STILLWATER, Okla. – When halftime arrives, the cram session begins for Oklahoma State.
The No. 20 Cowboys (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) have needed intermission recently to find ways to mount a second-half comeback. Their tactics are working.
Oklahoma State is outscoring opponents 89-17 in the third quarter this season, rallying from halftime deficits three times in the last four games. Dating to last season, six of the Cowboys' last 11 victories have come after they trailed at intermission.
"Obviously, we don't want to come back and win," quarterback Brandon Weeden said. "But we've been put in some situations that have kind of made us grow as a team, not only offensively but defensively, special teams and everything. ... It's a testament to a lot of guys that we can win those close games, we can come back and win and it's going to be huge for us in this stretch, playing these last seven or eight games."
Oklahoma State plays at Texas Tech (3-2, 1-2) on Saturday.
The adjustments made by coordinators Dana Holgorsen on offense and Bill Young on defense have paid dividends so far this year. Oklahoma State has scored a touchdown on its opening possession of the second half in every game and hasn't yielded a score on an opponent's first possession yet.
In four of the five games, the Cowboys have scored a touchdown the first two times they got the ball in the second half — including Josh Cooper's 66-yard punt return TD against Troy.
"At halftime, I think they do a good job of grouping up what's been good, what's been bad and what are the solutions for the second half and not necessarily worry about what's happened in the first half because you can't change it, whether it be good or bad," coach Mike Gundy said.
To start halftime, the coaching staff gathers separately from the players, who end up getting some instruction from veteran team leaders.
"Right off the get-go, they're telling us exactly what we need to do before the coaches come in," said safety Markelle Martin. "The coaches come in, and there's nothing more to be said. We understand what our mistakes were and what has to be changed."
The coaches then hit the chalkboard with adjustments. The coaches who have to return to the press box get first crack at addressing their players, and the rest provide the finishing touches.
"It's a classroom session, it really is," Young said. "It's a correction time. It's a time when everybody's listening and we're trying to make sure they understand exactly what the issues are. It's a pretty intense time, but it's also a learning and teaching time."
Gundy said one key is keeping the adjustments simple and easy for the players to digest.
"If there's too much to it, I don't think they can actually absorb the information," Gundy said, "and then they can't perform in the second half."
Oklahoma State is a perfect 8-0 since the start of last season when leading at halftime. Gundy would rather have more of those games, considering that comebacks aren't automatic.
"Eventually, there has to be some balance and to play a four-quarter football game and to keep yourself in position or put yourself in position to take control of the game," he said. "We just have to continue to get better.
"We've had guys that have made some mistakes and not taken advantage of mistakes that the other team has given us, and we've got to find a way to play more consistent throughout the game."