Stillwater, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - The 21st-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys will try to bounce back as they host the Kansas State Wildcats in a Big 12 Conference matchup at Boone Pickens Stadium.
After three impressive wins to kickoff the 2013 campaign, Oklahoma State suffered a surprising, 30-21, loss to West Virginia in Morgantown. Coach Mike Gundy's team won its first three games over Mississippi State, Texas-San Antonio and Lamar by an average of 31.6 points. The Cowboys have been very tough at home in recent history, winning 14 of their last 15 games at Boone Pickens Stadium.
The Wildcats should be well rested as they are coming off of a bye week. KSU fell to 2-2 on the season after it was defeated, 31-21, by Texas in their Big 12 opener. Coach Bill Snyder's squad allowed the Longhorns to take a 17-0 lead by the 3:02 mark of the second quarter and came up short as it tried to put together a late rally to overcome the deficit. KSU has shown signs of improvement already. After converting on just 2-of-10 third downs in their season-opening loss to FCS foe North Dakota State, the Wildcats have moved the chains on 24-of-41 third-down chances.
OSU holds a 36-23 edge in its all-time series versus the Wildcats, including a 19-8 record in Stillwater. KSU managed to down the Cowboys, 44-30, in Manhattan last season for just its second win in the last six meetings.
Although there is still a whole lot of room for improvement, OSU has shown it will be a difficult unit to slow down, posting 474 yards of total offense and 39.3 points per outing through four games. The Cowboys picked up 433 offensive yards and limited the Mountaineers to 388 total yards last week, but fell to 0-1 in Big 12 play because of three turnovers, two missed field goal tries and a 6-of-20 success rate on third-down conversions. J.W. Walsh completed 20- of-47 passes for 322 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss. The sophomore signal caller has led the team in rushing on three occasions this season. Walsh is the only Big 12 quarterback with a 300-yard passing game and a 100-yard rushing game on his 2013 resume. Jeremy Smith has netted only 44.2 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry as the feature back, but he has managed to run across the goal six times.
"We can't let West Virginia beat us twice," said Walsh. "We've got to move forward and only focus on Kansas State this week. We need to focus on beating them. We're a great football team with a lot of leadership and a lot of talent. If you combine all of those things, we'll bounce back fine."
Walsh has one of the most dynamic targets in the nation in Josh Stewart, who was a 2012 First-Team All-Big selection as a sophomore. The junior wideout surpassed the century mark in receiving yards for the first time this season versus WVU as he pulled in seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Tracy Moore had his best game of the season at WVU also, making five receptions for 89 yards and a score.
While the result of the contest may suggest otherwise, the Cowboys' defensive unit played very well last week against WVU. Mountaineers QB Clint Trickett was able to pass for 309 yards and a touchdown, but he completed less than 50 percent of his attempts and was picked off twice. The Cowboys also held WVU to just 68 rushing yards with a 1.7 average per attempt. OSU has the best rushing defense in the Big 12 with only 108.8 yards allowed per game, however it giving up a league-high 258.8 ypg through the air. Through four games this season, Caleb Lavey leads the team, ranks seventh in the Big 12 and 76th nationally in tackles per game with 8.3 He also leads the team with 4.5 tackles for loss. Lavey tied his career high with 12 stops last week at WVU.
Trickett was not an easy foe to prepare for as he was the third different player to start under center for WVU. Lavey and company are going to have to be prepared to stop KSU's dual quarterback system that features athletic sophomore Daniel Sams and junior Jake Waters, who was the 2012 NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year.
"Both of them have the capacity to do either side, but by and large, we just have to do a better job," said coach Snyder after the team's loss to Texas on Sept. 21. "Both of them deserve to play. Both of them are good players. They made a lot of mistakes. We've got to do a better job. We didn't coach this game very well. We need to do a better job being able to utilize both of them because they're both going to play. It's that simple, but we have got to do a better job utilizing them to their full capacity."
Sams rarely airs it out when he is leading the offense, but the scrambler is an effective runner that has averaged 7.1 yards per carry en route to 205 yards and three touchdowns. John Hubert is just 33 yards ahead of him for the team- lead despite having rushed the ball twice as many times. Hubert scored a pair of touchdowns his last time out. Waters has completed 67 percent of his pass attempts for 948 yards, although he will be looking to improve his four TDs to five interceptions ratio.
Tyler Lockett will hope to sustain his high level of play after making 13 catches for a new school record of 237 yards against Texas. The junior wideout is ranked second in the Big 12 with 117.2 receiving yards per game and leads the conference with an average of 157.2 all-purpose yards per outing.
KSU is ranked in the bottom half of the conference in both scoring defense and total defense, allowing 22.2 points and 377.8 yards per contest. The Wildcats failed to force any turnovers their last time out against the Longhorns, who tallied 243 of their 452 offensive yards on the ground. Blake Slaughter finished the game with 10 tackles and has registered at least seven stops in every game thus far.