Cowboys vow not to overlook McNeese, focuses on improving

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              FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2019, file photo, Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders is shown during an NCAA football game against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. He wasn’t named the starter until right before kickoff, but after a winning a lengthy battle with Hawaii grad transfer Dru Brown to take over as Oklahoma State’s quarterback, redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders enjoyed an impressive debut in the Cowboys’ 52-36 victory over Oregon State Friday night. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File)
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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy acknowledged that his team, coming off a strong performance in a 52-36 victory at Oregon State last week, has a significant advantage on paper in its home opener Saturday against McNeese.

Gundy emphasized that the primary focus is on improving and insists his team won’t overlook anything.

“Every game is important,” Gundy said. “People say, ‘Is this a big game this week?’ It’s a big game for us, because we need to continue to improve, and we know that overall, our talent level should be better than McNeese. We know that. There’s no reason for me to say anything other. So for us, every player in each phase of the game needs to improve a little bit every day.”

McNeese, an FCS school located in Lake Charles, La., plays in the Southland Conference and is also called the Cowboys. They beat Southern 34-28 to open the season in front of a record home crowd of 20,437.

First-year head coach Sterlin Gilbert is approaching the contest much like Gundy is.

“Just focus on us, and the biggest thing is, we need to go control the things we can control,” Gilbert said. “We know they’re a good football team and we know what we got to grow to from Week 1 to Week 2, so those are things we’re going to make heavy emphasis of, and go play with them. Every Saturday, you never know what could happen, you got to go out and play and put yourself in a situation to be successful, and that’s what we plan to do this Saturday.”

SANDERS ENCORE

After winning a lengthy competition with Hawaii grad transfer Dru Brown to be Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback, redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders enjoyed an outstanding debut. He completed 19 of 24 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 109 yards on 13 carries at Oregon State. That represented the most rushing yards by an Oklahoma State quarterback since J.W. Walsh had 125 in 2013.

RUNNING DOWNHILL I

McNeese employed a diverse running game in its opener, as four different players rushed the ball over 10 times each, including quarterback Cody Orgeron, who gained 33 yards on 13 carries. Junior transfer Elijah Mack led the group with 45 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushes in his McNeese debut after arriving from South Florida. Justin Pratt had 39 yards on 11 carries and J’Cobi Skinner, who carried the ball just three times all last season, ran 11 times for 31 yards and a TD. Overall, the Cowboys rushed for 154 yards.

RUNNING DOWNHILL II

Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard piled up for a career-high 221 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries last week to finish as the nation’s top rusher.

“There are a lot of things I have to work on,” said Hubbard, whose numbers would have been even more impressive if a 53-yard touchdown run hadn’t been called back due to a holding penalty. “On some of the plays I need to be more patient, but I was happy with how it worked out.”

TURNOVER BATTLE

McNeese forced Southern into six fumbles, recovering five, including two by cornerback Calum Foster. McNeese’s plus-5 turnover ratio leads the country after Week 1.

THIRD DOWN SUCCESS

Oklahoma State’s offense excelled on third downs in the win over Oregon State, converting 10 of 13, good for second in the nation after Week 1. They were 6 of 7 in the first half, when they scored on all five possessions, including four touchdowns, while building up a 31-16 lead at halftime. Four of those first-half drives included at least one third down conversion.