The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

September 14, 2013

Cowboys put distractions behind

STILLWATER, Okla. —  After an eventful week at Oklahoma State off the field, the No. 12 Cowboys look to put aside any distractions and take care of football business.

Facing what some would call an inferior opponent in its home opener  tonight  against Lamar (1-1), the Cowboys (2-1) have to guard against a letdown.

“You got to prepare each week like the opponent’s the same,” said Cowboys’ quarterback J.W. Walsh. “That’s what we did last week and I think that’s what we’re going to do this week. We’re just going to keep preparing and treat them all the same.”

A recent report by Sports Illustrated described a decade of alleged misconduct in the Oklahoma State football program dating to 2001 under coaches Les Miles and Mike Gundy.

OSU said it has notified the NCAA about the allegations and launched its own investigation.

“There won’t be any further comment from me concerning this issue,” Gundy said. “I will say that we, myself and our staff, are focused on our team doing the right things. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, both on and off the field.”

For Lamar, the allegations probably won’t make the job any easier for the FCS school that plays in the Southland Conference.

“I don’t think that will have a bearing on the players that are playing the game now,” Lamar coach Ray Woodward said. “They’ve played two road games. This is their first home game, so they’re going to be jazzed. I’m more concerned about that crowd noise and atmosphere than anything else.

“If it does anything, it will give them a little motivation. I can’t concern myself with that. We’ve got enough to worry about.”

Here are five things to watch when No. 12 OSU plays Lamar on Saturday:

1. PASSING FANCY: Walsh has found a groove after coming off a near-perfect performance in the Cowboys’ 56-35 win at UTSA last week when he completed 24 of 27 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns. With six different receivers accounting for the six passing touchdowns so far this year, there are plenty of targets for Walsh. “Our talent with our receivers is absolutely incredible,” Walsh said. “You go three, four or five spots deep on our depth chart, and you can find guys who could play for just about anybody. That’s what makes us so dangerous as an offense.”

2.   NEAR MISS: Lamar had chances to upset its FBS opponent last week before falling 27-14 against Louisiana Tech. A fumble late in the fourth quarter deep in Tech territory while trailing 20-14 ended the Cardinals’ hopes.

3. GROUND GAME: In addition to a potent passing game, the Cowboys also have displayed a strong ground attack. Senior running back Jeremy Smith has scored a rushing touchdown in 11 straight contests and has 136 yards and three TDs so far. At the same time, Walsh also has thrived in the running game, gaining 125 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries in OSU’s season-opening 21-3 win over Mississippi State.

4. NEW KIDS ON BLOCK: Senior running back Payton Ploch’s second-quarter touchdown against La Tech marked Lamar’s first touchdown against an FBS school since 1989, when the football program was disbanded. It was resurrected in 2010.

5. THIRD-DOWN DOMINANCE: Oklahoma State’s defense has been stellar so far this season on third downs, limiting the opposition to just a 27-percent conversion rate. Stepping up on third down was the key to their win over Mississippi State on Aug. 31, allowing just two first downs in 16 attempts.

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