After a week off, No. 15 Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 in the Big 12) has a seven-game stretch to try to win the conference title and get a shot at the national playoff.
Open conference play with a loss to TCU put pressure on the Cowboys to play perfectly to meet their goals.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Cowboys.
OSU hosts winless Baylor on October 14. It would seem to be an easy win but the Bears came close to beating No. 3 Oklahoma and seem to be improving under first-year coach Matt Buhle.
After Baylor, OSU must play Texas, No. 23 West Virginia and OU. Texas and West Virginia are on the road.
If the Cowboys can sweep those three games, they should be favored in the final three against Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas.
Before the bye week, Rudolph was third in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 186.2 – barely behind No. 2 Dalton Sturm of UTSA (188.3). Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma was No. 1 at 228.3.
On the season, Rudolph has hit 117 of 173 passes (67 percent) for 1,909 yards and 16 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
Those are the best stats of his career at OSU.
Rudolph set an OSU career record for pass attempts against the Red Raiders, moving his career total to 1,131. Brandon Weeden had the previous record at 1,103.
Rudolph has scored a rushing touchdown in four of five games this season. He shares the team lead with four rushing scores this year.
On Saturday, he ran for two touchdowns in the same game for the first time since last season’s win at TCU. Rudolph has now accounted for at least three touchdowns in six straight games, including every game this season. He entered the game ranked second in FBS with 96 points responsible for and added 30 points Saturday. Over the last 14 games, Rudolph has 38 TD passes and just six interceptions.
While Rudolph is one of the passing leaders, OSU receiver James Washington is No. 1 in the nation in receiving yards (647). Washington has scored five touchdowns with 28 receptions in five games. That is even more remarkable because he is drawing double coverage from almost every opponent.
After last week, the Cowboys led the nation in total offense with 1,996 yards passing and 921 yards rushing.
OSU is averaging 46.8 points per game, the sixth best average in the nation.
Rudolph ran 16 yards for the go-ahead touchdown when then-No. 15 Oklahoma State beat Texas Tech 41-34 on September 30 in Lubbock.
“It was a good win for our team,” Gundy said after the win. “Anytime you’re traveling on the road, especially if you don’t play as well as you wanted to the week before – so I was really proud of our team. There’s a lot of ups and downs in this game. It’s always that way when we play Tech, I don’t know why. But what I thought going in the game held to be true. They’re playing better on defense.”
With Gundy as coach, OSU has beaten Texas Tech nine straight times, matching its longest active winning streak over any opponent. OSU has also won nine straight over Louisiana.
And the Cowboys have beaten Texas Tech five straight times in Lubbock, marking the longest road streak for either team in the series.
On its last four visits to Lubbock, OSU scored 41, 70, 52, 66 points in victories.
“That’s a good football team,” said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. “They’ve got a lot of talented players and they got after us and made the plays there at the end when they had to.”
OSU running back Justice Hill had a career-high 30 carries and a career-best 164 rushing yards. He now has nine career 100-yard rushing games. Hill scored his first career receiving touchdown in the second quarter.
“The environment, the fans, everybody out there, it was fun,” Hill said. “Actually motivated us a lot. So they were loud. Probably the loudest game I’ve been in this year. It was a fun game.
“I mean, doesn’t feel like the best game ever, but it’s a good game. We won.”
“I thought our backs ran hard,” Gundy said. “The open week comes at a good time for us. We’ve got some guys that are beat up a little bit, need a little bit of a break. See if we can get guys back and let our guys get off our feet for a while.”
OSU’s offense gained 597 total yards against Texas Tech and the defense held the Red Raiders to 384. The Cowboys had 32 first downs while holding TTU to 25.
“I thought our defense played really well,” Gundy said “You take away the pick-six. So you keep them, you’re holding them at 26 points or 25, whatever it is, out here, pretty good. We got room for improvement. But what we did is they were 5-of-12 on third down. So for us that’s a significant improvement. And so that’s a nice job. Zero-for-1 on fourth and five-of-12 on third downs. And that’s a big jump for us.”
Texas Tech has pulled a lot of upsets of ranked teams in Lubbock over the years.
“I thought that Kliff had got a bead on us,” Gundy said. “And good offensive coaches, they’re going to do that. So the longer the game goes on, they’re going to start to get a feel for it because essentially defenses run out of stuff. There’s so many plays in the game. We had 82. They had 72. So you just kind of run out of stuff and coaches can make really good adjustments. The same thing we do.
“And then we made a couple other adjustments on defense. And there’s some risk. When you’re in attack mode and you’re seeing them manning up freshman corners, you’re in a little bit of a risk. But we felt like we had to do something because they got on a roll there pretty good and we need to change it up.”