Lavey, Lewis and Lowe each made big plays in the second half to help the 21st-ranked Cowboys get the victory in a game in which there were seven lead changes.
Lavey, the senior middle linebacker, forced a fumble and intercepted a pass after the Cowboys had fallen behind 21-17 early in the second half. Lewis, the senior “star” linebacker, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass. Lowe, the senior free safety, picked off Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams as the Wildcats were attempting to drive for the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of the game.
“I was proud of the defense. There have been a number of games here over the past 20 years that I’ve been involved with where teams went right down the field and scored at the end on the defense. That was different today with these guys,” said Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy.
“(These guys continue to get better. They’ve worked hard. They’ve bought into the system, they’ve bought into their coaches, and they are finding a way to get things done at the end. We got a long way to go on defense, we’ve got a long way to go on offense, and we’ve still got work to do in special teams but when we get into league play as we are, for the most part we’re going to see a lot of games like today.”
Gundy’s team led 17-14 at halftime before Kansas State drove the length of the field with the opening kickoff of the second half go up 21-17 on Sams 4-yard touchdown pass to Torell Miller.
Things were looking bad when OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh was stripped of the ball two plays later and the Wildcats recovered on their own 31-yard line. But Lavey and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah came up with the big play just when it appeared the defending Big 12 champions were going to make it a two-score game.
Lavey stripped Sams of the ball as he was going down inside the 25, and Ogbah jumped on the ball as it lay on the ground. That turnover did not lead to any points for the Cowboys but the next turn Kansas State miscues did pay benefits for OSU.
Following the long touchdown drive to start the second half, Kansas State’s final six possessions of the game had these results:
** Sams fumble, forced by Lavey, recovered by Ogbah;
** Lavey interception gives the Cowboys possession on the Wildcats 22 (leading to Ben Grogan’s 34-yard field goal, pulling the Cowboys within 21-20);
** Lewis recovery of backup quarterback Jake Waters fumble, forced by defensive end Tyler Johnson’s sack, giving the Cowboys the ball on the Wildcats 6 (leading to Grogan’s 23-yard field goal to give OSU a 23-21 lead);
** A six-play drive which ends when Johnson sacks Sams for an 11-yard loss, forcing the Wildcats to punt the ball back to the Cowboys;
** The Wildcats, behind the running of Sams, drove 57 yards on 11 plays to regain the lead 29-23 on Sams’ 3-yard scoring run with 6:09 remaining in the game;
** After the Cowboys drive the length of the field in less than two minutes to score the go-ahead touchdown on Walsh’s 6-yard scoring pass to Charlie Moore, Lewis makes another big play when he intercepts Sams and returns it 24 yards to KSU’s 17-yard line. The Cowboys again fail to score a touchdown after the defense forces a turnover but Grogan’s 28-yard field goal (his fourth of the game) makes it 33-29.
** The Wildcats were still in a position to win the game when they took over on their own 24 with 2:18 remaining to play. But on third-and-9 from OSU’s 44, Lowe intercepts Sams around the 20 and returns it 72 yards to the 7-yard line to sew up the victory.
“I have to give credit to the defense. They made huge plays,” said Charlie Moore, who only had one reception Saturday but it was his 6-yard scoring pass with 4:13 remaining proved to be the deciding points. “Offensively, we always have confidence to make the plays to win. We know we can put together drives like that last touchdown every time we go out there. It was just a matter of pulling together and knowing that it could happen at any time.”
Lewis led the Cowboys with eight tackles, including one for loss, and had one interception, one fumble recovering and one forced fumble. Lavey had seven tackles, including two for loss, the interception and one forced fumble. Lowe was only credited with one tackle but made the game-saving interception in the game’s final 30 seconds.
The Cowboys, 4-1, have a bye week next weekend before returning to action Oct. 19 against TCU at Boone Pickens Stadium.