By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER — While one man doesn’t make a team, the loss of a talented man can make a world of difference.
For the Oklahoma State defense, the last two games of the regular season looked to be that case. Talented senior cornerback Brodrick Brown was slowed by a leg injury, and was only able to play sparingly in losses to Oklahoma and Baylor.
“He was really beat up our last two ball games. He was on crutches for the Baylor week and couldn’t barely walk during the Oklahoma week,” defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “We’ve tried to back off of him and let him get well and I think he’s 99 percent right now.”
That’s just the way the year has gone for Brown, who after his junior season was projected as a solid NFL prospect. The senior from Houston hasn’t made any of the standout plays that earned him Second-Team All-American honors or a Thorpe Award semifinalist last season.
Still, having that type of talent playing with what Young said was essentially one-legged, could give some credence as to the defense’s sudden struggles the last two games of the year — after having slowed down the offensive juggernauts of West Virginia and Texas Tech in back-to-back weeks.
“It’s tough, because he’s one of our best defensive players. He’s a little pitbull and a big playmaker for us,” senior defensive end Cooper Bassett said. “Whenever you lose that play-making capability because of injury, it’s really tough on you. It definitely hurt.”
Brown hasn’t quite put up the numbers of a year ago, with 57 tackles and a sack, while collecting just two pass breakups and no interceptions — compared to last year, when he had five interceptions and 15 deflections. And while injury may have played some part in recent weeks, Brown isn’t one to allow it to be an excuse.
“When you play the game of football, you don’t want to be sitting on the sideline, you want to go out there and try to help your team out and be productive in the game,” said Brown, who only played roughly 10 plays in the Baylor loss.
“I just want to go out there and play. I was out there playing. It wasn’t like my leg was broken or anything. I was just out there playing with heart and for pride.”
But his teammates were willing to cut him some slack with the fact that playing injured at a key position on defense isn’t always easy.
“At cornerback, you’re having to play the pass and the run every single down and they are also out on an island,” Bassett said. “He’s out on the edge, where everybody sees him. It’s not like if he’s in the middle, somebody else can help him out. If you mess up out there, everybody sees it.
“Corner is just a very, very tough position. It’s tough enough trying to play it at full strength. So to playing on one leg is very tough. But he’s done a great job fighting through and has been tough through it all.”
The Heart of Dallas Bowl will give Brown one last shot at some redemption for a struggling senior season — which may be needed to get back on the radar of any prospective NFL teams.
“I think he’ll play lights out. He’s such a competitive guy and being healthy, I think he’ll play really, really well,” Young said.