Oklahoma State and Kansas are headed in different directions.
The No. 12 Cowboys (6-0, 3-0 in the Big 12) have had two weeks to prepare for winless Kansas (0-6, 0-3). The Jayhawks come to Stillwater Saturday as OSU keeps building momentum for a stretch run for the Big 12 title.
Kansas spotted Texas Tech 20 points last Saturday and then outscored the Red Raiders 20-10 but lost, 30-20. KU had 475 yards of total offense, with quarterback Ryan Willis throwing for 330 yards, hitting 35 of 50 pass attempts.
After Kansas, the back-loaded schedule for Oklahoma State gets decidedly tougher. The Cowboys have to travel to Lubbock to play Texas Tech and then three out of the last four games are against No. 2 Baylor, No. 4 TCU and No. 15 Oklahoma. The only breather in November is a road trip to Iowa State.
Before the break, OSU came on strong late to beat Kansas State and West Virginia. The offense has been spotty while good defensive play has kept OSU undefeated.
“We are pretty good at the end of the games,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “We have to be a better rushing football team. As a coaching staff, we have to come up with a way to be a little more balanced.
“I don’t know if we can fix it overnight but we have to improve in that area in order for us to continue to make a run for the top of the conference.
“I like our defense. “
Oklahoma State’s defense has held four of its last five opponents under 200 yards passing, and the lone exception during that time – Kansas State – barely eclipsed that mark with 207 yards through the air.
The Cowboys used the off week to work on certain aspects of their game.
“We’ve put some time into the running game and downfield coverage, and we continue to work on special teams,” said Gundy. “We just need to get a little bit better each week, and we’ll get ready for the game on Saturday.”
The Cowboys rank among the national leaders in both sacks and tackles for loss per game as a team. Emmanuel Ogbah has 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss and defensive end Jimmy Bean has 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer helps the team focus before games.
“I think that some people have a unique ability to teach, coach and train young people in a way that helps them focus on what really matters,” Gundy said. “He’s very level-headed and calm, and he thinks things through. Teaching is one of the strong points that he has as a coach. Also, he’s great with instilling the importance of (Monday’s) practice and Tuesday’s practice with our players. With us, we’re not talented enough to just think that we’re going to show up and play fine on Saturday. We have to get better each day, and we have to stay focused. He just has a unique ability to get players to realize what’s important at the end of the day.”
Spencer always sees room for improvement.
“You know I’m not big on throwing out praise because I see the negatives, but we function,” Spencer said. “We’ve had issues, but they’ve made a lot of big plays. We have contributors all over the place. Good defenses have a lot of people contribute. There are too many moving parts. We have to have all 11 as contributors. We can’t have too many weak chains.”
Ogbah said the week off was refreshing mentally and physically.
“I would say both, but more physically,” Ogbah said. “It was a long six games. My body feels fresh and I’m ready to go back out there.
“There’s a lot of work that we do that gets us to this point. We just have to keep working and getting better every week. We can’t take anything for granted though. We are grateful for this achievement we have so far. We just have to keep getting better.”
The bye week was a help.
“For our team to rest and deal with some nagging injuries, it really helped physically,” said OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph. “Also, psychologically to rest and enjoy time with our families by going home was nice.”
Dating back to a 2013 win over Kansas State, the Cowboys have won their last 11 games when playing as a ranked team facing an unranked opponent.
Starting with the Cowboys’ 2012 Heart of Dallas Bowl win over Purdue, OSU has won 19 of its last 21 overall against unranked opponents.
Will the Cowboys adjust their play to the level of competition?
“We played at their place (last year) and they did play pretty well,” said Rudolph. “I think Tyreek (Hill) took back the punt to give us the edge there, but this year we’re excited to play them at Boone Pickens Stadium.”
“I prepare for any quarterback the same way,” Ogbah said. “We are preparing like we’re playing Florida State next week. I would prepare for every team the same way.”
Kansas receiver Tre’ Parmalee is their best threat.
“He’s pretty fast,” Ogbah said. “He’s a major deep threat for them. He’s their playmaker guy. He’s pretty good.”
Spencer said new coaches at Kansas require preparation.
“They had a different coordinator, so last year’s game isn’t a big part of our preparation,” Spencer said. “We did watch the game so we could see their returning guys play. They’ve done an outstanding job of finding their quarterback and settling in on how he can move the ball.”
Oklahoma State owns a 34-29-2 all-time advantage over Kansas. Saturday’s game marks the 30th meeting between the Cowboys and Jayhawks in Stillwater, with the previous 29 split right down the middle at 14-14-1. That said, OSU has won four of its last five over Kansas in Boone Pickens Stadium, with those four wins coming by an average score of 50-17. Gundy is 6-1 as head coach of the Cowboys against the Jayhawks.
The Cowboys are 50-36-7 all time on Homecoming and have won six of their last eight Homecoming games.