On Saturday (11:00 A.M., FX), the #4 Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-0, 3-0) invade Faurot Field to take on the Missouri Tigers (3-3, 1-2), in Big 12 action. The Cowboys are coming in off of a 38-26 win at Texas, a week ago.
The last time Oklahoma State visited Missouri was in 2008, when the Tigers were ranked #3 in the country, and Chase Daniel and company got caught looking ahead to a showdown in Austin the following week. A rising Oklahoma State team upset the Tigers that night, by the score of 28-23. Earlier this week, Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy remembered that victory as a turning point for his program.
"It was a huge win for us," said Gundy. "It was the first time that we had beaten a top ten team on the road in a long, long time. It was the first big road win for our team, and since then, we've been able to play fairly well on the road. We may have overcome a mental hurdle at that time. Since then, things have been good for us, so it was obviously a big win for our program."
To say that things have been going good for Oklahoma State is a bit of an understatement. The undefeated Cowboys view this year's team as their best chance at a conference, and possibly a national, championship. Coach Gundy's team comes in with an 8-game road win streak, and a 6-game conference road win streak.
"Oklahoma State is obviously a good football team," said Missouri Head coach Gary Pinkel. "Brandon Weeden is a very impressive quarterback; his accuracy, how he manages the game, his maturity, all of those things. Obviously, Justin Blackmon is just a great player, also. They really have a lot of good players. That's why they are undefeated and that's why they are nationally ranked where they are, as they should be."
On offense, the Cowboys are prolific! They lead the Big 12, and are second nationally, in scoring offense (49.17 points/game), total offense (551.17 yards/game), and passing offense (395.67 yards/game).
"I think that Oklahoma State is a very, very potent offensive football team," said Coach Pinkel. "They just move the ball up and down the field."
On the season, Weeden 6'4" 218 has completed 73% of his pass attempts, for an average of 11.1 yards/completion, and 8.1 yards/attempt. He has posted a 16 to 6 TD to INT ratio. He ranks third in the Big 12 in passing, with 349.7 yards/game, and a passer efficiency rating of 156.2. He is not much of a threat to run the football. In fact, he rarely gets tackled. He gets rid of the football quickly, and his offensive line keeps him clean. He's been sacked just 8 times this season, and the 2010 First-Team All-Big 12 QB enters the game against Missouri having thrown 151 consecutive passes without an interception.
Earlier this week, Missouri junior CB Kip Edwards was asked about the 28-year old Oklahoma State QB.
"(His quick release) is something I've noticed, but he also has great timing with his receivers," replied Edwards. "It's going to be a major deal for us to be in and out of our breaks this week. (His maturity) is a huge asset for him at the position. He is older than most guys playing quarterback in the NFL right now. He is older than Blaine Gabbert! For us in the secondary, it's going to be exciting!"
As a team, Oklahoma State ranks ninth in the conference in rushing offense, at 155.5 yards/game. A pair of sophomore RBs account for almost all of their rushing yardage. Joseph Randle 6'1" 191 ranks seventh in the conference in rushing, averaging 92 rushing yards/game. He averages 5.2 yards/carry, and has dented the end zone for 9 TDs on the ground. Randle is also fourth on the Cowboys in receptions, with 3.2 receptions/game, for 7.4 yards/reception. Jeremy Smith 5'10" 205 has fewer than half of Randle's carries, but his 6.9 yards/carry, 59 rushing yards/game, and 7 rushing TD are also impressive. He also has 5 catches on the season.
The Cowboys top three receivers are junior Justin Blackmon 6'1" 215, senior Josh Cooper 5'11" 195, and senior Hubert Anyiam 6'0" 202. Each of the three have amassed over 1000 yards receiving for their careers.
In 2010, Blackmon was awarded the prestigious Biletnikoff Award, as the nation's most outstanding receiver. This year, his 8.8 receptions/game currently ranks third in the Big 12, and sixth nationally. He's fourth in the conference, with 101.3 receiving yards/game. He averages 11.5 yards/reception, and has scored 7 TDs.
Cooper is sixth in the conference, with 5.8 receptions/game. He averages 10.6 yards/reception, and has scored 2 TDs. Hubert averages 4.3 receptions/game, 13.0 yards/reception, and has scored 3 TDs.
"(Oklahoma State) has some great players," said Coach Pinkel. "Their running backs are really good. Brandon (Weeden), what a release he's got! Justin Blackmon, what a great player!............................................... They've got a lot of guys who make plays……………………………. They've got a bunch of receivers that can run, and have great quickness. They attack vertically. Then, you throw those two running backs in there. It presents a lot of problems…………………………….. Obviously, they're very, very productive."
Junior P/PK Quinn Sharp 6'1" 189 handles all of Oklahoma State's kicking duties. Because Oklahoma State's offense is so successful, converting on 51.1% of their third downs, Sharp hasn't punted often, but his 48.4 yards/punt leads the nation. And, he's made 10 of 11 field goal attempts, and 37 of 38 PATs, for a combined kick success rate of 96%.
Cooper handles the punt return duties for the Cowboys, and if the Cowboys offense isn't prolific enough, sophomore CB Justin Gilbert 6'0" 205 is the second-leading kick-returner in the Big 12 (ninth nationally), with a 29.7 yards/return average. And, he has returned 2 kicks for TDs, including a 100-yarder at Texas.
Don't be fooled by Oklahoma State's defensive statistics. They're better than their statistics, and their rankings, would suggest. With so many big, early leads, Coach Gundy and his Defensive Coordinator, Bill Young, have utilized a lot of players late in games, and that's when most of their opponents have racked up the yardage, and the points. But to be sure, the Cowboys are not as dominant on defense as they are on the offensive side of the football. The Cowboys are surrendering 4.5 yards/rushing attempt, which is just ahead of Iowa State, and ranks sixth in the conference.
The Cowboys feature a pair of outstanding corners, in the aforementioned Gilbert, and in junior Broderick Brown 5'8" 185. Brown leads the Big 12, and is sixth nationally, in the number of passes defended this season, and he is tied with his teammate, senior SLB James Thomas 5'11" 215, for third in the Big 12, with 3 interceptions.
Sophomore safety Daytawion Lowe 6'0" 195 leads the Cowboys, and is among the league leaders, in tackles, with 6.3 tackles/game. Lowe also has 2 sacks, 3 PBUs, and 3 forced fumbles, on the season. Senior safety Markelle Martin 6'1" 198 is right behind Lowe in productivity, with 6.2 tackles/game, including 2TFLs, 2 forced fumbles, and 5 PBUs on the season.
Sophomore MLB Caleb Lavey 6'3" 231 (35 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT), and sophomore SLB Shaun Lewis 5'11" 220 (27 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks), are Oklahoma State's top linebackers, and two of the Cowboys more productive defenders.
While the strength of the Oklahoma State defense is considered to be their back seven, and they're just a little bit under-sized up front, they are not incapable of creating havoc, and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. They do have playmakers up front. Foremost among those are senior DE Jamie Blatnick 6'3" 265 , who has 27 tackles on the season, including 7.5 TFLs, and who with 5 sacks on the season, ranks third in the conference, and junior DT Nigel Nicholas 6'3" 285, who is also among the league leaders, with his 6.5 TFLs this season.
A big part of Oklahoma State's defensive philosophy is to try to get their opponents off schedule, creating negative plays, and forcing their opponents into long down and distance situations.
Earlier this week, Oklahoma State Head Coach Mike Gundy was asked about what his team needs to do to improve.
"I think we need to continue to work on stopping the run," said Coach Gundy. "I think we've got to stop the running game, and force them into situations where they're in third and long, instead of third and short, in order to continue to have success."
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
MISSOURI________________ OKLAHOMA STATE
496.17 [13th]___ Total Offense____551.17 [2nd]
236.50 [14th]___Rushing Offense__ 155.50 [59th]
15___________TDs Rushing__________ 17
259.67 [34th]___Passing Offense_ __395.67 [2nd]
144.40 [39th]__ Passing Efficiency__ 159.85 [11th]
11___________TDs Passing__________ 19
35.50 [26th]____Scoring Offense___ 49.17 [2nd]
337.83 [29th]___ Total Defense__ 426.67 [100th]
113.17 [30th]__ Rushing Defense__ 176.67 [80th]
8_________ TDs Allowed Rushing________ 10
224.67 [65th]___Passing Defense__ 250.00 [95th]
128.50 [62nd]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 111.76 [23rd]
7_________ TDs Allowed Passing_________ 7
20.33 [25th]____Scoring Defense___ 27.33 [68th]
+0.50 [36th]__ Turnover Margin___ +2.00 [2nd]
5 / 3________ Fumbles/Lost________ 5 / 2
4_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 6
6_________ Interceptions Gained________ 12
21.10 [73rd]___Kickoff Return Avg.__ 23.88 [27th]
9.63 [42nd]___ Punt Return Avg.___ 4.00 [107th]
39.86 [18th]___ Net Punting Avg.___ 37.61 [41st]
2.17 [T-41st]______Sacks By______3.17 [11th]
1.50 [T-37th]___ Sacks Allowed____ 1.33 [32nd]
29:26 [71st]___ Avg. Time of Poss.___ 28:07 [90th]
35.4% [96th]___3rd Down Conv._ 51.1% [T-14th]
66.7% [T-18th]__4th Down Conv._ 44.4% [T-79th]