Will Cowboys Be First to 10?

The 2010 version of the Oklahoma State Cowboys will be attempting to become the first football team in school history to win 10 regular season games when they face the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan. But just because they have a chance at becoming the winningest team in 110 years of football doesn't mean it is necessarily the most talented. Just ask Mike Gundy.

The Cowboys have won 10 games only three times in the history of the school's football program – in 1984, 1987 and 1988 – but the 10th victory came in a postseason bowl game to finish out each of those seasons. OSU beat South Carolina in the Gator Bowl following the 1984 season to finish 10-2, the Cowboys defeated West Virginia in the Sun Bowl after the 1987 season to finish 10-2, and they beat Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl following the 1988 season to finish 10-2.

Oklahoma State, ranked 10th in this week's USA Today Coaches Poll, enter Saturday's game with a 9-1 overall record and 5-1 Big 12 record. Kansas is 3-7 and 1-5.

The Cowboys will travel to Lawrence, Kan., with the nation's No. 1 ranking in total offense (547.5 yards per game), No. 2 in passing offense (359.1 yards), and No. 3 scoring offense (45 points). They will face a Jayhawk defense ranked 91st in total defense, 107th in scoring defense and 110th in rushing defense.

Three of the most explosive offensive players in the nation will lead first-year offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's crew against the Jayhawks.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden ranks first in the nation with 3,391 passing yards (which is also an OSU single season record with two regular season games remaining).

Running back Kendall Hunter is second in the nation with 16 rushing touchdowns and is No. 4 in rushing yards (135.6 per game).

Wide receiver Justin Blackmon leads the nation in touchdown receptions (16), scoring (12 points per game), total receiving yards (1,430) and receiving yards per game (158.89). He is second in receptions per game with 9.33.

It's easily the most talented football team in Cowboy football history, right? Not so quickly, says Gundy.

"We were much more talented last year," said the sixth-year Oklahoma State head coach, who is now 1-10 against Big 12 South powers Texas and Oklahoma following Saturday's 33-16 victory over the Longhorns.

Just where is last year's team better than the 2010 squad that is favored by more than three touchdowns over the Jayhawks and poised to do something no other Oklahoma State team has done in the past 110 years? "Defensive line, at the cornerback position, wide receiver position, offensive line position," said Gundy.

"We're just not as talented individually with this football team as we were last year. You had a first-round pick at left tackle (in Russell Okung), when Dez (Bryant) was here you had what could have been a top-five pick at wideout, you had (cornerback) Perrish Cox who should have been no later than a second round pick, Keith Toston made it in the NFL, and Zac Robinson is playing in the NFL," Gundy continued.

Who would have thought that we would even be comparing this year's squad to last year's team before the season started? OSU had just nine starters and 32 returning lettermen when practice began in August, and the Cowboys were picked for fifth or sixth in the six-team Big 12 South following the loss of two first-round NFL draft picks (Okung and Bryant), a third-rounder in Cox, and Toston and Robinson.

But the development of Weeden, Blackmon and an inexperienced offensive line (four first-year starters), and the return of Hunter to his All-American running style from 2008 (after rushing for just 382 yards last season while nursing an ankle injury) has spelled success for the Cowboys.

It would almost be surprising if the 2010 edition of the Cowboys didn't set the record Saturday with their 10th victory of the season. After all, they've broken 66-year losing streaks at Lubbock (to Texas Tech) and Austin (to Texas) in the last five weeks, and also won in Manhattan, Kan. (against Kansas State) for the first time since 1988.

The Cowboys are finally starting to receive some national recognition, and with that publicity comes the pressure to continue to perform.

"They are handling the situation very well. I don't think there's any question that with what goes on with the technology and the coverage of college football that each week there's pressure," Gundy said.

"The sport of football is different because if you lose a game it can affect you for the entire season. Basketball you can lose three or four or five games and still be a national champion. Baseball, we had a team two or three years ago, Fresno or somebody, that lost something like nine games and won a national championship. Well, football is not that way. You take a chance every Saturday and that's why it's important to stay focused, prepare and go play."


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