and was one of those players coaches call a "quarterback on the defense".

Seth Jacobs is another player who has had to fill the void. Following a sophomore season where he tallied 92 tackles and two interceptions, Jacobs sits at 32 tackles (20 solo) and two interceptions so far. He just has a nose for the ball. If you remember, one of those interceptions was basically one-handed due to the club/cast on his right hand.

Earlier this season we got our first really good look at Devante Averette. Not recruited out of high school, Averette was given a shot by Oklahoma State and has exceeded expectations.  Against UTSA, he picked a stripped ball and ran it in for a touchdown. He's had two big interceptions and shown the athleticism to get yards after. He's also added 22 tackles (15 solo), three tackles for loss and two sacks.

The depth at linebacker has been a strength for the Cowboys. Even with the loss of Ryan Simmons, they have some bodies to throw out there which gives Glenn Spencer some versatility in scheming. While I would probably give the group a C+ for their performance in Lubbock, they have been solid all year.

The Red Raiders have a ton of playmakers but this was just a taste of what is to come. Four games remain, and aside from the lone road game in Ames, the Cowboys will end their season against the best teams in the conference. This defense will have to return to form.