After being dealt their first loss by a seemingly unlikely foe last week, Oklahoma State likely won’t be caught off guard by a middling Kansas State team.
The 21st-ranked Cowboys look to get their high-octane attack back on track Saturday night when they host the Wildcats in a matchup between the last two Big 12 champions.
Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) got off to a rough start in league play after being named the preseason favorite to claim its second conference crown in three years. The Cowboys fell last Saturday, 30-21, at West Virginia, which was coming off a 37-0 loss to Maryland.
They had averaged 45.3 points and 26 first downs per game through their first three weeks, but converted only 18 first downs Saturday.
However, Oklahoma State has shown a strong ability to regroup under coach Mike Gundy. The Cowboys are 10-1 in regular-season games immediately following losses dating to Nov. 17, 2007, and 31-1 versus unranked teams at home going back to 2006.
“We have to approach it the same every week,” said Gundy, whose team fell 10 spots in the AP poll. “It never really changes for us. There’s been a considerable number of times in the last few years where we’re ranked in the top 10 in the country and you’re worried about looking past an opponent, and now we’re saying that we’ve got to put that one aside and get ready for the next opponent. It’s the same thing.”
Sophomore quarterback J.W. Walsh, who completed 70.2 percent of his passes in the first three contests, was 20 for 47 (42.6 percent), the lowest single-game completion percentage by a Cowboys quarterback in a regular-season game in more than six years.
Walsh missed last year’s 44-30 loss at then-No. 3 Kansas State due to a knee injury, and the Wildcats picked off Clint Chelf and Wes Lunt four times. Walsh was picked off twice by the Mountaineers after Oklahoma State committed one turnover in its three wins.
“We can’t let West Virginia beat us twice. We just have to move forward and only focus on K-State this week,” Walsh said. “I think the vibe of the team right now is that we’re really focused and we’re ready to get back to work. We were disappointed after Saturday and we’re anxious to get back on the field.”
Things should be easier for Walsh if the Cowboys can re-establish their running game. They entered last week with 10 scores on the ground but all three touchdowns against West Virginia came through the air. The Mountaineers held the Cowboys to 2.8 yards per carry after Oklahoma State averaged 4.1 coming in. Top running back Jeremy Smith had just one yard on 15 carries.
Smith could find more holes against Kansas State (2-2, 0-1), which allows 185.5 rushing yards per game, eighth-worst in the Big 12. The Wildcats haven’t played since a 31-21 loss at Texas on Sept. 21 when the Longhorns piled up 227 yards on the ground. They also yielded 215 yards rushing in a 24-21 season-opening loss to FCS school North Dakota State.
Kansas State is minus-five in turnovers after committing three against Texas and forcing none.
“A lot of people needed this bye week to get their heads together,” said Tyler Lockett, whose 469 receiving yards lead the Big 12. “Just to be able to relax and just think about the future of what we’re trying to get to this year and everything we’re trying to accomplish.”
Oklahoma State wide receiver Charlie Moore has just 12 receptions for 134 yards on the year, but he caught seven passes for a career-high 135 yards and a score in last year’s meeting.
Kansas State won its two road games against ranked opponents last year, knocking off Oklahoma and West Virginia.
The Cowboys had taken three straight meetings prior to last year’s defeat.