Cowboys prepare for conference opener against Longhorns

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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.”