Cowboys Need Big Games From Offensive Stars

It could be that Justin Blackmon needed an off-day to catch opponents napping. Ahh, probably not. No opposing coach is going to settle on reviewing just the tape of the Cowboys' 59-33 win at Tulsa on Sept. 18 and conclude Blackmon is now easy to contain.

The junior caught seven passes, though the 57 yards he generated ended a streak of 14 100-yard games. Nonetheless, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner is firmly entrenched as the favorite target of quarterback Brandon Weeden. So much so, the two are completely confident hooking up on one of the most difficult routes in football, the end zone fade.

With his 6-2 frame and athletic skills, Blackmon is the perfect recipient of that particular throw, which often needs to be spotted perfectly and timed just right.

"I just kind of flash it out there to him and then throw it up. We're on the same page," Weeden told The Oklahoman.

"That's like an NFL-type route you're going to get, just because you have two NFL guys involved in the play," said cornerback Devin Hedgepeth, who must defend the pass in practice.

That last point remains a good one. The surprising decisions by Weeden and Blackmon to return this season were instrumental in Oklahoma State becoming a top-10 team that features one of the country's most explosive offenses.

The veteran tandem will lead the Cowboys (3-0) into a critical clash Saturday to begin Big 12 play when they visit Texas A&M (2-0).

The matchup figures to provide a stage for two great offenses. Oklahoma State will need every bit of production it gets from the Weeden-Blackmon combination to offset A&M and the balanced threat it manages from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Cyrus Gray and several experienced receivers.

If the game comes down to the wire, which it could, don't be surprised to see Weeden look to Blackmon on the fade pattern. When run to perfection, which that tandem often does, the route is almost unstoppable.

NOTES, QUOTES
--The Sept. 17 win at Tulsa, which did not kick off until after midnight, would have been called off had another lightning strike occurred after 11:30 a.m. As it was, the weather cleared, but the game did not end until 3:35 a.m. on Sept. 18.

Kickoff was originally set for 9:10 p.m., an ultra-late start in the Central time zone. "I'm not pointing the finger at Tulsa," OSU athletic director Mike Holder said. "They did what they had to do relative to their conference and their institution."

--Oklahoma State hoped a day off on Sunday would enable the Cowboys to be fresh the remainder of the week during preparations for an early Big 12 showdown at Texas A&M on Sept. 24.

--Angela Spencer, the wife of Glenn Spencer, the Cowboys' co-defensive coordinator, died Saturday after complications stemming from a heart transplant in February 2010. Services are scheduled for Thursday.

SERIES HISTORY: Texas A&M leads 17-9 (last meeting, 2010, Oklahoma State, 38-35).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: All systems remain a go after the 59-33 romp against Tulsa. QB Brandon Weeden remains dangerous and capable of spreading the ball to several receivers after WR Justin Blackmon's streak of 14 straight 100-yard receiving games was snapped. In spite of that, Weeden still threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Ten receivers caught passes for the Cowboys, who also got another 100-yard rushing game along with three touchdowns from RB Joseph Randle. Plain and simple, this offense is going to score against anyone.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: After allowing 365 rushing yards against Tulsa, which was forced to play a one-dimensional game following the early loss of its quarterback, concerns mounted regarding the Cowboys defense. OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young insists the problems can be fixed, and noticed more technical flaws than anything physical. After grabbing a 45-6 lead in the second half, it could be that Oklahoma State coasted, especially since the game was played in the wee hours of the morning. Still, the Cowboys run defense is something to monitor.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We basically had a game and practice in the same day (on Sept. 18). I feel great and I feel like it is behind us. Ultimately the tough times are behind and it's time to focus on Texas A&M." -- Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden on last week's game against Tulsa, which didn't end until 3:35 a.m. on Sept. 18 thanks to storm delays.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME:
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M, Saturday -- Many of the questions posed to the Cowboys about this early Big 12 showdown regarded the amped crowd at Kyle Field, where the Aggies averaged 86,787 fans for wins against SMU and Idaho. RB Joseph Randle, however, downplayed what could be Oklahoma State's last visit to Texas A&M in the foreseeable future. "We don't care about the crowd. We're going to go in there and take the crowd away," Randle said.

That is altogether possible considering Oklahoma State has won three straight in the series, all against fourth-year A&M coach Mike Sherman, and features one of the most explosive attacks in college football. Grabbing command early is a huge key.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Last team with the ball wins? It is certainly possible considering both teams possess incredible playmakers who benefit from experienced offensive lines. Oklahoma State must improve against the run after allowing 365 yards against Tulsa. The A&M backfield combination of Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael is explosive, though that pair was limited in a Sept. 17 win against Idaho after the Vandals crowded the box defensively. Do that, however, and A&M QB Ryan Tannehill can make opponents pay with his accuracy, as well as the ability of veteran receivers Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller to get open. Turnovers could decide this one, and the Cowboys rank ninth nationally with nine takeaways.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Joseph Randle: It is easy to get distracted by the Oklahoma State passing game and let Randle expose wide lanes in the run game. The sophomore ranks 10th nationally with a 126-yard rushing average and is gaining 6.1 yards per carry. He is also targeted out of the backfield as a receiver.
QB Brandon Weeden: As impressive as Weeden's stat line is, another compelling mark is his 7-0 record on the road as a starter. He leads the nation with a 384.7-yard passing average and has thrown a TD pass in all 16 games he has started.
P/PK Quinn Sharp: The dual-threat kicker is 6-for-7 on field goals, with his longest coming from 46 yards. He also is averaging 49.2 yards per punt. His 16 touchbacks on kickoffs lead the country.

ROSTER REPORT
RB Herschel Sims, considered Oklahoma State's top recruit in the 2011 class, still has not played as a true freshman. He is, however, part of a loaded backfield mix that features a pair of sophomores, Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith.

Co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will not be with the Cowboys during practices leading into Saturdaty's game at Texas A&M following the death of his wife, Angela, on Sept. 17. Spencer will be allowed as much time off as he needs to be with his two sons.

Eric Davis, a three-star defensive end from Tyler, Texas, added some intrigue to Oklahoma State's game at Texas A&M when he recently switched commitments and dumped the Aggies for the Cowboys. Davis said he preferred the four-down front run by Oklahoma State. Davis' decision raised Oklahoma State's list of known commitments to 14.


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