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LB Caleb Lavey growing into defensive leader for No. 13 Oklahoma State

There's no time to celebrate for Caleb Lavey.

The Oklahoma State linebacker was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, but he's more interested about facing UTSA on the road this Saturday. He wants to look forward after piling up a game-high 11 tackles in the 13th-ranked Cowboys' 21-3 season-opening victory over Mississippi State.

"It's pretty cool, I'm honored," the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Lavey said. "But at the same time, when you're playing week in and week out, you kind of have to forget about Mississippi State and move on to UTSA."

That attitude is just one of the things that endears him to Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer.

"If you know Caleb like I know him, he shrugs that off like any other time he hears someone talk about him, good or bad," Spencer said. "That's why he's such a great leader. He realizes in two weeks they could be saying something totally different about him, and that's what I love about the kid."

As good as his performance on the field was, what truly defines Lavey's value to the defense is his leadership.

"All he cares about is lining up the next week and being the leader of the defense," Spencer said. "That kid was unbelievable on the sideline Saturday. You talk about a champion and having one heartbeat, he was that guy. But he's always been that guy. It's stuff he's been doing for years. He's an emotional guy, he's encouraging, just the epitome to what a leader is."

After allowing a 40-yard field goal in the first quarter, the defense held Mississippi State scoreless the rest of the way, letting the Bulldogs cross midfield just three more times. The defense was particularly strong on third down, limiting the Bulldogs to just two conversions on 16 attempts.

Junior defensive tackle James Castleman credits Lavey for inspiring the defense.

"He was everywhere, he was jumping off the walls, he was screaming, he was hip and hollering," Castleman said. "We all started noticing, we all started playing harder. As a D-lineman, when we know we have someone like that behind us, that's going crazy, hip and hollering, about to give all he can for the team, it makes us want to give all we can for him."

The Cowboys allowed just 111 yards rushing, and UTSA, which totaled 157 running yards in its 21-13 triumph at New Mexico last week, knows it will have to do better to have a chance Saturday.

"The really good teams I've been around have been able to run the football, and we're going to be able to do that," UTSA coach Larry Coker said. "They're very big and physical up front. We're going to challenge our offensive line and running backs to establish the run."

That means going right at Lavey.

"He was our MVP of the game," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "He's been a good leader for us. Caleb's got some skill, but he's not going to look like those guys who play on Sundays at that position. But he does what we ask him every time, 'Yes or no sir,' great leadership and he's tough. He kind of fits that role of what we need here, that's really been the strength of our program — because when times get tough, you have to rely on those guys to bring your team along."

Lavey shrugged off the praise of his leadership, indicating that as a senior, it was an expected part of his responsibilities.

"It's a big part of the role for all the older guys, especially when we were down in Houston and weren't winning for a while in the first half," the two-time Academic All-Big 12 selection said. "It's important for all of us older guys to remain calm and keep our composure and stay excited. It's very easy to go out there with your head down when you're not winning and not getting turnovers, that's what a losing defense could do. But it's our job to keep the excitement and enjoy playing and make sure that's going down to all the players."