Candy a lure for Oklahoma State to force turnovers

Andrew McGee’s black T-shirt with ”Ball Hawk” printed on the

front is a symbol of accomplishment in Oklahoma State’s defense.

And if he’s caught munching on a candy bar, he might just be

celebrating a job well done.

Defensive coordinator Bill Young believes takeaways are so

important to the Cowboys (3-0) that he’ll hand out rewards to those

who create turnovers in games and in practice.

”We’re all about turnovers,” said McGee, who earned his

T-shirt with a pick in Oklahoma State’s 65-28 rout of Tulsa. ”We

want to get turnovers. It’s a good thing. If you ever see one of us

with this shirt on, it means we did something good.”

McGee has also earned Butterfinger and Snickers bars for coming

up with the ball in practice, as part of the bonus system put in

place by Young after he took charge of OSU’s defense before last

season.

So far, the gifts are readily doled out. The Cowboys have forced

six fumbles and intercepted three passes, an average of three

takeaways per game, heading into their Big 12 opener Thursday night

against Texas A&M (3-0).

”Obviously, we’d like to have more,” Young said. ”Our goal is

three per game. It’s something that I can’t imagine anybody

emphasizing more than what we do on every single play in

practice.”

Coaches won’t blow the whistle until defenders have exhausted

every last opportunity to jar the ball loose from the scout team.

Turnovers are charted, and a certain number will allow players to

avoid some running at the end of practice.

The numbers also go up on a meeting room door, and then there

are the prizes that serve as a badge of honor for those who made

the takeaway happen.

Young awards T-shirts in defensive meetings after a game.

”He’s made a point of that ever since he’s come in here, and I

think the players have bought into that,” coach Mike Gundy said.

”I think there’s some carry-over into games.”

On the front of the shirt is the ”Ball Hawk” imagery. And on

the back, a message: ”RIP. STRIP. PICK.” Then the second line:

”SCORE!”

So far, that’s about all that hasn’t happened for the Oklahoma

State defense. McGee returned his interception 79 yards out of the

end zone, but couldn’t make it all the way for the touchdown. He’s

still wondering if he’d have earned something beyond the T-shirt

for scoring, too.

”I don’t know,” he said. ”I will find out hopefully.”

A former offensive coordinator, Gundy had been largely

uninvolved with the defense in his first few years in charge at

OSU. When the opposing offense had the ball during a game, he’d

walk away from the sideline and find a spot where he could work

with his offensive coordinator on what to run the next time the

Cowboys had the ball.

This year, he has turned the offensive reins over to first-year

coordinator Dana Holgorsen and finds himself spending more time

working with the defense. Players say he’s frequently hollering,

”Strip the ball! Strip the ball!”

”Last year, we’re used to him being down there on offense and

not really dealing with us,” defensive tackle Nigel Nicholas said.

”But now, he’s really involved with us and he’s doing a good

job.”

”It’s paid off on our intensity in practice,” he added. ”He’s

down there hyping everything up, hyping practice up. When the head

coach hypes practice up, you’ve got to get hyped.”