Oklahoma State was considered the preseason in the Big 12 and after a strong 3-0 start, the No. 21 Cowboys seemed well on their way.
After a disappointing 30-21 loss at West Virginia last weekend, Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) is looking to rebound Saturday at home against Kansas State (2-2, 0-1) and show they still deserve contender status.
"We want to get the taste out of our mouths and move forward and get back to Oklahoma State football," said quarterback J.W. Walsh, who completed just 20 of 47 passes last Saturday with two interceptions. "Last week wasn't really us, we don't usually make that many mistakes. We want to prove something, that we aren't the team that we showed on Saturday. We're a much better team."
The Wildcats, who are coming off a bye week that followed a 31-21 loss at Texas on Sept. 21, expect to face a motivated Cowboys team.
"They will be angry," coach Bill Snyder said. "I think it is that emotion when you lose a ballgame — the real competitive people get very upset about it and anger can be channeled in the right direction to help perform."
Having a week off allowed the defending Big 12 champions to focus on some areas that need improvement.
"This week we have been working hard on the fundamentals," Kansas State defensive end Marquel Bryant said. "We are trying to build our team up to the team we had last year. We have a lot of young guys, and we are trying to get guys to make a bigger impact on the field."
Five things to watch as Oklahoma State plays at home for the just the second time in their last eight games:
RED ALERT: After scoring on all 15 trips inside the red zone over their first three games, the Cowboys advanced inside the 20 just once last week against West Virginia. Midway through the fourth quarter and trailing by three, Oklahoma State reached second-and-goal at the 1, but came away with nothing in what may have been the defining sequence of the game. Kansas State had also enjoyed success in the red zone, scoring six touchdowns and two field goals on eight visits to the red zone in its first three games before losing fumbles twice in the red zone against Texas.
FAMILIARITY BUT NOT CONTEMPT: Oklahoma State defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements spent the previous four seasons on Snyder's staff at K-State, as well as another three-year stint from 2003-05. "I obviously care about the players and coaches over there," Clements said. "I've spent a lot of time practicing against Kansas State's offense, but now that I'm an opponent, I'm seeing it through a different set of eyes."
FRESH TURNOVERS: After turning the ball over just once in their first three games, the Cowboys committed three turnovers against West Virginia - two Walsh interceptions and a lost fumble by running back Jeremy Smith. K-State is also looking to better secure of the ball after losing three fumbles to Texas.
THIRD-DOWN BATTLE: The Wildcats have been outstanding on third downs this season, converting 59 percent (23 of 39) of their third-and-10 or fewer situations. They'll be going up against an Oklahoma State defense that has limited opponents to just a 31 percent conversion rate, third-best in the Big 12, after holding West Virginia to 8 of 22 last week.
KICK START: Oklahoma State needs a boost from its kicking game. Last week, freshman kicker Ben Grogan missed two field goals, including a potential game-tying 23-yarder in the fourth quarter that hit the upright. On the season, Grogan is just 1 for 4.