Visiting With Curtis Luper

It's kind of comical but none of the Oklahoma State coaches seem to know where their team or even some of their players are ranked in the national rankings of the Big 12 Conference rankings. That trend continued with running backs coach Curtis Luper, who is also the associate head coach for player development.

We spoke with Luper on Monday instead of the offensive coordinators because not only are the Cowboys the top rushing offense in the nation, but Kendall Hunter and Keith Toston are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Big 12 in rushing. Hunter is averaging 154.5 yards per game and Toston is averaging 92 yards a contest.

It was no surprise that Luper didn't know those rankings when we told him. "That's a tribute a lot of people, obviously and primarily the offensive line, but then to Keith (Toston) and Spud (Kendall Hunter)," said Luper, not taking any credit. "They work hard and they deserve it."

Head coach Mike Gundy gives Luper plenty of credit for coaching up the running backs. Luper was a Cowboy back himself, playing behind the greats, Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders.

He knows his players physically and mentally. He knows when they are tired and which one to have in the game at the right time. He knows their personalities.

"Beau (Johnson) and Keith are pretty similar," said Luper, describing his top three running backs. "Keith, I guess he is labeled the lady's man on the team, so he always has something to talk about, and Spud (Hunter) just kinds of laughs and he always has something to laugh at. It is kind of a snicker and not very boisterous.'

On no drive was the Cowboys power of the backs and line more evident than the drive in the third quarter starting at their own one-yard line. The offense, with both Hunter and Toston involved, went 99 yards on 11 play, all runs.

"That was just attitude," said Luper of the drive. "Initially, we just were trying to get a couple of first downs and we got those first downs and we kept running. Then Keith came in and we kept running. Before we even knew it the drive was over and we had scored.

"We were thinking that is 99 yards to the players and really commended them for having a great drive. It was at a time when the game was still somewhat in the balance because they had pinned us down at the one-yard line. Some critical things could have happened, but we put a stamp on the game right there. Hopefully, we've established an identity for ourselves."

There are many ties between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Many of the players on each team either played on the same team in high school or played against each other. Most were recruited to both schools.

It is not widely known, but Luper, who was recruited by A&M as a high school star coming out of Sherman, Texas, was also recruited to A&M again last spring by new Aggies head coach Mike Sherman. Sherman wanted Luper on his staff. Mike Gundy wanted him more.

This game with the Aggies is important.

"Yeah, you know we haven't beaten A&M since we've been here and I think a couple of times we may have outplayed them and lost," answered Luper, ignoring the mention that Sherman tried to hire him on his staff.

"It is really a significant game for us because as we climb in the Big 12 South we need to beat Baylor, beat A&M, and beat Texas Tech before we get up there to deal with OU and Texas. It is a very important game for us. We will find out exactly where we are after this game."

Luper knows where he is, and that's at Oklahoma State coaching the top two runners in the Big 12. He should be very comfortable with his decision.

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