The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Coming off their first loss of the season, the 20th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys aim to turn things back around, as they invade Manhattan this weekend for a Big 12 matchup with the Kansas State Wildcats.
Mike Gundy's Cowboys opened the season with six straight victories and certainly looked the part of Big 12 contenders heading into last weekend's showdown at home against top-10 foe Nebraska. The result however, was a 51-41 shootout loss to the Cornhuskers in Stillwater, leaving the team in the thick of the Big 12 South race with Baylor (3-1) and Oklahoma (2-1).
Gundy spoke about the importance of bouncing back following a loss.
"It takes some time. Sundays aren't as fun around here if you lose. Players are on edge and coaches are on edge. Guys and coaches will be critiqued. But that's part of it. There is a certain level of winning that we've been able to achieve the last few years and that's trickled over into Sunday. It's not as fun to be around each other on a Sunday when you didn't win a football game. The players that have been around here understand the importance of whether you play really well and win a big game or whether you don't play as well as you want to and don't win, you have to be ready to go back to work on Tuesday. Sunday afternoon and Sunday night is the day we finish the game and put it to rest. So we stress that with our players."
Bill Snyder's Wildcats are an impressive 5-2 thus far, but the team has split four conference games. Much like OSU, Kansas State suffered a defeat in an offensive slugfest last time out, falling at Baylor by a score of 47-42. The Wildcats sit behind Missouri (3-0) and Nebraska (2-1) in the Big 12 North.
Oklahoma State holds a 34-22 edge in the all-time series with Kansas State, although these teams haven't met since 2007, a memorable 41-39 win for the Cowboys. OSU is 16-14 against K-State in Manhattan, but hasn't won there since 1988. Mike Gundy was OSU's starting quarterback in that game and tailback Barry Sanders rushed for over 300 yards.
There isn't much on the offensive side of the football for Oklahoma State that can been negatively criticized. The team ranks second in the nation in scoring (48.3 ppg) and third in total offense (529.6 ypg). The ground game is responsible for a hefty 179.7 yards per game, but it is the passing game (third in the nation at 349.9 ypg) that fuels this attack.
It starts with QB Brandon Weeden. The 6-4 junior has put up ridiculous numbers this season, completing 66.5 percent of his passes thus far, for 2,249 yards, with 21 TDs. The last few years it has been standout WR Dez Bryant getting all the headlines, this year it is Justin Blackmon. The 6-1 sophomore is the most productive wideout in the country, having already hauled in 62 balls, for a whopping 1,112 yards and 14 TDs.
Bill Snyder knows it is a pick-your-poison with OSU's talented offense.
"Leading passer, leading rusher, leading offense, you name it and they have it. They are pretty proficient at what they do and who they do it with. Their running back and quarterback have been excellent through the course of the year. They have a lot of wide receivers and one has been truly special for them and is a fine player. They do it all well."
The only thing capable of stopping OSU's offense may be the players themselves. In that regard, Blackmon was recently arrested on a DUI charge and his status for this game and the rest of the season remains unknown.
If the passing game isn't enough, the ground game features All-American candidate Kendall Hunter at tailback. The 5-8, 200-pound senior is fully healthy in 2010 and has definitely played like it, averaging 147.3 yards per game on 6.4 yards per carry. He has already eclipsed 1,000 yards on the year (1,031) and has scored 12 of the team's 16 rushing TDs to date.
While the OSU offense has been almost impossible to slow down, the defense has lagged far behind. The Cowboys are allowing a generous 30.6 ppg this season, particularly struggling against the pass (286.1 ypg). The team has yielded just five TDs on the ground, but has given up 18 via the pass.
The unit does however, have its share of big plays, with 17 sacks and 19 forced turnovers. Senior middle linebacker Orie Lemon is far and away the most active member of the defense. He has 69 total tackles (30 more than the next closest player), with 6.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. Defensive backs Brodrick Brown (39 tackles, one INT) and Andrew McGee (25 tackles, three INTs and one fumble recovery) have been active in the secondary. Senior DE Ugo Chinasa (18 tackles, 3.0 sacks, one INT, one fumble recovery) has performed well up front.
The OSU offense is one of the nation's most explosive, but KSU has had success on that side of the football as well. The Wildcats are averaging 33.9 ppg and getting it done behind a balanced attack. The run sets up everything in Manhattan, with the team averaging 205.6 ypg on the ground. Out of the team's 29 offensive scores, 20 have come on runs.
Tailback Daniel Thomas is one of the Big 12's top ground-gainers, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 127.9 yards per game this season. He has amassed 895 yards over the first seven games and has scored nine TDs. Efficiency at the QB position is a must and Chase Coffman has delivered in that area for the most part. He has completed 66.4 percent of his passes, although it has only been for 1,145 yards, with eight TDs against four INTs. Coffman's top target this season has been WR Aubrey Quarles (24 catches, 375 yards and three TDs).
Kansas State was long known for its defensive prowess under Snyder's first reign in Manhattan, but this year's squad has been anything but impressive on that side of the football. The team's rush defense has really been a cause for concern, getting gashed for 230.7 yards per game. The pass defense has been somewhat better (197.6 ypg). Big plays have been few and far between for this defense, with just 12 sacks and 12 takeaways over the first seven games.
Junior LB Alex Hrebec leads the team with 64 total tackles. Diminutive DB David Garrett (5-8, 176) is a distant second (45 tackle), but has played much bigger, leading the team in TFLs (8.5) and sacks (3.0).