When you play in the Big 12, there’s rarely such a thing as an easy week. It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are playing, each week brings the potential of a tough game that could seriously alter the standings in the national rankings, as well as determine what you’ll be doing come December and January.
If you’re KU, each week brings yet another high powered offense that will give you no room to breathe. In a massive rebuilding year where moral victories and learning from mistakes are all anyone can really ask from you, those learning situations have, more often than not, been taught by teams resembling Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket more than your third grade teacher.
Relentless. Powerful. Exhausting. All words that can be used to describe the “teaching moments” and “valuable lessons” that KU has endured so far this season by some of the top offenses in the nation.
But instead of falling backwards and giving up, they’ve fought back. No matter how out matched or out played they’ve been so far this season, giving up hasn’t crossed their mind once. With each loss, each broken play, each mistake, they’ve found another aspect of their game to work and improve upon. And while the wins column may not reflect it yet, they’ve made significant improvements in six games.
The Kansas defense, after giving up 24 points and 299 yards in the first quarter alone to Baylor a week prior, held the top passing offense in the nation to just 3 points in the first quarter and only 10 points in the entire second half. The offense, operating under a freshman quarterback playing just his second complete game, managed enough points and ball movement to win the game if it weren’t for the struggles the kicking game were having.
Now Kansas takes on Oklahoma State, a team that is 6-0, tied for first in the Big 12, and ranked 14th in the nation. The Jayhawks must now go on the road and prove that the improvements they made against Texas Tech weren’t a one time deal and that their time to shine is indeed coming soon.
Kansas opens up the second half of the season with the 14th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys. Last year the Cowboys survived a second half collapse and were able to achieve their sixth win of the season in their final game to make their 9th straight bowl appearance.
This year the Cowboys made sure to avoid the stress of all that and got their six wins in as many games. The Cowboys have marched their way out to a 6-0 start and are currently tied with Baylor for first place in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State doesn’t possess the star offensive play makers that teams like Baylor and TCU have, but they do have a solid offense that features a number of different players who contribute. Four different players have 2 rushing touchdowns or more, and eight different players have at least 1 receiving touchdown. Most of those touchdowns have come within the red zone where the Cowboys have excelled so far this season by scoring 28 times on 29 trips.
This balanced offense is averaging 463 yards per game and 37.3 points per game. The majority of those yards, as with most Big 12 teams, comes through the air where the Cowboys are averaging 325 yards per game. The Cowboys are prone to turnovers though, as starting quarterback Mason Rudolph has thrown 7 interceptions. Three of those came in their last game against West Virginia prior to the Cowboy’s bye week.
Defensively the Cowboys have the benefit of having First Team All-Big 12 defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah return after his 50 tackles, 10 sacks campaign last year. Ogbah is outpacing himself from last year and currently has 33 tackles and 7.5 sacks through six games this season. The rest of the Oklahoma State defense have spent their fair share of time in opponents backfields as well, as the team has accumulated 59 tackles for loss and 23 sacks so far this season. Those numbers are good enough to place the Cowboys second in the nation in tackles for loss per game and first in the nation in sacks per game.
Though the Cowboys are taking down a lot of defenders in the backfield, opponents are still out rushing Oklahoma State and are averaging 152 rushing yards per game while reaching pay dirt 8 times on the ground.
Five Players To Watch
No. 4: QB J.W. Walsh (6’2, 215, R-Sr.)
In the Spring, Walsh got beat by QB Mason Rudolph for the starting job and now serves as the primary backup. So why is he on this list? Well it turns out Walsh is one of the most offensively productive members on this Cowboys offense. Though he’s only thrown 9 completions on 13 pass attempts, 5 of those completions have been for touchdowns. He is also averaging 4.3 yards per carry and has 3 rushing touchdowns. Walsh has been heavily involved in the Cowboys’ red zone offense and has taken full advantage of every opportunity that has been given to him. When the Cowboys get in the red zone, don’t be surprised if it’s Walsh, not Rudolph, making the big plays.
No. 38: DE Emmanuel Ogbah (6’4, 275, R-Jr.)
The Big 12’s Defensive Lineman of the Year and Oklahoma State’s only representative on the All Big-12 First team last season, Ogbah is having another destructive campaign on the defensive line. Through six games, Ogbah is on pace to have 66 tackles and 15 sacks by the end of the season. He has continually found a way to take down opposing quarterbacks and does so on a consistent basis. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, Oklahoma State has another powerful defensive end playing opposite of Ogbah.
No. 92: DE Jimmy Bean (6-5, 250, R-Sr.)
As if one beast defensive end wasn’t enough for the Jayhawks offensive line to deal with, they’ll also have to face the underrated, but just as talented, Jimmy Bean. Bean doesn’t get the press that players like Ogbah and Shawn Oakman do, but he puts up very similar numbers. Bean has 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks so far this season, making him a very dangerous pairing to play opposite of Ogbah. These two players together create one of the scariest one-two punches in the nation and could spell a long day for Kansas QB Ryan Willis.
No. 32: RB Chris Carson (6’2, 202, Jr.)
When the Big 12 released the preseason awards for this year, Carson was the only offensive representative for the Cowboys, being pegged the Big 12’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year. Coming to Oklahoma State via Butler Community College, Carson has established himself as top dog in a very crowded Oklahoma State backfield. He’s carried the ball 27 more times than the next top back, though he only has 84 more yards. Statistics aside, Carson is extremely athletically gifted as evident by the video above. Want another angle of that? Here you go.
WHAT WAS THAAAAAAT#okstate pic.twitter.com/NKZFaHuhIE
— Jordan Smith (@Doafhat) September 13, 2015
The Cowboys run game hasn’t been the most intimidating force this year, only averaging 137 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry, but the potential for big plays is there with Carson in in the backfield.
No. 13: WR David Glidden (5’8, 185, R-Sr.)
David Glidden has emerged as QB Rudolph’s top target in a passing offense that loves to spread the ball around. In an offense that has five different receivers averaging more than 13 yards per catch (while having at least 10 catches on the season), Glidden is near the top with 16.3 yards per reception. He’s also leading the Cowboys in receptions (28) and yards (457). Though he only has three touchdowns on the season, he’s a very dangerous player and could be trouble for the Jayhawks secondary.
Wave The Wheat If…
KU gets its kicking game in gear. The Jayhawks were atrocious last week against Texas Tech leaving 10 points on the board by way of three missed field goals and a missed extra point. The Jayhawks lost that game by, as you probably know, 10 points. With the exception of the 52 yarder, none of those kicks should have been missed. Pair these troubles with the punting troubles KU has had so far this season, and it’s apparent that the special teams has a lot of work to do before the season is over.
Plough The Field If…
The offensive line can’t protect Ryan Willis. Willis showed signs of Todd Reesing at times against Texas Tech by scrambling away from defenders and avoiding being brought down. He’ll have a lot more trouble doing that when Oklahoma State’s dangerous duo of Ogbah and Bean get a chance to run after him. The Cowboys hit quarterbacks often, and getting hit can often lead to injuries, as apparent by KU’s previous two starters both being forced out of the lineup due to injuries. Willis has shown poise and potential in his limited playing time. Needless to say an injury would be detrimental to his progress.
35-17 Oklahoma State.
KU is improving, but will they have enough underdog spirit left over from last week to take down a ranked Big 12 opponent on the road? Two things they haven’t been able to do in years? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. But the Jayhawks are getting closer and closer each week, and this game should tell everyone just how close they truly are.