If Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy did not break fresh ground with Saturday's postgame comments, he surely stands in select company. And this has nothing to do with another "I'm a man" rant.
Instead, Gundy watched his defense allow 622 yards to Baylor. The Bears never punted.
Then, Gundy uttered these words: "I was really proud of the way our defense played. I think that they showed a lot of heart."
Huh? Can you imagine Woody Hayes or Paul "Bear" Bryant offering similar kudos to their defenses if those units surrendered 622 yards and never caused the opponent's punter to leave the sideline?
Of course not. But Gundy works in an era of high-scoring spread offenses, when quality defensive play is judged on a sliding scale. No. 3 OSU (8-0, 5-0 in Big 12) features one of the offenses that blows the bell curve for today's statistical expectations on defense.
And it should be noted that Gundy praised his defense after a 59-24 victory in which the Cowboys held a 35-0 halftime lead and led 49-3 before Baylor began tacking on touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
When it comes to situational defense, Gundy will tell you that no team is doing it better than OSU, because the Cowboys are the nation's runaway leader in turnover margin. OSU is plus-19 for the season (plus-2.38 per game). Top-ranked LSU is second, at plus-15.
OSU has collected more turnovers (29) than any FBS school, a key factor for a unit that ranks 111th among the nation's 120 teams in total defense. OSU relies so heavily on turnovers to stop drives that the Cowboys have almost as many takeaways as opponents' punts (37) through eight games.
The formula has helped the Cowboys build an undefeated record despite allowing 455.6 yards per game, a figure that ranks next-to-last among Big 12 teams. But can it hold up for the long haul?
Logic suggests that some productive, disciplined offense with a track record for protecting the football will expose the Cowboys' defense -- and defensive philosophy -- in the final month of the season. No.14 Kansas State (7-1, 3-1), Saturday's opponent at 7 p.m. in Stillwater, Okla., leaps to mind because the Wildcats dominate possession time with an option offense and rarely commit turnovers (eight in eight games).
If not K-State, then probably No. 6 Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1) in the regular-season finale on Dec. 3. The Cowboys bristle at such suggestions.
"I have a lot of faith in our team and in our defense and in their ability to force turnovers," Gundy said.
"If you look across the country, everybody is giving up yards... and there's more points being scored. You just have to stay in there and win some of your own battles and try to keep it to a minimum."
In the Cowboys' locker room, that means forcing turnovers. And stepping up on fourth down, which OSU did twice against Baylor -- including a goal-line stop on the Bears' opening drive.
"We gave up a bunch of yards... but when the game was on the line, we only gave up a field goal," OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "Those five turnovers are a big statistic."
No argument here. But can they truly be counted on every week, over a 12-game schedule? The Cowboys answer with an emphatic "yes." Based on the team's inability to force three-and-outs, they'd better be right.
"That is our main objective, to create turnovers," said cornerback Brodrick Brown, who recovered two fumbles against Baylor. "No matter how many yards we give up, we can still create turnovers to give our offense the ball. As long as we force turnovers, we will be successful."
Give OSU its due for the way it stymied Baylor. Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III, who threw only two interceptions in the team's first six games, threw two against OSU, including one in the end zone.
Asked about the Cowboys' turnover-first philosophy, Baylor coach Art Briles said: "It's a good thing if you can depend on it. Their guys fly to the ball and put in a lot of great effort. Great hustle usually leads to great plays."
Yet it seems pertinent to mention that the nine teams ranked below OSU in total defense have a combined record of 17-57. Only Ball State (5-4) has more than two victories. OSU linebacker Shaun Lewis said focusing on yardage totals shows "a lack of respect" for the Cowboys' defense because the unit leads the NCAA in turnovers created.
To mention one without the other, he said, makes players "pretty angry." So we'll draw no conclusions other than to say that no team ranked 111th or lower in total defense has ever won a Big 12 title, let alone a BCS national championship.
Yet OSU remains in the mix for both, thanks for a weekly flood of timely turnovers. If they achieve either goal, the Cowboys definitely will be breaking fresh ground.
Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760