Wes Lunt

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy talks on his headset as he watches from the sidelines in the fourth quarter of the game against Louisiana-Lafayette in Stillwater, Oka. on Sept. 15. Oklahoma state won, 65-24.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Oklahoma State’s game against Texas on Saturday will be a measuring stick for OSU coach Mike Gundy and the program he’s built.

Sometimes it’s an overused term, but in this case it fits. Oklahoma State’s football team was hit hard by graduation after the 2011 season, losing two first-round NFL draft picks in Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. The Cowboys also lost defensive captain Markelle Martin in the fourth round and both of the team’s starting defensive ends.

Since the departures, Gundy has constantly had to answer two questions: Will he reload or rebuild, and who is his quarterback?

The latter was announced at the end of spring practices when freshman Wes Lunt won the starting job. His 6-foot-4 frame and electric arm was exactly what Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken wanted for Weeden’s replacement.

Lunt’s play this season was initially strong, and included him breaking the Big 12 single-game passing record for a freshman against Arizona when he threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns. It seemed as though Gundy had answered both of the offseason questions with ease — at least until the first quarter of the Louisiana-Lafayette game.

Lunt was tackled as he rolled to his right and remained on the turf while grabbing at his knee in obvious pain.

Just like that, the second question came back into play. Will the Cowboys reload, or will they rebuild?

Gundy has said several times that his goal is to have a two-deep depth chart, a situation that would provide flawless transitions between the starter and backup in an injury situation.

It’s a recruiting plan much like Texas coach Mack Brown has in place, though Oklahoma State doesn’t quite have the power that the Longhorns have in their offseason acquisitions.

“There’s a number of advantages in playing or coaching for Texas,” Gundy said. “If you started writing down the big-time guys they’ve had, you’d take up an entire notebook ... We’re starting to get into that geographical region more than we have in the past, but we’re obviously not on their level.”

But Gundy is moving in the right direction, and it showed two weeks ago when former Denton Guyer quarterback J.W. Walsh lined up behind center in Lunt’s absence.

Walsh, a redshirt-freshman, torched the Ragin’ Cajun defense for 420 total yards, which was good for the eighth-best single-game total in Oklahoma State history.

The backup looked strong but it was also against La.-Lafaeyette, who’s obviously not a Big 12-quality football team.

Now, Walsh faces a bear of a challenge in a Texas defense that boasts two of the best defensive ends in the nation in Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, and the talent doesn’t stop there. The Longhorn secondary is just as loaded, and is so athletic that they play man defense a majority of the time. That game plan is something that has given OSU some trouble against the Longhorns in their last two match ups.

“This will be a good test for both of us to find out where we’re really at, at least in my opinion,” Gundy said. “I don’t know that we’ll play anybody that will be as athletic as these guys.”

This game will show where Gundy stands. Is he where he wants his program to be, a two-deep football team capable of sustaining their level of play even when the injury-bug bites? Or is the team still trying to get there, trying their hardest to rebuild after the mortar of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon was removed from their brick wall?

Saturday’s match up against the best defense in the Big 12 will tell you all you need to know.

Rebuilding, or reloading?

Freshman quarterback Wes Lunt is helped off the field after injuring his knee against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

This weekend’s game between Texas and Oklahoma State might as well be a battle between two Texas teams. After all, 66 members of the Oklahoma State football team are from Texas in addition to safeties coach Van Malone, who played at Texas from 1990-1993.

Saturday evening, Texas will open its Big 12 slate of games against the Cowboys in Stillwater, Okla. at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys are 8-8 in Big 12 openers, and 6-2 under head coach Mike Gundy. 

The Longhorns hold a 22-4 advantage over the Cowboys and have won the last 10 games at Pickens Stadium, the last win coming in 2009. However, Oklahoma State took advantage of the Longhorns’ two-year slump and are riding a two-game win streak over Texas.

Last season the Cowboys won a close game 38-26 in Austin. The Oklahoma State defense forced three turnovers, logged five sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Although Texas quarterback David Ash passed for 139 yards last year, he also fumbled once and threw two picks. 

The Cowboys still have not released the name of their starting quarterback for Saturday although it is not because they are trying to be secretive. Gundy and the football team’s medical staff are remaining optimistic about quarterback Wes Lunt. Lunt was the Cowboys’ starting quarterback until he suffered a knee injury two weeks ago against Louisiana-Lafayette.

“They’re going to cut off his knee brace today,” Gundy said. “They looked at it a few days ago, and it was even better than what we thought...we’re excited about the feedback we’re getting from the medical staff.”

Texas would fare better against a cautious Lunt who is hesitant to risk the big plays that have been hurting the Texas defense lately. It would be better than a healthy J.W. Walsh, the explosive redshirt freshman who turned in 732 total yards of offense last weekend coming off the bench for Lunt.

The Texas defense will also have its hands full with Joseph Randle, who is Oklahoma State’s leading rusher and is currently the top rusher in the Big 12 with 335 total yards. For comparison’s sake, Texas’ Malcolm Brown is currently fifth with 238 yards on the ground. So far this season, the defensive unit from Texas has given up 148.3 yards rushing per game, despite only giving up 16 points on average.

“[The Longhorns] are aggressive and well-coached,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “You have to make sure you are sound in everything you do I think they do a really good job and their guys play hard. They fly around the football.”

In addition, Oklahoma State has the top-rated offense in the Big 12 through the first three games in all categories — rushing, passing, scoring and total offense.

On defense, Texas has outperformed Oklahoma State in every category so far this season. The Cowboy’s biggest challenge, like Texas’ previous three opponents, will be to stop the prolific run attack that Texas has been utilizing in non-conference games.

“I think we’re doing a good job of establishing that in practice,” OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert said. “We’re practicing pretty heavily against the run. They have some big backs, so we have to work on going out there and stopping them.”

Last season, Ash was the quarterback who got the nod for Texas against the Cowboys. Although Oklahoma State has seen Ash in action before, it is facing an entirely different quarterback this season. While Ash had three turnovers in the game against Oklahoma State last year, he has yet to throw an interception this season. If Ash continues to progress in his passing game, the Cowboys’ secondary will have a hard time controlling Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis, and the rest of the Texas wideouts.

“They’re a better football team overall and not just on offense,” Gundy said. “In my opinion, because the quarterback has gained some experience ... he seems to have a better understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish on offense. The running backs are making plays and running the ball effectively, which keeps the defense off the field ... experience would be the main reason that they’ve improved on offense.”

Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt (11) hands off to running back Joseph Randle, left, against Arizona during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

No. 18 Oklahoma State became the first of the ranked Big 12 teams to lose Saturday, falling to Arizona 59-38.

Coming off of an 84-0 win against an inferior Savannah State in week one, the Cowboys failed their first true test of the year in allowing the Wildcats to compile 501 offensive yards and to score at least 10 points in every quarter. The Cowboys were plagued by turnovers too as quarterback Wes Lunt threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a score, and running back Joseph Randle lost a fumble.

Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey found the end zone four times and totaled 154 yards from scrimmage to lead the way for the Wildcats.

The Cowboys did not lose until their 11th game of 2011-12 in what was the only loss of their Big 12 Conference championship season.

TCU’s Patterson becomes winningest coach in school history 
Gary Patterson won his 110th contest as TCU’s head coach with the Horned Frogs’ 56-0 win over Grambling State Saturday, passing Dutch Meyer as the winningest coach in school history. In the midst of his 12th season with the Horned Frogs, Patterson improved his record to 110-30 since joining the team. He has only failed to reach a bowl once in his tenure as head coach, and he is 7-4 all-time in bowl games with TCU.

“It is really kind of amazing to be here, going into a new conference, having the opportunity to play in a new stadium and passing a legend like Dutch Meyer,” Patterson said.

Quarterbacks star in offensive outbursts
A number of Big 12 quarterbacks put up gaudy numbers in the second week of the collegiate season. TCU’s quarterbacks Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin combined to go 17-for-17, which set a FBS record for most passes without an incompletion. Texas Tech’s Seth Doege tied a career high with five touchdown passes against Texas State, and he threw for 319 yards on 25-for-32 passing. Dual-threat Collin Klein threw for 210 yards and a touchdown and ran for 71 yards and three scores in Kansas State’s blowout 52-13 win over Miami, and Texas’ David Ash went 16-for-22 for 221 yards and two touchdowns while also scoring on a 49-yard run.

The Oklahoma Sooners were led in part by Heisman-hopeful Landry Jones, who went for 252 yards and a pair of scores, and Oklahoma State’s Lunt threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns but was ultimately beleaguered by three picks.

Former Big 12 members fall in SEC debuts
Both Texas A&M and Missouri struggled in their SEC debuts, as both fell to ranked conference opponents Saturday. The Aggies started strong in their first game since leaving the Big 12, leading No. 24 Florida 17-10 at halftime and holding the Gators to just one touchdown and 13 points through three quarters. The offense sputtered in the second half however, failing to score in the third or fourth quarter, and Florida scored on a 12-yard Mike Gillislee run early in the fourth to go up for good.

Missouri was also shut down in its first taste of SEC action, with No. 7 Georgia stomping the Tigers, 41-20. The Tigers too led at halftime, 10-9, before allowing the Bulldogs to go off for 15 points in the third quarter and 17 in the fourth in what turned out to be a lopsided victory for Georgia.