STILLWATER, Okla. – Despite injuries to several key starters this season, No. 21 Oklahoma State has managed to simply plug in the next player on the depth chart and move on.
The latest setback came when starting cornerback Ashton Lampkin went down with what appeared to be a right ankle injury early in a 45-35 win over Texas Tech last week.
Freshman Ramon Richards stepped onto a college field for the first time in relief. After getting called for pass interference on his first snap and giving up a touchdown pass shortly after that, Richards settled in to make five tackles, and even came up with a key interception.
Coach Mike Gundy stuck with his past tradition of not addressing his players' injury status, saying only, "I hope he's practicing on Tuesday," regarding Lampkin.
While Gundy admitted that putting such an inexperienced player on the field made him uncomfortable, he had good things to say about Richards and fellow freshman Juwan Offray.
"He was a high school quarterback, really, so not only is he a freshman playing in this league, but he was playing on offense last year," Gundy said of Richards. "He's very bright, his work habits are great. He's really going to have to develop much quicker than we wanted him to.
"Offray plays and he plays, and they're both true freshmen. They've both done very well, but as a coach, you want to have some experience at your backup, and it just worked out that this season we don't have that luxury, so those two guys have been pressed into it."
Lampkin, a junior who had 24 tackles with a pass breakup in limited action last season, was thriving as a first-time starter for the Cowboys (3-1, 1-0 Big 12).
"Ashton was having a phenomenal year, breaking on the ball well, a great attitude, few missed assignments," defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. "I was very pleased and would definitely rather him be out there, but it's part of the game, and everybody realizes that.
"Injuries will always happen. That's why it's so important that you recruit, and that's why there is 85 scholarships. You've got to have depth to have really good seasons."
Starting safety Larry Stephens and Hill both missed time during the Texas Tech game but managed to return.
Just as when starting quarterback J.W. Walsh went down in the first quarter of the Cowboys' second game of the year, and when starting running back Desmond Roland was forced out of the lineup for a game and a half, Oklahoma State will insert the next man up into the lineup and keep going. The Cowboys host Iowa State on Saturday.
Daxx Garman has stepped in at quarterback and been impressive, throwing for 370 yards and four touchdowns against Tech last week and ranking third in the Big 12 with 301 yards passing per game. Without Roland, the Cowboys received strong performances from reserves Tyreek Hill and Rennie Childs in the running game.
Junior defensive end Jimmy Bean wasn't surprised to see Richards come up with an interception on his 9-yard-line with the game tied early in the second quarter.
"We have confidence in a lot of the second-string guys when they come in the game," said Bean, who had eight tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles against the Red Raiders. "We've seen guys do those same plays, and make the same interception, at practice, so this isn't a big surprise for us.
"We knew that when he stepped in, he was going to still perform at the same level as Ashton."