STILLWATER — Nearly every aspect of No. 15 Oklahoma State’s game seemed to jell during an impressive 52-34 win over No. 25 Texas Tech last week.
The next challenge for the Cowboys (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) is to maintain that intensity Saturday when lowly Kansas (2-6, 0-5) visits Stillwater.
They’ll need to avoid looking past the Jayhawks, with the Big 12 teams of Texas, No. 5 Baylor and No. 12 Oklahoma next on their schedule.
Along with a high-scoring offense, the Cowboys’ defense is ranked among the Big 12’s best in nearly every category. But they can’t get complacent.
“In order for us to reach our goal, which is to have a chance to win a conference championship, we certainly have to win this week,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “I’m hoping that the maturity we have in our room, that’s shown up in the last month, will help us.”
Meanwhile, Kansas is trying to salvage what could still be a promising season.
“This team will be remembered by what happens in the next four games,” Kansas coach Charlie Weis said. “We’re 2-6 right now. If we end up 2-10, it’s not going to be very good, is it? 3-9? A little bit better. 4-8? OK, that shows signs. 5-7? OK, things are getting better. 6-6? They start building a statue. But that really is the perspective.”
Here are five things to look for when Oklahoma State goes for its 22nd straight win at home against an unranked opponent:
1. EX-JAYHAWK: Cowboys senior cornerback Tyler Patmon faces his former team. After starting 32 games the last three years for Kansas, Patmon graduated and opted to enroll at OSU for one final year of eligibility. “He’s been a really big-impact player,” Gundy said. “We brought him in here to add some depth to our secondary, and he’s essentially a starter.”
2. THIRD-QUARTER BLUES: The Jayhawks have been outscored 69-31 in the third quarter this season, with several opponents breaking open close games en route to big wins. That happened against Texas last week, Oklahoma and TCU. “When the fans or when everyone else wants to harp on the negative,” Weis said, “what you have to do is show them a whole bunch of good plays and say, ‘Now that’s you.’”
3. SPECIAL DELIVERY: Oklahoma State senior Josh Stewart returned a punt 46 yards last week, setting up a key Cowboy touchdown in the third quarter. Stewart has already returned two punts for touchdowns and had another called back because of a penalty. “Our punt return unit has got so much confidence,” said Stewart, who leads the nation with 364 punt return yards. “We know it can change the game at any moment.”
4. PIERSON PLAYS?: The Jayhawks top receiver Tony Pierson should return this week after missing three games with a concussion. He dressed last week but didn’t play because he hadn’t practiced yet. Pierson, who still leads the team with 21 receptions and 327 yards, practiced this week. “I’m hoping he’s full-go this week,” Weis said.
5. JUST GO FOR IT: Twice against Texas Tech, the Cowboys faced fourth down situations from inside the 3-yard line. Instead of taking the easy field goal points, they went for it and scored touchdowns.
Kansas at No. 15 Oklahoma State
When: Saturday at 3 p.m.
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
Radio: KEOK, FM-102.1.
TV: Fox Sports 1.
Record: OSU 7-1 (4-1 Big 12); Kansas 2-6 (0-5).
Line: OSU by 31.
Series record: OSU leads 32-29-2.
At stake: Coming off its fourth straight victory, an impressive 52-34 win over No. 25 Texas Tech, Oklahoma State must avoid overlooking a seemingly inferior opponent, with the Big 12’s top three teams (Texas, No. 5 Baylor and No. 12 Oklahoma) coming up next on its schedule.
Key matchup: Oklahoma State’s high-powered, fast-paced offense, led by senior QB Clint Chelf and junior RB Desmond Roland, up against a Kansas defensive unit that ranks ninth out of 10 Big 12 teams in scoring defense (averaging 32 points against per game) and eighth in yardage (446.6 per game).
Players to watch
Kansas: WR Rodriguez Coleman is developing into the big-play threat that the Jayhawks have needed, recording four receptions for a total of 160 yards and a touchdown in the last two games. The junior transfer from Garden City Community College could turn the tide in Kansas’ direction.
Oklahoma State: QB Clint Chelf will be starting for the third game in a row. In addition to stabilizing the passing game in last week’s big win over Texas Tech by completing 18 of 34 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, Chelf has also emerged as a running threat, rushing for 88 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries.
Notes: Oklahoma State is 16-1 in its last 17 home games, since the start of the 2011 season, including seven in a row. . Kansas, which is 1-8 in its last nine against the Cowboys, owns the Big 12’s worst offense, averaging just 17.1 points and 292.5 yards per contest.