February 03, 2015

Oklahoma State mostly steamrolled through its nonconference slate, while Texas has already been exposed defensively before beginning play in one of the nation's highest-scoring leagues.

The 24th-ranked Cowboys could be in for another dynamic performance in their Big 12 opener Saturday at Texas.

The Cowboys (3-0) outscored Central Arkansas and Texas-San Antonio 101-22 after a 24-13 win at Central Michigan in the opener. The schedule hasn't been a particularly impressive one, considering those teams are a combined 1-7.

Oklahoma State is seeking its fourth 4-0 start under Mike Gundy, which would bode well moving forward. The Cowboys averaged 10.7 wins the three previous seasons in which they won their first four games.

"Obviously, it will be the most competitive game that we've been in up to this point," Gundy said. "They'll be the toughest and most talented team that we've played."

Gundy's squad is one of three FBS schools that ranks in the top 20 in scoring offense (41.7 ppg) and scoring defense (11.7), joining West Virginia and Georgia Tech.

The Cowboys' defense showed more of a penchant for big plays last Saturday against the Roadrunners, forcing seven turnovers after forcing only one in the first two games. Oklahoma State also looked more balanced offensively, racking up 217 rushing yards after averaging 158.5 previously.

Top back Chris Carson had averaged 3.6 yards per carry before recording 104 yards on 17 rushes Saturday.

"We're working real hard every day in practice and good results come with great effort," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. "I think our offensive line is improving as well. We have to maintain balance and being able to throw the ball obviously helped."

Quarterback Mason Rudolph continued to be efficient, completing 17 of 23 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. He ranks sixth nationally with 10.5 yards per attempt and is completing 68.9 percent of his passes.

The Longhorns (1-2) have won seven straight Big 12 openers and are 9-1 when opening conference play in Austin, but they haven't inspired much confidence in nonconference play. They missed a late extra point after coming back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter in last Saturday's 45-44 loss at California.

Jerrod Heard, making his second career start at quarterback, amassed 527 yards of offense, surpassing Vince Young's school record of 506, and Texas' 650 yards of offense were the eighth-most in school history. Heard also joined Colt McCoy as the only other Longhorn to throw for more than 300 and run for more than 100 in a single game.

But as good as Heard was, Texas' defense was equally bad. The Longhorns surrendered 500-plus yards of offense for the second time in three games. They're having a tough time getting off the field, letting opponents convert 56.3 percent of third downs - the second-highest rate in the FBS behind North Texas (61.8).

"An amazing performance by Jerrod," coach Charlie Strong said. "You don't want that to be overshadowed ... (But) we have to get the defense fixed, and we have to get it fixed right away."

After allowing 23.8 points per game last year, Texas is giving up 37.0 and has a challenging road ahead in the Big 12. Oklahoma State is one of six teams in the conference that rank among the nation's top 23 highest-scoring teams.

"Our goal is to win the conference. That's one of our goals," Strong said. "We're going to go out and compete each and every week. For us, it starts this week with Oklahoma State. We know we have to go play well because it's a really outstanding football team."

The Cowboys had dropped 12 in a row in the series before winning three of the last five with each victory coming in Austin, including a 38-13 victory in 2013. The Longhorns had been 14-1 all-time against Oklahoma State at home, and still own a 24-5 advantage in the series overall.

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