Game Notes - Cowboys Open 2013 vs. Mississippi State

Justin Gilbert

Justin Gilbert

Aug 26, 2013

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Cowboy Football This Week
VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE
2:35 p.m. CT | Aug. 31, 2013 | Reliant Stadium (71,054 cap.)

Television: ABC (Bob Wischusen, Rod Gilmore and Quint Kessenich)
Radio: Cowboy Radio Network (Dave Hunziker, John Holcomb and Robert Allen)
National Radio: Westwood One Radio (John Tautges and Chris Doering)
Internet: okstate.com
Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 91 | XM Channel 91
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The Basics
Oklahoma State opens its 112th season of football when it battles Mississippi State at 2:30 p.m. CT on Aug. 31 at Houston's Reliant Stadium in the 2013 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff. It will be OSU's first game in Reliant Stadium since the 2002 Houston Bowl.

In the Polls
Oklahoma State enters 2013 ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press poll and No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Mississippi State is unranked in both polls, but appears in the also receiving votes category of the coaches poll.

Ranking Roundup
The Cowboys are the top-ranked team from the Big 12 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls. It's the fourth time in the last five seasons that Oklahoma State has secured a preseason AP ranking, as the Cowboys were No. 9 going into 2009, No. 9 going into 2011 and No. 19 going into 2012. Tabbed as this year's preseason Big 12 favorite by the media, Oklahoma State returns 20 starters from last year's team, which tied for third place in the Big 12 and trampled Purdue, 58-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

An Oklahoma State Win Would...
• Be the Cowboys' ninth in their last 10 games vs. current members of the Southeastern Conference.
• Improve the Cowboys to 13-1 in their last 14 non-conference games.
• Be the Cowboys' fourth straight neutral site victory.
• Improve the Cowboys to 26-7 in their last 33 season openers.
• Improve the Cowboys to 25-3 in their last 28 games against unranked opponents.

An Oklahoma State Loss Would...
• Mark the Cowboys' first season-opening defeat since 2007.
• Be the Cowboys' first loss on a neutral field since the 2010 Cotton Bowl.
• Snap the Cowboys' streak of three consecutive wins over current members of the SEC.
• Be only their fourth loss to an unranked opponent since the start of the 2010 season.

Power vs. Power
For the fifth time in seven years, Oklahoma State opens against a team from one of the power conferences. The Cowboys have gone toe-to-toe with members of the Southeastern Conference or the Pac-12 to open 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and now 2013.

Oklahoma State vs. Current Members of the SEC
Under Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State has more than held its own against the SEC, racking up a 9-6 record against SEC opposition. The Cowboys are 8-1 in their last nine contests against current members of the SEC. A breakdown:

2008
vs. Texas A&M - W, 56-28 ........ Dez Bryant had eight touches, four of which were touchdowns
at No. 3 Missouri - W, 28-23 ........ Road win over the No. 3 Tigers catapulted OSU's rise to prominence

2009
vs. No. 13 Georgia - W, 24-10 ........ Cowboy defense stifled Bulldog attack, holding UGA to 257 total yards
at Texas A&M - W, 36-31 ........ Missing suspended Dez Bryant and injured Kendall Hunter, OSU still won.
vs. Missouri - W, 33-17 ........ Oklahoma State pitched a second-half shutout
vs. Ole Miss (Cotton Bowl) - L, 21-7 ........ The two teams combined for 12 turnovers - seven for OSU, five for Ole Miss

2010
vs. Texas A&M - W, 38-35 ........ Dan Bailey kicks game-winning walk-off field goal as time expires. Classic game.

2011
at No. 8 Texas A&M - W, 30-29 ........ Pokes erased a 20-3 halftime deficit, steamrolled Aggies in the second half
at Missouri - W, 45-24 ........ Cowboys put 533 yards of offense on the Tigers in Columbia.

Series Capsules - OSU vs. Current Members of the SEC Under Mike Gundy
1-0 vs. Alabama ........Cowboys were 34-31 winners over the Tide in the 2006 Independence Bowl
1-1 vs. Georgia .........Pokes, Dawgs split home-and-home, with each winning on its home field.
0-1 vs. Mississippi ........Cowboys lost a 21-7 decision in the 2010 Cotton Bowl.
3-1 vs. Missouri ........ OSU has won its last three over the Tigers.
4-3 vs. Texas A&M ........OSU has won its last four over the Aggies.

Oklahoma State in Non-Conference Games
Oklahoma State is 12-1 in its last 13 non-conference games, dating back to the start of the 2010 season. It should be noted that OSU has not just beaten up on teams that can't compete. The Pokes have faced no fewer than three non-conference opponents that went on to play in bowl games per year during that span (Troy, Tulsa and Arizona in 2010; Louisiana, Tulsa and Stanford in 2011; Arizona, Louisiana and Purdue in 2012.)

Not Easing In
Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 school and one of only four schools from the five power conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) to play its first two games away from home to start the 2013 season. Alabama, Syracuse and Washington State are the others.

Oklahoma State in Season Openers
Oklahoma State is 66-40-5 all-time in season-openers, including a 7-1 mark under ninth-year head coach Mike Gundy. The Cowboys haven't lost a season-opener since 2007, when a Georgia squad that included Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno handed OSU a 35-14 setback in Athens. Since then, the Cowboys have won five straight season openers, headlined by a 24-10 triumph over Georgia in the return game of that home-and-home series in 2009.

Season Openers Under Mike Gundy
2005 vs. Montana State ........ W, 15-10
2006 vs. Missouri State ........ W, 52-10
2007 at No. 13 Georgia ........ L, 35-14
2008 at Washington State ........ W, 39-13
2009 vs. No. 13 Georgia ........ W, 24-10
2010 vs. Washington State ........ W, 65-17
2011 vs. Louisiana ........ W, 61-34
2012 vs. Savannah State ........ W, 84-0
2013 vs. Mississippi State (in Houston) -

Oklahoma State in Neutral Site Season Openers
The 2013 Advocare Texas Kickoff marks only the third time that Oklahoma State has opened a season playing on a neutral field. OSU split its two previous neutral-site openers - a 21-13 win over Texas Tech in 1943 and a 39-36 loss to Louisiana Tech in 2002.

Oklahoma State in Neutral Site Games
The Cowboys have won their last three neutral site games, claiming a 36-10 win over Arizona in the 2010 Alamo Bowl, a 41-38 win over Andrew Luck and No. 4 Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl and a 58-14 win over Purdue in the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl. Since Mike Gundy took over the program in 2005, the Cowboys are 6-2 in neutral-site games.

Advocare Texas Kickoff A Homecoming of Sorts
Recruiting the state of Texas has been a high priority for Oklahoma State football since Mike Gundy took over at his alma mater in 2005. Oklahoma State annually has more players on its roster from Texas than any other program outside of the Lone Star State. This year's totals:

Oklahoma State - 69
Oklahoma - 43
Louisiana-Monroe - 38
Missouri - 36
New Mexico - 31
Tulsa - 29
Kansas State - 27
Kansas - 26
Arkansas - 20
Iowa State - 20

High-Profile Native Texans To Play For Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State
Dez Bryant - Dallas Cowboys first-round pick and leading receiver.
Russell Okung - Seattle Seahawks first-round pick, 2013 Pro Bowl
Brandon Pettigrew - Detroit Lions first-round pick
Quinn Sharp - Cincinnati Bengals kicker, 3-time All-American K/P
Kendall Hunter - San Francisco 49ers RB and two-time All-American
Perrish Cox - San Francisco 49ers CB and two-time All-American
Markelle Martin - Tennessee Titans safety and 2011 All-American
Grant Garner - 2011 All-America center
Orie Lemon - Kansas City Chiefs linebacker

Cowboy Country
Playing in the Big 12, the Oklahoma State football team is used to playing in the state of Texas. The Cowboys have won seven of their last eight games played in the Lone Star State. A closer look:

Oct. 16, 2010 at Texas Tech ........ W, 34-17
Nov. 13, 2010 at Texas ........ W, 33-16
Dec. 29, 2010 vs. Arizona (Alamo Bowl) ........ W, 36-10
Sept. 24, 2011 at No. 8 Texas A&M ........W, 30-29
Oct. 15, 2011 at No. 22 Texas ........ W, 38-26
Nov. 12, 2011 at Texas Tech ........ W, 66-6
Dec. 1, 2012 at Baylor ........ L, 41-34
Jan. 1, 2013 vs. Purdue (Heart of Dallas Bowl) ........ W, 58-21

State of the Program
The Oklahoma State football program has risen to a new level of national prominence in recent years. A look:

Most Wins, 2008-12
T1. Boise State........ 61-5
T1. Alabama........ 61-7
3. Oregon........ 56-10
4. TCU........ 54-11
T5. Florida........ 52-15
T5. Oklahoma........ 52-15
T7. Ohio State........ 51-13
T7. LSU........ 51-15
T9. Oklahoma State........ 49-16
T9. Virginia Tech........ 49-19

Big 12 Favorites
Perhaps the clearest illustration of the respect Oklahoma State football has earned under Mike Gundy is the fact that in a year where most observers would agree that the Big 12 is up for grabs, OSU - and not one of the league's traditional powers - is viewed as the safest pick to win. The Cowboys were the preseason pick to win the Big 12 by the media and are the highest-ranked Big 12 team in both the preseason Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll.

2013 Big 12 Football Media Preseason Poll
1. Oklahoma State (15) ........ 365
2. Okahoma (8) ........ 355
3. TCU (9) ........ 347
4. Texas (8) ........ 337
5. Baylor (2) ........ 282
6. K-State (1) ........ 240
7. Texas Tech........ 161
8. West Virginia........ 126
9. Iowa State........ 96
10. Kansas........ 56
first-place votes in parentheses

New Staff Meetings
For the first time in several years, OSU has had a significant turnover in its coaching staff. Four new coaches are on board, including a pair of new coordinators. The newcomers are offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich (pronounced yer-sitch), receivers coach Jason Ray, defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements and safeties coach Tim Duffie. Glenn Spencer has been elevated from co-defensive coordinator to defensive coordinator. He will continue to coach linebackers as well. • Yurcich comes to OSU from Shippensburg in Pennsylvania, where he served as offensive coordinator for the most potent attack in Division II. • Ray is a native Oklahoman who played at Missouri and was most recently on the staff at Wyoming. • Clements is a former player and staff member at Kansas State. • A native of Jefferson, Texas, Duffie came to OSU after coaching stops at UTEP, Colorado State and Wake Forest.

Coordinating Efforts
OSU is breaking in two new coordinators in the same season for the first time since 2005 (Mike Gundy's first season as the Cowboy head coach). Mike Yurcich becomes the fifth offensive coordinator under Gundy. Previously that position was held by Larry Fedora (2005-2007), Dana Holgorsen (2010) and Todd Monken (2011-12). In 2008 and 2009 Gunter Brewer and Joe Wickline held the title of co-offensive coordinators with Gundy the play-caller. Spencer is the successor of Vance Bedford (2005-2006), Tim Beckman (2007-2008) and Bill Young (2009-2012).

The Cowboy Way
When it has been at its best in recent years, Oklahoma State has followed this general formula in the three phases:
Offense: Up-tempo, balanced between the run and pass, spread the ball around among several receivers.
- Two years with a Biletnikoff Award winner and a third with a Biletnikoff Award runner-up since 2008.
- Two years with a consensus All-American running back since 2008 and six straight with a first-team All-Big 12 back.
- An offensive line that has ranked in the top 10 nationally in fewest sacks allowed in each of the last four seasons.
- First-round NFL draft picks at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line since 2008.

Defense: Heavy focus on forcing turnovers. Minimize yards per play. Third down defense. Minimize opponent big plays.
- Ranked second in the nation in turnovers forced since 2009.
- 18 non-offensive touchdowns since 2010.
- Second-fewest yards per play allowed among Big 12 teams since 2010.

Special Teams: Nationally elite performers at kicker, punter and in the return game.
- Winner of the 2008 Ray Guy Award presented to the nation's best punter (Matt Fodge)
- Winner of the 2010 Lou Groza Award presented to the nation's top kicker (Dan Bailey)
- Only the second player in history to earn FWAA All-America honors as a kicker and a punter (Quinn Sharp)
- The nation's No. 2 active player in career kickoff returns for touchdowns (Justin Gilbert - five)

Breaking Down The Offensive Position Groups
Quarterbacks
Head coach Mike Gundy hasn't named a starting quarterback to this point and it's unlikely that he will in advance of the Advocare Texas Kickoff. Fifth-year senior Clint Chelf and sophomore J.W. Walsh are both viable options and both have already produced in game situations. Chelf led the Cowboys to a 59-21 win over No. 23 Texas Tech and a 55-34 win over West Virginia last year and Walsh had three games with 300 or more passing yards, including a 415-yard outburst against Iowa State in which he also rushed for 46 yards.

Running Backs
Senior Jeremy Smith has been an explosive runner for Oklahoma State since he stepped on campus in 2009, but he did his work in the shadow of a pair of NFL draft picks in Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle. Now in his fifth year with the program, Smith and his 6.2 career yards per carry average - second in OSU history to only Barry Sanders - come to the forefront of the Cowboy rushing attack. Despite the fact that Smith has never been a full-time starter, he still ranks 10th on OSU's career rushing touchdown list with 25. Junior Desmond Roland steps into the role of second-team running back, but in Oklahoma State's fast-paced system, he will still be a prominent figure in the offense. Put it this way, OSU's second-leading rusher had 102 touches in 2011 and 73 touches in 2012. Roland will get his chances and at 6-2, 210, he has the frame to carry a significant load.

Wide Receivers
Perhaps the strongest and deepest position group on the Oklahoma State roster is wide receiver. Junior Josh Stewart is a preseason first-team All-Big 12 honoree and for good reason - he's the top returning receiver in the Big 12 in terms of both catches and yards. He's joined by a slew of returning and emerging playmakers who will all get their touches in the Cowboy aerial attack. Perhaps the most interesting figure to watch will be senior Tracy Moore, who was a key figure on Oklahoma State's 2011 Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl-champion squad and was expected to be the Cowboys' top receiver last year before sustaining an early-season injury. When at his peak, Moore could potentially be one of the Big 12's top receivers this year. Senior Blake Jackson is a home-run threat, evidenced by his 19.9 yards-per-catch average last year and senior Charlie Moore also has a history of throwing haymakers, evidenced by his five consecutive games with a touchdown grab in 2012.

Offensive Line
If there has been one constant with Oklahoma State football during the Gundy era, it is that veteran offensive line coach Joe Wickline will get his group to perform at a high level. Wickline's charges have paved the way for six consecutive 1,000-yard rushers and six consecutive first-team All-Big 12 running backs. Additionally, the Cowboys have led the Big 12 and ranked in the top 10 nationally in fewest sacks allowed in each of the last four seasons despite the fact that the Pokes throw the ball as frequently as anyone. Senior Parker Graham, who has played both guard and tackle during his career, is the leader of this year's bunch. Wickline praised him during two-a-days, saying "You're going to have a difficult time finding a bunch better than him. He's tall, he's long and he's a very serious guy about his game. He's got a ridiculously good bend and is quick off the ball. He's got good hands and he's graduated and getting his master's degree and he's gotten really strong. You're going to have a hard time finding anyone better."

Breaking Down the Defensive Position Groups
Defensive Line
Senior defensive tackle Calvin Barnett - the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year - is as disruptive to opposing offenses as any returning interior defensive lineman in the Big 12. A 2013 preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection by the media, Barnett provides leadership for not only the defensive line, but for the OSU defense as a whole. Joining Barnett on the defensive line are fellow tackle James Castleman and ends Jimmy Bean and Tyler Johnson. Castleman has all the markings of a big-time player and now gets his chance to prove it. Bean was one of the stars of spring ball and Johnson was particularly effective during the second half of last season. OSU will rotate defensive linemen in and out of the game frequently, so other names to know include defensive ends Sam Wren and Trace Clark and defensive tackles Ofa Hautau, Anthony Rogers and Davidell Collins. Wren and Hautau are junior college transfers who turned heads during fall camp. Clark is one of the most promising young players on the roster and Rogers and Collins are both experienced veterans.

Linebacker
Veterans Shaun Lewis (32 consecutive games started) and Caleb Lavey (26 consecutive games started) anchor the Oklahoma State linebacking corps. Both are known for their smarts and their feel for the game and both have played a key role in OSU ranking among the national leaders in turnovers forced during their careers. The third starting spot is owned by Ryan Simmons, and despite the fact that he has never started a game, there is little worry in Stillwater that he is ready for the assignment. Now in his third year as part of the program, he knows the system well and is the right person at the right spot. Senior Joe Mitchell has logged extensive action through the years and is a proven backup that the OSU coaches will rotate in and out of the game freely. Sophomores Demarcus Sherod and Kris Catlin have seen spot action during their careers, but both factor heavily into the plans in 2013.

Cornerback
Who's the fastest guy on a team full of fast guys? Cornerback Justin Gilbert. Any talk of the cornerback position going at OSU going into 2013 should start with the senior from Huntsville, Texas. At 6-0, 200 and blazing fast, Gilbert works with all the raw tools that a successful cornerback wants. A good argument can be made that no player on the roster stands to gain more in 2013 than Gilbert. OSU's defensive philosophy in 2012 was to sag off receivers and make opposing offenses execute long, methodical drives - a strategy that didn't necessarily play into Gilbert's strengths. However, first-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer brings a more aggressive defensive approach, which plays right into what Gilbert brings to the table. In 2011, Gilbert intercepted passes thrown by Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Landry Jones. Based off his play in the spring and in fall camp, sophomore Kevin Peterson has earned the starting spot opposite Gilbert. Peterson saw some action last season and claimed his first career start in the regular season finale at Baylor. Others to look for include Kansas transfer Tyler Patmon, who was a three-year starter for the Jayhawks, but graduated with a year of eligibility remaining and sophomore Ashton Lampkin, who played in every game last season and showed flashes of being a playmaker.

Safety
Senior Daytawion Lowe has led the team in tackles each of the last two years. What makes him effective? According to first-year safeties coach Tim Duffie, "Intelligence. I think he's tough and very, very competitive. The biggest plus that I like about him is how smart he is and how much of a team player he is." Lowe is joined in the back end of the Oklahoma State defense by senior Shamiel Gary, who started every game a year ago. He picked off a passes against Texas Tech and Purdue and forced a fumble against Iowa State. Also in the playing time rotation at safety are Lyndell Johnson, Zack Craig and Larry Stephens. Johnson is a ballhawk who makes plays. Craig is a senior who has made his mark primarily on special teams to this point, but is a viable option at safety as well.

Special Teams
Oklahoma State has been somewhat of a special teams juggernaut under Mike Gundy. Matt Fodge won the 2008 Ray Guy Award presented to the nation's top punter, Dan Bailey won the 2010 Lou Groza Award presented to the nation's top kicker and OSU has produced the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year in four of the past five seasons. This year's edition of OSU special teams is headlined by kick returner Justin Gilbert, who ranks second among all active players with five career kickoff returns for touchdowns. He'll look to add to his total while serving in that same role this year. The elusive Josh Stewart leads OSU's group of punt returners, but don't be surprised to see either David Glidden or Charlie Moore in that role. Both Stewart and Glidden are shifty and explosive with the capability of breaking long returns and Moore is a sure-handed receiver whose long stride creates the illusion that he's slower than he actually is. The Cowboys break in a new kicker in freshman Ben Grogan, who was the top kicker in the Texas high school ranks last year and has range past 50 yards. Juniors Kip Smith and Michael Reichenstein are both viable candidates at punter, with Smith the likely kickoff specialist.

 

 

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