Tulsa, OK – The eighth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys hit the conference contest of the season for OSU.
Mike Gundy's Cowboys have looked dominant thus far in 2011 with a pair of rather easy victories, topping Louisiana in the season-opener (61-34), followed by last Thursday's win over Arizona (37-14). OSU has won nine of its last 10 road games so playing outside of Stillwater isn't a problem for the Cowboys.
First-year coach Bill Blankenship was done no favors with Tulsa's early season schedule. The team opened the year against top-ranked Oklahoma and the result was an expected one, a 47-14 lopsided affair in favor of the Sooners. The team however did bounce back last weekend with a 31-3 drubbing of Tulane in Conference USA action, giving Blankenship his first victory at the helm. Following this game, the Golden Hurricane will travel to powerhouse Boise State.
Last season Oklahoma State rolled to a 65-28 victory over Tulsa in Stillwater to improve to 39-27-5 all-time against the Golden Hurricane. It marked the fourth straight win in the series for OSU.
Everyone knew Oklahoma State would be an offensive juggernaut once again in 2011, but the early numbers are actually more impressive than originally anticipated. Over the course of the first two games, OSU has put up 49.0 points and 630.0 yards of total offense per game. The passing game, led by All-American candidate Brandon Weeden and Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon has been unstoppable at 427.5 yards per game. The ground game, without former star Kendall Hunter, hasn't missed a beat at 202.5 yards per game.
Weeden has been sensational, completing 71.7 percent of his passes thus far, for 785 yards and five TDs. It certainly helps to have Blackmon giving secondaries fits. The 6-1 junior star has already hauled in 20 receptions, for 272 yards and two TDs, including 128 yards and two scores last week against Arizona.
Joseph Randle has been awesome both on the ground and coming out of the backfield for Oklahoma State. The sophomore tailback is averaging 125.0 yards per game thus far, on nearly seven yards per carry (6.8). He had 121 yards on the ground and another 99 through the air against the Wildcats last week.
Coach Blankenship joked in answering a question regarding how to stop OSU's offensive attack.
"We're probably going to have to stake someone out when they get off the bus. There has not been a whole lot of success in disrupting what they've done in the first two weeks of the season. Offensively, I think, at least to date, they are the best collection of weapons that we've seen. Oklahoma was really good, but I think the collection of all the different receivers and running backs that Oklahoma State brings to the table is certainly very impressive. You've seen very little pressure put on (Brandon Weeden) and when you have, he's handled it very well."
The OSU defense has long played second-fiddle in Stillwater and it doesn't look like that will change in 2011. The rush defense has been stout thus far at a mere 74.5 ypg and 2.6 ypc, but the pass defense has been much more generous. A lot of that has to do with teams being forced to play catch up, abandoning gameplans to air it out. The result has been 305.0 passing yards per game for the opposition. The Cowboys have recorded 10 TFLs and six sacks already, so big play potential is apparent.
Senior safety Markelle Martin leads the team in tackles with 16. Junior tackle Nigel Nicholas (five tackles) leads the way with two sacks.
With their own star under center, the Golden Hurricane will have opportunities against the Cowboys' pass defense. Senior G.J. Kinne is one of the top gunslingers in Conference USA and has gotten off to a strong start, completing 62.9 percent of his throws thus far, for 512 yards and five TDs. Kinne ranks third in school history in both passing yards (6,894) and TD passes (58).
Kinne has been handcuffed a bit this season without star Damaris Johnson in the lineup. Johnson, who is the NCAA's all-time leader in all-purpose yards, is suspended indefinitely. Junior Bryan Burnham has stepped up in Johnson's absence, leading the team with 10 catches, for 162 yards and three TDs.
The numbers won't look good defensively after the first month of the season for Tulsa, as the trio of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State, will skew the stats for even the stingiest defenses. The current numbers are already reflecting the level of competition, with the team allowing 25.0 ppg on a hefty 449.0 yards per outing.
Senior middle linebacker Cornelius Arnick has been extremely active in the first two games, pacing the team with 26 tackles. However, the defense as a whole has just two sacks. Getting upfield and disrupting the opposition is a must with Weeden on tap and Boise State's Kellen Moore next on the docket.
Gundy expects Tulsa to fight tooth and nail in this one.
"It will be a good challenge for us playing down the road here at Tulsa. Obviously they played very well last week. Their defense has been in the right spot and making plays. The quarterback is a good player and they're going to play fast and spread it around. It should be good for both schools."