Cowboys aim to improve before Big 12 play begins

BY foxsports • September 20, 2010

To the casual observer, Oklahoma State's performance against in-state rival Tulsa looked almost perfect.

The Cowboys scored on 10 straight possessions, posted school records for total offense, passing yards and touchdown passes and shut down Tulsa's potent offense en route to a 65-28 romp on Saturday.

Oklahoma State (3-0) has steadily increased its vote total in The Associated Press Top 25 poll each week, finishing 32nd in the balloting Sunday, just behind Big 12 rival Missouri.

But, with the Cowboys' sloppy 41-38 win over Troy a week earlier still fresh in their minds, players and coaches say there is plenty room for improvement before hosting Texas A&M in the Sept. 30 conference opener.

''We're undefeated,'' defensive coordinator Bill Young said. ''That's good. We're not unscored on. That's bad. ... We're kind of a work in progress.''

After consecutive nine-win seasons, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Oklahoma State, but linebacker Orie Lemon says the players expected more from themselves.

''We knew that we were better than everybody was picking us to be,'' Lemon said.

The mistakes the team makes tend to not show up in practices, he said, ''so we've got to keep practicing and practicing and get better.''

The Cowboys have shown flashes of brilliance punctuated by bouts of inexperience, particularly on offense.

Twice, Oklahoma State has scored 65 points in a game. Receiver Justin Blackmon has emerged as a legitimate star with nine touchdowns in three games to compliment tailback Kendall Hunter, who has 473 yards rushing and appears to have successfully returned from an ankle injury that limited him last season.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden has passed for 975 yards and 11 touchdowns in three games running an offense installed by new coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who spent the last two seasons at Houston and worked before that at Texas Tech under Mike Leach.

''It's a long season,'' Holgorsen said. ''We're going to play a lot of good people, so we're happy with the improvements we've made from last week to this week. The sign of a good football team ... is to able to play with a level of consistency that's able to get you a victory, too. There will be some things (on film) that we've got to correct.''

Weeden said the easy win over Tulsa disguised the fact that Oklahoma State needs continued improvement on offense.

''If you're just looking with the naked eye from the stands, it did look great,'' Weeden said. ''But there are still little technical things that we'll see (on film) and go, `We've got to correct them.' We've got to get better for A&M.''

Despite some issues with tackling, the defense has recovered six fumbles, including three in the second half to preserve the win over Troy. Andrew McGee made a game-changing play against Tulsa as the Golden Hurricane appeared ready to cut into a 27-7 Oklahoma State lead.

McGee stepped in front of a pass by Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne and intercepted it five yards deep in the end zone. Instead of taking a knee, he returned it 79 yards to the Tulsa 21. On the next play, Weeden hit Blackmon for a touchdown, making it 34-7.

''We are still just working and trying to become one of those elite teams,'' safety Markelle Martin said.

Coach Mike Gundy said the open date before the Thursday night, nationally televised game against Texas A&M comes at a good time for the Cowboys. He said the players will be given a day or two off, and coaches will have time to go on the road and recruit.

The extended time off also figures to be good for Weeden, who injured the thumb on his right (throwing) hand in the season opener and has been playing with a splint on it ever since.

''It's good for the players to catch their breath,'' Gundy said. ''It's good for the coaches to catch their breath and to go home and spend some time with their families. I don't really know how good we are, to be honest with you. I think we'll have a better feel for where we're at in about a month.''

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