There are only two current Big 12 head coaches that quarterbacked the school they now coach — Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury.
Gundy remains the Cowboys’ all-time leading passer, racking up 7,997 passing yards as th`e quarterback from 1986-89, completing his career as the Big Eight’s all-time leader in passing and total offense.
Kingsbury recorded more than 12,000 passing yards and total offense, and more than 1,000 pass completions, making him the third player in NCAA history to accomplish all three.
Gundy is in his ninth year as head coach of his alma mater. Kingsbury is in his first.
“He’s done very well this year as a first-year head coach,” Gundy said. “He’s young and has a lot of enthusiasm. I’m sure he has love for his university so it seems to be a great hire by Tech. I know the little bit I’ve been able to watch them on television, it looks like he’s enjoying being a head coach. Obviously, that’s the most important part of what we do, in my opinion.”
Both coaches have their teams in contention to win the Big 12 title.
Gundy’s Cowboys were the preseason pick to win the conference and are still in contention despite a 30-21 loss on the road to West Virginia.
In years past, Oklahoma State’s 6-1 record might be attributed to its high-flying offense.
This year, however, is a different story.
In 2012, the Cowboys finished No. 82 in the nation in total defense, giving up 421.69 yards on average.
So far this season, Oklahoma State is No. 26, allowing only 353.9 yards per game. The Cowboys are getting off the field with 19 takeaways, which is tied for 13th in the nation, and a third-down defense that ranks 10th, allowing a 30.6 percent conversion rate.
“I hope our defense will continue to play well,” Gundy said. “I think it’s evident that this is the best offensive football team that we have played up to this point. They have had a considerable amount of success moving the football and scoring points. It will be a good challenge for our players. There’s no question about that.”
The defense scored twice last week in the Cowboys’ 58-27 win over Iowa State — senior cornerback Justin Gilbert returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown and senior defensive end Tyler Johnson returned a fumble 54 yards for a touchdown.
Gilbert leads the Big 12 and is No. 6 nationally in interceptions with four.
“To score once on defense is awesome, but to score twice is unusual,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “I’m not sure I’ve ever been involved in a game where our defense scored twice.”
The Cowboys secondary will have its hands full trying to contain the No. 3 passing offense in the nation.
Thus far, the toughest passing offense Oklahoma State defended came in the first game of the season against Mississippi State, which ranks at No. 51. OSU won that one, 21-3.
“Obviously, (Tech) has great skill players and a quarterback who can get the ball to them quickly,” Spencer said. “That can be scary. When that and the timing are there, it’s hard to stop.”
Spencer also said the Cowboys must make the Tech offense one-dimensional by taking away the run game.
Oklahoma State leads the conference in rushing defense and is No. 19 in the country, allowing 122.7 yards per game on the ground.
The Cowboys know that to win this game, they must keep the Red Raiders offense off the field.
“(We can’t) let them get any momentum running or passing the ball,” Gilbert said. “Getting off the field; getting some three-and-outs early in the game to get our offense the ball.”
Offensively, the Cowboys had a huge showing from junior running back Desmond Roland in Ames, Iowa. In his first career start, Roland rolled up 219 rush yards and four touchdowns.
“I was just running behind my blockers,” Roland said. “Our receivers were doing well blocking downfield, and ... our O-line was making great holes and they made it easy for me. I was just running.”
Oklahoma State hasn’t had much consistency in the offensive line. In six of seven games, the Cowboys have used a different mix of offensive linemen with only senior left guard Brandon Webb and junior center Jake Jenkins starting every game.
“They make changes on the O-line every day,” Roland said. “This combination worked for the last game, so I guess we’ll move forward with it for the next combination. If they continue to block like this, we might as well keep it the same.”
As the ground game improves, Oklahoma State hopes for more efficiency passing the ball.
OSU is down 65 passing yards per game compared to last year, when the Cowboys ranked fifth in the nation in passing offense.
“We need to throw the football better, period,” Gundy said. “If you look at the opponent we’re playing this week, they’re scoring and they’ve been effective in throwing the football. ... At some point, you have to match them where their strength is.
“They have certainly had the ability to score points, but, defensively, they have been effective also. We need to become a better passing team to give ourselves a better chance to win this weekend.”
Returning first-team All-Big 12 wide receiver Josh Stewart, with 34 receptions for 483 yards and two touchdowns, is well off his pace of 2012, when he finished with 101 catches, 1,210 yards and seven TDs.
Stewart has somewhat made up for it on special teams with punt-return touchdowns of 67 yards against Lamar and 95 yards against TCU. The latter was the longest punt return in Oklahoma State and Big 12 history and longest by any player in the country this season.
The Cowboys are trying to be the first team to take three straight from Tech in Lubbock since Nebraska in 1994, 1996 and 2000.
The Red Raiders’ last win over the Cowboys came at home in 2008 — the week after Tech upset then No. 1 Texas 39-33.
“We’ve always played them in the daytime, but you watch games at night there and know how crazy it gets in Lubbock,” senior wide receiver Charlie Moore said. “There’s a night and day difference, literally. I saw where Kingsbury tweeted (Sunday) to all the fans that costumes are encouraged and a ‘Let’s get weird’ hashtag, so it’s going to be a fun time in Lubbock and I’m excited.”
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