October 20, 2007

Wild Homecoming

It's no secret that Oklahoma State has played much better at home recently.

And after splitting a pair of conference road games the past two weeks, OSU returns to Orange Country tonight looking to continue the momentum gained from the Cowboys' 45-14 harvest of Nebraska. Now the Pokes return to Stillwater for Homecoming and a 6 p.m. contest against Kansas State at Boone Pickens Stadium. There's no television for this game (not even Pay-Per-View), so the only way to catch it will be heading to the game or listening to it on the Cowboy Sports Network.

Both teams are riding high into this one, as KSU is coming off a big win of its own, a 47-20 win over Colorado in Manhattan last weekend. The Wildcats (4-2 overall, 2-1 Big 12) managed to roll up 463 yards on a solid Buffalo defense. K-State running back James Johnson rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Josh Freeman passed for 214 yards and a score. The Wildcats took a bit of a hit on defense, as CU's Hugh Charles put up 117 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. In all, KSU allowed 411 yards.

Even so, K-State has been sound statistically on defense, ranking 31st in the nation in total defense.

"They've had success on defense," Mike Gundy said. "They're a 3-4 defense and these edge guys do a good job of getting to the quarterback. One thing on their defense is they have seven seniors and three juniors and one sophomore. They're a very experienced defense, so there's a lot of maturity and there's guys out there that are older that are experienced and they play like that."

The Wildcats will likely face its toughest test of the season in the form of the OSU offense. The Cowboys are averaging 246 yards a game on the ground and 238 through the air. Against the Huskers last weekend, Dantrell Savage put up 212 yards and a score, Kendall Hunter ran for 67 yards and one touchdown and Zac Robinson put up 33 yards and a score of his own.

Gundy was happy with the rushing effort, but is looking for more in the blocking area

"Our backs are pretty good players and when they get a chance in space," Gundy said "We've been fortunate that they've made guys miss and been able to get yards. What we're looking for is we want hats on hats and we want guys in position blocked the way we want them most of the time. We rushed for 300 yards, but the blocking didn't equal the rushing yards."

A big storyline for OSU in this game will be the continued improvement of its defense. Since halftime against Texas Tech, the Cowboys have allowed 51 points in 14 quarters.

Defensive end Rodrick Johnson say they'll have a tough task going up against Freeman.

"He can throw the ball great and he is a great leader for that team," Johnson said. "He's a big guy. It's kind of intimidating to walk up and see a 6-7 quarterback. He is intimidating just by size."

"They're a very fast football team," Gundy sad. "They've done a nice job acquiring some junior college players, in my opinion, that have upgraded their team speed. Coach (Bill) Snyder did a nice job of that in the past and it looks like coach (Ron) Prince continued to do that. They're a fast football team and they have good schemes and they get to the football and then offensively they have guys that can make you miss in space."

KSU has already had one big road victory this season, beating Texas in Austin, 41-21, on Sept. 29. Gundy said KSU their special teams were a huge advantage in that win.

"They made an impact this year, but especially at Texas," he said. "When you watch that game, that (special teams play) turned the tide. The momentum that they were able to create on special teams and then it filtered over into their defensive play and the game just continued on from that point in their favor. It's (all) because those guys made really nice plays on special teams."

It was a blocked punt in last year's game that got the scoring started in Manhattan. That punt was returned for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead. OSU was up 27-17 late in the fourth quarter, before two TD drives in the last three minutes put the Cats up for good, 31-27.

Is last year's outcome any motivation to exact some revenge tonight?

"You always have motivation," said offensive lineman [/db]Brady Bond[/db]. "We look back at that and we were up by 10 with two minutes to go and we let them come back and they ended up beating us there in Manhattan. We are going to keep that in the back of our minds and not let them do that this year."

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