STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma State sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph aims for a steadier performance against Kansas State on Saturday.
In Oklahoma State's 30-27 comeback victory over Texas last Saturday, Rudolph threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, while another pick was called back due to a penalty. He also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Yet Rudolph, playing just his seventh career game, completed 22 of 34 passes for 290 yards and a TD. He'll get his next challenge when the No. 20 Cowboys (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) host Kansas State (3-0, 0-0).
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''He didn't fall off as much as you would think when you watch the tape,'' said OSU coach Mike Gundy, a former quarterback, noting that one of the interceptions was caused by a receiver running the wrong route. ''He needs to play better, but he's still a young player and he's at a position where it shows up more than others.''
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich believes that Rudolph will respond positively against Kansas State.
''He's a guy that has a lot of confidence in himself, and he's a guy that bounces back,'' Yurcich said. ''He has a short memory. He learns from his mistakes, so I have tremendous confidence in him and his ability.''
For Kansas State, which is coming off a bye week, junior quarterback Joe Hubener enjoyed a strong performance last time out. He completed 15 of 26 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns, including two TD passes in overtime, as the Wildcats outlasted Louisiana Tech 39-33 in three overtimes on Sept. 19.
It will be Hubener's first Big 12 road contest, but coach Bill Snyder doesn't think he'll have any issues with the pressure.
''Just be Joe and play your game,'' Snyder said of his advice to Hubener. ''He is a bright, young guy. He seems to handle that well.''
Five things to watch for on Saturday:
1. RUNNING TIME: Oklahoma State's running game produced just 2.2 yards per carry last weekend, and Kansas State presents a strong challenge. The Wildcats' rushing defense tops the Big 12 and ranks eighth in the nation with 78.3 yards allowed per game and 2.4 yards allowed per carry. OSU starting running back Chris Carson, who gained 39 yards on 12 rushes (3.2 average) against Texas before sustaining an undisclosed injury, is questionable. If he can't play, junior backup Rennie Childs, who rushed for 54 yards on a career-high 21 carries last week, will see the bulk of the work.
2. SILMON STEPS UP: After receiving just six carries in each of K-State's first two games, freshman running back Justin Silmon stepped forward as the Wildcats' main ground threat in their last contest against Louisiana Tech. On 24 rushes, Silmon amassed 119 yards and leads the squad with 210 yards overall.
3. SACK ATTACK: Oklahoma State has developed an impressive pass rush, recording seven sacks against Texas last week. Overall, they lead the Big 12 and rank fourth in the nation with 16. Individually, senior defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah is tied for sixth in the country with five sacks, while fellow senior DE Jimmy Bean has four, tied for 14th overall. While Ogbah was on the preseason All-Big 12 team, Bean has flourished under the radar a bit. ''Jimmy has really matured as a person and as a player for us,'' Gundy said. ''Jimmy plays really hard.''
4. GOOD BYE: After a bye last week, Kansas State has had extra time to set its game plan, which Gundy believed puts Oklahoma State at a bit of a disadvantage. ''It's always concerning when you play a team that's had an extra four practices to prepare and rest their team,'' Gundy said. Meanwhile, Snyder felt his squad used the time well. ''I think the week for us has been productive,'' Snyder said. ''We have truly invested a lot of time and effort to try to improve in many of those areas that were concerns for us.''
5. TURNOVERS: While Oklahoma State has forced nine turnovers on the season (although seven came in one game, a 69-14 blowout win over UTSA on Sept. 19), Kansas State has generated just three, and remains the only Big 12 team without an interception so far. ''Turnovers are significant in a ballgame, whether it comes from forcing fumbles or gaining interceptions,'' Snyder said. ''We haven't created enough turnovers, regardless of how they might come.''