At season’s start, sophomore linebacker Seth Jacobs was excited.
Coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he saw limited action in six games, Jacobs had earned a starting spot for 2014. His team was facing defending champion Florida State in the season opener, so the stakes were high for his first start.
He longed for success for personal reasons, too. For the first time since early the previous season, Jimmy and Tracy Jacobs had flown in from California to see their son compete.
“They caught a redeye,” Jacobs told The Daily O’Collegian, Oklahoma State’s student newspaper, at the time. “It’s not an easy trip, so I’m thankful they were able to come.”
Jacobs turned in a great performance in front of his parents, racking up seven tackles. He also snatched one of the Cowboys’ two interceptions from Jameis Winston, reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Although the Cowboys fell short, 37-31, it was likely the team’s best performance of the season. And Jacobs was able to execute before his parents.
“It was definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Jacobs told The Daily O’Collegian. “It’s great sharing that moment with them, and them just talking to me hoarse, losing their voice from the game, yelling for me.”
But the Cowboys’ season may have peaked there. Now, having lost three consecutive games by at least 24 points, the Cowboys hope to come off a much-needed bye week with a win against Texas.
“This open week was really nice,” Jacobs said. “It gave me, and our other players that are fighting injuries, the chance to come back and rehabilitate and rest and get quality reps for guys who don’t play a lot. It was a productive week. The weekend was relaxing, and it was just good.”
Jacobs’ injuries on the season include persistent shoulder pain and the need for five stitches in his chin against TCU.
But Jacobs doesn’t use pain as an excuse or a way out. Through nine games, he has still managed to rank third on the team with 53 tackles and shares the team lead with two interceptions.
“It’s just one of those things that you have to do,” Jacobs said. “You have to look to the guys next to you; these guys are hurting as well. It’s more about what it comes down to.”
For defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, physicality is what “it” comes down to. Oklahoma State defenders will look to stifle Texas’ much-improved run game, particularly the backfield combination of senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray. The duo combined for 191 rushing yards last week, moving Brown into 11th all time on Texas’ career rushing list.
Spencer says Brown’s and Gray’s play have “really picked up,” reflecting their willingness to carry the team on their shoulders.
“We got two really physical practices last week,” Spencer said. “We got to concentrate on Texas’ favorites and their run game. We put a lot of emphasis on playing physically, so I think it was a good fundamental week.”
Come Saturday, Jacobs and the Cowboy defense will look to convert that physicality into success on the field. It’s senior night, and, with bowl eligibility on the line, the team recognizes the gravity of this game.
“We go into every game knowing that it’s important,” Jacobs said. “These last couple of games, we haven’t been as successful and executed as well as we wanted to. Each game is very important, and that’s been stressed throughout the year.”