September 05, 2014

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) After graduating several key playmakers off last year's 10-3 squad, Oklahoma State faced a lot of uncertainty heading into last weekend's season opener.

But despite falling 37-31 to No. 1 Florida State in the Kickoff Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., the Cowboys are brimming with confidence.

The resiliency that OSU demonstrated by bouncing back from a 17-0 second quarter deficit to almost defeat the defending national champions has restored a swagger the team was missing during the offseason.

''They have a lot of pride in themselves,'' said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. ''I've said this from Day 1 - they're focused. We probably compete and play a little better than we should at times because of the continuity we've had here for a number of years.''

Now the challenge is for them to maintain the same level of intensity and commitment in their home opener Saturday against a seemingly lesser opponent, Missouri State.

''We've got to prepare like every opponent is the same,'' said junior quarterback J.W. Walsh, who passed for 203 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 51 yards and two TDs, against Florida State. ''We've got to make sure we stay focused and treat them like any other team.''

Missouri State is coming off its own emotional high, after rallying from a 24-7 deficit midway through the third quarter to defeat Northwestern State on the road last weekend 34-27.

''I'm really proud of the football team, it was a complete team effort,'' said Missouri State coach Terry Allen. ''I thought that our players hung there. We won the game because I think we were in a little better condition for the heat than they were.''

Five things to watch Saturday:

RUNNING DOWN HILL: OSU running back Tyreek Hill, a junior college transfer, excelled in his first game last week against Florida State, and the Cowboys will be looking to him again to ignite the offense.

Hill gained 44 yards on eight rushes, recorded a team-high 62 yards receiving on six catches and helped provide good field position with 172 return yards on six kickoffs and two punts, not to mention playing a crucial decoy role on David Glidden's 55-yard touchdown reception.

ISBELL ANSWERS BELL: Freshman defensive lineman Colby Isbell came up big on defense when Missouri State needed him most last week, and the FCS National Newcomer of the Week will again play a key role Saturday.

Isbell turned the tide against Northwestern State when he stripped the ball loose just in front of the goal line, with the Bears trailing 24-7 in the third quarter, sparking the squad's comeback.

In the fourth, he blocked a field goal attempt that would have given NSU a nine-point lead with 9 minutes to go.

HOME COOKING: Oklahoma State has won 18 consecutive home openers, dating back to 1995 when the Cowboys fell to then-second-ranked Nebraska 64-21. The streak started the following year when OSU outlasted Missouri State 23-20 in the first-ever FBS overtime game.

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME.: Missouri State is seeking its first win in 24 years against an FBS team. Since joining the Division I FCS in 1982, the Bears have played 30 games against FBS teams and have prevailed just once - Sept. 1, 1990, against UNLV. Since then, they've lost 28 straight to FBS schools, all on the road, including six to Oklahoma State - the last coming in 2008.

YOUTH IS SERVED: Oklahoma State entered this season tied for the youngest team in FBS, with 32 freshmen and sophomores on the roster, while losing a nation-high 32 letter-winners off last year's squad. The Cowboys had 10 players make their first career starts against Florida State, including seven on defense.

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