STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma State is facing its first bit of adversity this season.
The preseason Big 12 favorites were upset 31-20 by West Virginia in their league opener Saturday and dropped 10 spots in the AP poll to No. 21.
The loss was largely self-inflicted with the Cowboys missing two field goals, kicking two punts of 20 yards or less, dropping balls, making inaccurate throws and coughing up three turnovers. The running game stumbled, too.
Overcoming the bitterness of losing a game they feel they should have won will be the first challenge as Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) prepares to host defending conference champion Kansas State (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday.
"We can't let West Virginia beat us twice. We just have to move forward and only focus on K-State this week," said quarterback J.W. Walsh, who completed 20 of 47 passes for 322 yards, throwing three touchdown passes and two interceptions on Saturday. "I think the vibe of the team right now is that we're really focused and we're ready to get back to work. We were disappointed after Saturday and we're anxious to get back on the field."
Noting that there are always positives and negatives that come out of every game, defensive tackle Calvin Barnett dismissed the notion that the Cowboys need to simply erase the West Virginia game from their collective memories.
"We just got to stay positive as a team, stay in the film room, be accountable for everything that we did wrong, because no one is going to play a perfect game, win or lose," said Barnett. "We have to keep that in our minds."
Coach Mike Gundy indicated that dealing with the players wouldn't be any different than usual.
"We have to approach it the same every week," Gundy said. "It never really changes for us. There's been a considerable number of times in the last few years where we're ranked in the top 10 in the country and you're worried about looking past an opponent, and now we're saying that we've got to put that one aside and get ready for the next opponent. It's the same thing."
While plenty of blame could be placed on the running game, exemplified by starting running back Jeremy Smith's rough outing, gaining 1 yard on 15 carries, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said all aspects of the offense were liable.
"It's really shared responsibility," Yurcich said. "It's really not about one guy, it's about the whole unit getting better."
Oklahoma State fell behind late in the first quarter and spent the majority of the game trying to battle back, so they were more inclined to pass. Still, the ground attack, which gained 111 yards overall on 40 carries, did not move the ball nearly as effectively as when Walsh threw the ball.
"We have to have a balanced attack," said Gundy, whose squad scored a total of 115 points in its previous two outings. "We have to be effective at play-pass, screens, misdirection, throwing it, quick game, to allow the run game to work. And then the pass game is based on that. Because we weren't really good at one, we weren't very good at the other. And then we turn the ball over, we don't get in a rhythm, we're behind in the game and then we're playing catch-up."
Doubters make the Cowboys more determined to re-establish themselves as Big 12 contenders.
"We want to get the taste out of our mouths and move forward and get back to Oklahoma State football," Walsh said. "Last week wasn't really us, we don't usually make that many mistakes on the football field and we're ready to get back out there and correct those. We want to prove something, that we aren't the team that we showed on Saturday."