STILLWATER — Trey Rucker had a precarious start to the 2023 season on and off the field, but the past two weeks, he has been paramount to putting the Pokes in the Big 12 Championship game.
Rucker stripped a ball from BYU tight end Isaac Rex in double overtime Saturday to end OSU’s 40-34 win against the Cougars. That play and Rucker’s six tackles were enough to earn him Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
The play that sent Oklahoma State to the Big 12 Championship game.
Tre Rucker forces the fumble as pandemonium ensues in Stillwater.
Cowboys come back from 24-6 at half and walk away with the 40-34 overtime win. pic.twitter.com/pTzCi8CVS1
— Connor Burgan (@BurganConnor) November 26, 2023
He is the Cowboys’ second conference defender of the week, joining Xavier Benson, who earned the honor after Bedlam. It’s the eighth time this season an OSU player has won a Big 12 weekly award.
Rucker came to Stillwater as a walk-on transfer from Wake Forest. In two seasons with the Demon Deacons, Rucker had 84 tackles and two interceptions before coming to Stillwater. He played in all 14 games of OSU’s Fiesta Bowl-winning 2021 season, mostly on special teams. He played in only one game last season, OSU’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl loss to Wisconsin, where he made a few plays.
He was arrested in September for suspicion of DUI — a legal process that is ongoing. Adjusting to Bryan Nardo’s new 3-3-5 scheme, Rucker had also been on the wrong end of some big touchdown passes in the beginning of the year. But through all that, Rucker has also made a lot of plays for the Pokes, particularly recently.
Rucker is 10th in the Big 12 in tackles with 87 on the year. That puts him third on his team behind Nickolas Martin and Kendal Daniels. The Cowboys were in a hole about a week ago in Houston when Rucker intercepted a pass and returned it 29 yards to set up an OSU touchdown shortly before halftime, flipping the momentum of that game. Then his strip against BYU punched the Cowboys’ ticket to the Big 12 title game.
“He’s been another guy that’s been a special fit for us,” Gundy said. “He walked on and came in, and we didn’t really know what we had. He was kind of a knucklehead, so he had to go through a transition to get to the point of where he is now. He’s really focused and zoomed in now. He wasn’t at all. So he was kind of a guy that floated, so he couldn’t help us as much, then we kinda had to try to reign him in.
“He’s a knucklehead. He’ll get into something, as you know, but he’s a good kid — not a kid. He’s a good young man. He’s got a good heart. And he has been like a real quiet leader. He’s a tough guy on the field. He likes to play violent. … Him stripping that ball and ending the game was fitting based on the transition he’s made to get to where he is.”
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