After beating its toughest opponent to date, Oklahoma State remains in the thick of the Big 12 championship race.
While the 15th-ranked Cowboys conclude the regular season with three conference powerhouses, Saturday’s matchup against woeful Kansas shouldn’t prove nearly as challenging.
Oklahoma State goes for a fifth consecutive victory and fourth in a row over the Jayhawks, who haven’t won a conference game in three years.
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After carrying the ball 26 times for 219 yards and four touchdowns in a 58-27 win at Iowa State on Oct. 26, Desmond Roland ran for 96 yards and three more scores last Saturday as the Cowboys (7-1, 4-1) won 52-34 at then-No. 15 Texas Tech.
Clint Chelf threw for a season-high 211 yards and two touchdowns, adding 88 yards and two more scores on the ground.
“I really like how our guys play, I like their chemistry,” coach Mike Gundy said. “I thought it was a really good effort. A good win for our team. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re starting to get a little bit better.”
In the mix with Texas, No. 5 Baylor and No. 12 Oklahoma near the top of the crowded Big 12, Oklahoma State’s final three games come against the Longhorns, Bears and Sooners. While winning each of those contests could prove crucial if the Cowboys hope to claim the conference title, their focus remains solely on Kansas (2-6, 0-5).
“We talked (Sunday) night as a team only about Kansas,” Gundy said. “That’s the great thing about college football. The way the BCS is set up, essentially we’re in March Madness every week.”
Oklahoma State has taken eight of nine from the Jayhawks, including a 70-28 rout in the last home matchup Oct. 8, 2011. The Cowboys, though, held on for a 20-14 win in Lawrence last season.
“It’s what we have at stake,” receiver Josh Stewart said of not overlooking the Jayhawks. “We want to win the Big 12 championship, and not all of our past few games against Kansas have been blowouts.
“As a team, you can’t go in with too much confidence knowing you’re going to win. You’ve got to go in and practice like you’re playing the top team in the country.”
Oklahoma State has scored at least 20 points in 47 consecutive games since the start of 2010, the longest active streak in the country. The Cowboys figure to have a big edge over the Jayhawks, who are last in the conference with 17.1 points per contest.
Kansas has averaged 15.4 points during a 26-game losing streak in conference play since beating Colorado — currently of the Pac-12 — by a 52-45 score Nov. 6, 2010. The Jayhawks’ last win over a current Big 12 team came 41-36 over Iowa State on Oct. 10, 2009.
“We are going to go out the same as we have every week,” Cowboys defensive tackle Calvin Barnett said. “It doesn’t matter if they aren’t as high powered as Texas Tech. … They have pretty much been in every game until late. So we’re just going to go out there, play aggressive, start fast and try to get a lot of turnovers.”
Kansas, which has been outscored 209-79 during a five-game losing streak overall, saw its struggles continue last Saturday in a 35-13 defeat at Texas. Jake Heaps completed 11 of 21 passes for 160 yards as the Jayhawks were held to 306 yards of total offense.
“We came wanting to take this game away from them,” Heaps said. “We needed to finish a couple of drives. We got some field goals, but I wish we really could have gotten some points out of those drives. One play can change the course of the game.
“We hung in there and I think it was a closer game than what the score says. But it’s unfortunate because we missed an opportunity.”
Things aren’t about to get any easier against a Cowboys team that ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 21.4 points per game.
Defensive back Tyler Patmon, who spent the first three years of his collegiate career with Kansas before transferring to Oklahoma State, ranks second on the Cowboys with eight pass breakups and has 14 tackles, three for loss.