STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) No. 16 Oklahoma State, currently enjoying its bye week, is in an enviable position.
The Cowboys (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) have overcome some rather underwhelming performances to claim three Big 12 victories in dramatic, down-to-the-wire fashion.
Their running game has struggled to be productive much of the year, quarterback Mason Rudolph just threw a career-high three interceptions in his last game and OSU has been awful on first downs, averaging just 3.1 yards in conference play. They averaged just 2.5 yards last Saturday in a 33-26 overtime win at West Virginia.
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Yet Oklahoma State remains undefeated, and while they still have to face the Big 12's three best teams, they get them all at home later in the season.
''We definitely believe that we haven't even come close to playing our best game,'' said senior receiver David Glidden, who leads the squad with 28 receptions for 457 yards and three touchdowns. ''We're 6-0, it's the bye week, a great schedule coming up to finish the year, and we couldn't be happier right now with where we're at.''
Oklahoma State has done just enough to win, coming through in the clutch. On Sept. 26, they trailed 27-24 before Ben Grogan kicked field goals of 41 and 40 yards in the final 1:33 to win at Texas. Then, on Oct. 3, they battled back from a 28-13 second quarter deficit and trailed 34-33 to Kansas State at home before Grogan kicked the winning field goal with 32 seconds to play.
Last Saturday, they squandered a 17-2 halftime lead at West Virginia, but found a way to prevail in OT.
''They're resilient,'' coach Mike Gundy said of his players. ''The two places where we won close games on the road are not easy to win, so we're very proud of them for that. They were able to stay calm, absorb information, had a great attitude, and they played really hard at the end of the game.''
As for Rudolph, the sophomore quarterback has thrown a total of six interceptions in the last three games, with four touchdowns, after tossing just five picks (and 11 TDs) in his first six outings. He still ranks eighth in the nation, with 1,892 passing yards this season.
Gundy, himself a former quarterback, believes improving the running game, which has averaged just 137.5 yards per game (102nd out of 128 FBS schools) and 3.7 yards per carry (101st), will help Rudolph.
''We're throwing too many interceptions, and turnovers will eventually catch us,'' Gundy acknowledged. ''If we will run the ball better, it'll reduce his interceptions. They work together.''
Gundy said the Cowboys were utilizing the extra practice time of the bye week to make some adjustments to their ground attack.
''We're going to make some changes from a scheme standpoint, and hopefully get enough work that it will benefit us in the next game,'' Gundy said. ''And then we'll have to re-evaluate ourselves after that game, and then move forward.''
Gundy, whose team next faces Kansas (0-5, 0-2) at home on Oct. 24, noted that the struggles on first down are also being addressed.
''We stink on first down, I don't know what else to say,'' Gundy said. ''We have to find a way to improve that average a couple of yards. You would like to be, at minimum, three and a half (yards per play) on first down. We're going to make some changes and try to schematically come up with some answers to help our players.''
Still, the Cowboys are unbeaten, and with three of their final four contests at home - against No. 3 TCU on Nov. 7, No. 2 Baylor on Nov. 21, and No. 19 Oklahoma on Nov. 28 - they will play a major role in determining the Big 12 champion.