Quarterbacks tend to struggle in defeat, yet in its first setback of the season, Oklahoma State rode one of Spencer Sanders’ best performances.
Yet a 24-21 loss last week at Iowa State, decided on a late fourth-down spot in which officials determined on the field and off replay that the Cowboys fell short of the first down, dropped Oklahoma State out of the top 10.
The No. 15 Cowboys (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) remain a threat in the conference race entering Saturday night’s matchup against visiting Kansas (1-6, 0-4).
Sanders passed for 225 yards and three touchdowns, with no turnovers, against Iowa State.
“He was patient, and his composure was good,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “We protected him better, which gave him a chance to play better.”
Nonetheless, the loss weighed heavily on Sanders after Oklahoma State failed twice to tack on points with missed field-goal attempts.
“I made too many mistakes. That just can’t happen,” Sanders said. “We’ve got to come out and keep our heads.”
Sturdy consistency under Gundy, who stands 143-68 in his 17 seasons at Oklahoma State, led to a contract revision late last week that includes a perpetual five-year rollover.
“We can call it like we see it: I’ve been here a while. We’ve had tremendous success. So it’s a good opportunity for both sides,” Gundy told the Tulsa World. “When we have consistency and we can solidify what happens here at the one sport that financially drives this athletic department, it’s good for Oklahoma State.”
Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren provides the Cowboys a dangerous rusher, averaging 147 yards in his five starts. Tay Martin has 189 career receptions — 31 for 445 yards this season.
Still, the Oklahoma State attack has sometimes sputtered, leaving a staunch defense to help pull out four wins by one-score margins.
The Cowboys rank 19th nationally in total defense and 12th against the rush with a 94.3-ypg allowance behind the Big 12’s leading tackler, Malcolm Rodriguez.
Oklahoma State will bid for a 12th straight victory over Kansas, a string that would be the longest in program history against one opponent.
The Jayhawks demonstrated marked improvement by taking undefeated Oklahoma to the wire last week before falling 35-23. Jayhawks freshman Devin Neal, a prized hometown recruit, rushed for 100 yards.
“I felt like I had a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger out there that I was playing with,” Neal said.
Since transferring from North Texas, Jason Bean has continued to progress and engineered the upset bid against Oklahoma. Bean forged a season-best passer rating (178.1), going 17 of 23 for 246 yards and a touchdown.
Tapping into that passing attack could be vital since opponents average just 2.9 yards per carry against Oklahoma State. Still, Kansas coach Lance Leipold likes his team’s improved physicality while sensing the Jayhawks have become more disciplined.
“The list is getting shorter,” Leipold said when asked about improving the fine details.
Kansas has dropped 16 straight Big 12 games.
–Field Level Media