Zac Back On The Attack?

STILLWATER – What's wrong with Zac Robinson? That's the question Oklahoma State fans are asking after the first two games of the 2009 season. Robinson entered his senior season averaging 4.9 rushing yards with a career passing efficiency of 155.28 with 51 touchdowns just 19 interceptions. But he's played nothing like the school's all-time total offense leader the last two weeks. So, what's wrong?

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Robinson has rushed for just 56 yards in the Cowboys' first two games (for an average of 2.5 yards per attempt) after running for more than 1,553 yards the last three seasons. His passing efficiency is 129.06 and he has just three touchdowns through the first two weeks of the season.

Robinson missed almost two weeks of fall practice with a hamstring injury, which head coach Mike Gundy believes has hurt his early season production. But the OSU offensive staff is just like Cowboy fans in trying to figure out why the Robinson they've seen the past two weeks does not resemble the one who accounted for more than 3,600 yards of total offense in 2008.

"Zac is giving us everything he has. I don't think there's pressure on him. I really don't," Gundy said when asked about Robinson during his weekly Monday news conference. "Zac and I have had a discussion that all I want him to do is play to the highest level that he can, and give great effort. That's all he can do.

"I think early in camp when he missed 10, 12 days, however many days it was, where he couldn't practice, I think it affected him some. He's healthy now, and we have 100 percent confidence in him to make plays," Gundy added.

Robinson and the Cowboy offense struggled at times in Saturday's 45-35 loss to Houston. They committed three turnovers ¬– a missed exchange between Robinson and Kendall Hunter on a zone read that led to a Houston fumble recovery, Robinson's mishandling of a shotgun snap in the fourth quarter also recovered by the Cougars, and then an interception that bounced off Dez Bryant's hands into a Houston cornerback that was returned for the game-clinching touchdown.

Those are not the type of plays that Gundy has not seen out of Robinson in recent seasons.

Gundy said, "You kind of speak out of both sides of your mouth when you're standing in my shoes because the teams that are winning (is because) the quarterback is playing at a high level. You can take a team that's very, very talented, or you can take a team that's medium, or a team that's may not as talented but if their quarterback can make plays they've got a chance. That's the way college football is now.

"Whether you're a running quarterback, whether you're a throwing quarterback, or one of those guys who does a little bit of both like Zac, if you perform at a high level your team has a chance to win," Gundy added.

The Cowboys had 70 plays in which they gained 20 or more yards during the 2008 season (25 rushing and 45 passing). But they've had just eight (two rushing and six passing) through the first two games this season. Robinson's longest run has been a 14-yard gain, and the Cowboys have only had one passing play of more than 30 yards – the 46-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Bryant for OSU's first touchdown against Georgia.

Robinson put on about 15 pounds in the offseason to better handle the punishment that comes with being a multi-dimensional quarterback. But has the extra weight slowed him down? Is he still attempting to overcome the mental hurdle from the hamstring injury last month during fall drills?

"I think he's gone through some of that (handling the mental aspect of overcoming an injury. That's affected him a little bit," Gundy said. "I'm not making excuses for him. Zac doesn't want to make excuses for himself, nor am I going to do it for him, but there's probably some truth to that. Will he overcome that? I think he will."

Robinson and the Cowboys couldn't ask for a better opponent than the Rice Owls to cure their woes. The Owls have allowed 99 points and 1,076 total yards in losing to Alabama-Birmingham and Texas Tech. Rice is ranked116th in total defense, 120th in pass defense, and 120th in scoring defense (out of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision).

Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Boone Pickens Stadium.

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