No. 22 OK State opens Big 12 play versus Longhorns

No. 22 Oklahoma State will face a Texas team that has lost two of its first three games Saturday. It’s a team that can’t play for the national championship but can still go undefeated and win the Big 12 Conference title.

Unlike the Longhorns, who have lost to Notre Dame and California, the Cowboys are undefeated but they have beaten Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and UTSA.

“I’m ready to play them,” OSU cornerback Ramon Richards said. “That’s going back home. I’ve been wishing to play on that field since I was a kid, so it’s going to be exciting.”

OSU clobbered UTSA 69-14 Saturday in Stillwater.

The Cowboys, who entered the game with one forced turnover on the season, forced seven turnovers, tied for the third-most in a game in school history.

“We had no chance,” UTSA coach Larry Coker said after the game. “They are a good football team, but we knew that coming in. We are a lot better football team certainly than we played today. We have to be, but we were just a bad football team today. That’s about all I can say.”

“I like the progress we’ve made from day one,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “There are areas where we need to improve, and I think we know where our deficiencies are. We have to try to eliminate some of those with schemes in our play calls on both sides of the ball. We’re improving, and I think our cover units are progressing and getting better. We’re not there. We’ll know a lot more in three or four weeks, but I’m OK with where our team is now in preparation for the next game.”

A struggling Texas team will be the biggest test so far for Oklahoma State in Austin Saturday.

“Obviously, it will be the most competitive game that we’ve been in up to this point,” said Gundy. “They’ll be the toughest and most talented team that we’ve played. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and we’re looking forward to the game.”

A missed extra point spoiled a Texas comeback and the Longhorns lost 35-34 Saturday to the Bears. Texas was down three touchdowns but nearly won the game.

“What we showed is great for us in the long run,” said Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard. “We are going to have a lot of confidence and be ready to start the Big 12.”

Heard is a good passer and a capable runner.

“What’s scary about this situation is that you could have it all right, you could have that extra guy, but it’s always tough to have that extra guy,” said OSU Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer. “If you’re trying to have an extra guy for the quarterback, than you’re giving up something else. There are no guarantees that you can make a play, which is scary. The guy can beat you at any time. He could make you look foolish.

“You learn a lot because it’s a tremendous test. You’re going against a guy that broke the record for most yardage in a game. He did better than Young and McCoy ever did. It’s a tremendous challenge, we got our hands full. Guys are going to be excited to play against him, but they also know that their hands are full.”

The Longhorns need a win.

“I hope this is one that turned the corner for us,” said Texas coach Charlie Strong. “I hope this – because when you look at this, it’s a lot of mistakes, but they can be corrected; but to watch us play and fight back the way we fought back, that’s where more than anything – that 21-down and it could have really gotten away from us, and to watch our guys continue to play and get back into it.

“I’m excited about our offense, but it is negated by how poorly we’re playing right now on defense. We have to play better, especially going into conference, because now it’s going to be – it’s a conference where teams can score a lot of points, and you’re going to have to – offensively we can match them if the quarterback continues to play well.”

The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. and is televised on ESPN.

The Cowboys have beaten the Longhorns in each of their last three trips to Austin.

Oklahoma State ran through the non-conference portion of its schedule by winning its three games by an average score of 42-12. The Cowboys are one of only three teams in the nation to rank in the top 20 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense, joining Georgia Tech and West Virginia.

Sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph ranks in the top 10 nationally in passing yards, yards per completion and yards per pass attempt. He is 12th nationally with a pass efficiency rating of 173.4.

Despite playing with a freshman punter, OSU has been outstanding in its punt coverage, evidenced by the fact that Zach Sinor has punted 15 times through three games with zero punt return yards allowed.

An Oklahoma State win would be Coach Mike Gundy’s 50th win over a Big 12 opponent since taking over as Oklahoma State head coach in 2005. None of Gundy’s predecessors as OSU football coach won more than 30 conference games. Among active Big 12 coaches, only Bill Snyder (109 Big 8/Big 12 wins in 23-plus seasons at Kansas State) and Bob Stoops (104 wins in 16-plus seasons at Oklahoma) have more than Gundy has in 10-plus years at Oklahoma State.

Oklahoma State was won three straight over Texas in Austin.

“They do a lot of good things on defense,” OSU Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “They run- defend really well, have some good young talent with some experience blended in as well. Physically, the fronts are big, strong and they give you multiple looks and coverages.”

Oklahoma State and Texas have met 29 times, with the Longhorns holding a 24-5 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools. Three of Oklahoma State’s five wins over Texas have come since 2010.

In 2010, No. 12 Oklahoma State beat Texas 33-16.  Brandon Weeden, now with the Dallas Cowboys, passed for 409 yards and Kendall Hunter, with the San Francisco 49ers,  had two rushing touchdowns as OSU ended a 12-year losing streak to Texas.

Hunter ran for 116 yards. Justin Blackmon had 145 yards receiving for the Cowboys, including a 67-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.

The OSU defense did not allow the Longhorns to cross midfield from late in the first quarter until late in the third.

In 2011, Oklahoma State became the first team to beat Texas in Austin two years in a row since 1911 when the Cowboys scored a 38-26 win at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboy defensive unit racked up 13 tackles for loss and forced three turnovers in the game, with defensive end Jamie Blatnick leading the way with nine tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry.

In 2013, playing without top playmaker Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State beat No. 23 Texas in Austin, 38-13.

Justin Gilbert intercepted two passes, returning one 43 yards for a touchdown just before halftime to give the Cowboys a 28-10 lead and effectively put the game out of reach.

Quarterback Clint Chelf rushed for a pair of first-half touchdowns and passed for an additional two scores to spur the Cowboy offense. Chelf completed 16-of-22 passes for 197 yards and two scores and rushed for a career-high 95 yards in the contest.

“The times we’ve gone down to Austin and won, we had very mature teams,” said OSU backup quarterback J.W. Walsh. “It takes a mature team to win on the road, especially at a place like that. I hope our team now can understand that. We have a very mature football team, and we have a very talented football team. We can go down there and have a huge week.”

Since Mike Gundy took over as head coach at Oklahoma State in 2005, the Cowboys have compiled a 33-7 record in the month of September (82.5 pct).

Since the start of the 2010 season, Oklahoma State is 40-5 against teams not ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The Cowboys have won 28 of their last 29 home games over unranked opponents. The only unranked team to beat OSU in Boone Pickens Stadium since 2010 was Texas last season.