Oklahoma State 101: The Opening Salvo

IN MANY WAYS, Oklahoma State is a kindred spirit to Washington State. They are a rural, land grant institution, where the football program has traditionally played second fiddle to its in-state rival. Much like WSU, they have squandered their offensive strength through defensive weakness in recent years. But unlike their Cougar counterparts, the Cowboys have found ways to finish at crunch time.

Although they have not contended for conference supremacy, OSU has also won two consecutive bowl games. They've been to the post season five times in the last six.

The Cowboys return 17 starters from last year's 7-6 Insight Bowl squad, including junior left offensive tackle Russell Okung, making his 22nd straight start, who leads a corps of hosses that returns intact from last season when they led the Big 12 in rushing and in fewest sacks allowed. They will be more seasoned than their opponent. But the Cowboys have also struggled with potent offenses under Mike Gundy and are also only 3-11 on the road in his tenure, and confidence could prove fleeting. If the Cougs can live up to their potential on offense, there is plenty of opportunity for an upset to start the season.
Cougars (0-0) vs Cowboys (0-0)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
12:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Quest Field (67,000)

TELEVISION:
FSN National

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
Oklahoma State by 7

LAST MEETING:
1952 in Stillwater, WSU won 9-7.

THE SERIES:
Washington State leads the series 2-0

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 44, Cowboys 41



THE COWBOYS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Zac Robinson, QB: The junior quarterback is one of the more dynamic playmakers in the game. Very accurate arm and very dangerous with his feet if the play breaks down. He threw for 2,800 yards and 23 touchdowns while running for over 800 yards and 9 scores last year.
Dez Bryant, WR: Big play target with great body control. Gained 622 yards as a true freshman last year. The sky is the limit on his potential.
Brandon Pettegrew, TE: Pro-level size and hands. Won't dominate the game but should provide a consistent target for Robinson.

Overview
The Cowboys run a very balanced, high octane offense. Last year they generated exactly 3,161 yards each in passing and rushing. They return 8 starters off last year's squad including a complete set of offensive linemen. Expect the Cowboys to build off of the running game first and spread the workload between a number of backs as they try to wear down the Cougar D.

Strategy
This will be a huge test for the Cougars new defense. WSU was going to be rebuilding its personnel anyway, but it may be WSU's best kept hope that the Cowboys have very little tape on the Cougar players or system. Containing such as balanced attack will be a daunting task, but at least the Cougs have the benefit of the x-factor.

THE COWBOYS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Andre Sexton, LB/FS: Sexton is their best defender and they will move in around in a mixture of formations to try to maximize his effect. He plays his natural safety position when they are in 4-2-5, but will move up to a linebacker slot when they switch to 4-3.
Jeray Chatham, DT: The strength in the middle of the Cowboys line, Chatham played in every game and started 10 last season.

Overview
OSU's defense has been the glaring weakness in the Gundy era. They've given up an average of 39 points per game in the 19 losses under his watch. The Cowboy faithful have been involved with way to many shootouts for their taste and are looking for a more respectable defensive effort.

Strategy
Attacking this defense isn't just recommended, it is essential. The Cowboys can give up points in bunches, but even great offensive performances can come up short against this team. Texas Tech and Kansas State both lost to OSU last year despite scoring 45 and 39 points respectively. The secondary was the primary culprit in OSU's losses and even when they show nickel, Gary Rogers needs to test them.

THE COWBOYS ON SPECIAL TEAM
Kicker Dan Bailey is a bit of a question market but punter Matt Fodge has solid leg. Perrish Cox is a dangerous return man, with two career returns for score, (two kickoff and one punt), to his credit.

FINAL THOUGHTS
WSU and OSU were attended by two of America's more prominent sports-aficionado billionaires, Paul Allen and T. Boone Pickens. Both schools are also in the midst of extensive renovations to their home fields. Pickens has financed the lion's share of the facelift to his namesake stadium, while Allen has limited his support to academic endeavors. In a small ironic twist, the teams have opted to play at a neutral stadium that was financed by Allen.

A shootout win would be an exciting way to open the Paul Wulff era. The Cougars will likely need to put up an tremendous amount of points to beat the more experienced Cowboys, but the Cougs unpredictable no-huddle attack offers the potential that OSU might have trouble stopping the bleeding if Gary Rogers gets rolling.


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