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Friday, September 9, 2011
New coordinator, same results for OSU

By David Ubben

Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon continued his string of 100-yard games in Oklahoma State's blow out of Arizona.
STILLWATER, Okla. -- There was no bigger question surrounding Oklahoma State's program. Yeah, last season was fun, but did your offense pack up and move to Morgantown?

Former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen revived an offense that a year ago looked like it was tentatively piecing together building blocks for a marginal run in years to come. But by season's end, the Cowboys were near the top of the college football world offensively -- looking up at only Oregon and Boise State. But as quickly as he came, he left for West Virginia, where he's now the head coach.

Back in what is, at least for now, Big 12 country? So far so good. Oklahoma State beat Arizona 37-14 just months after doing the same in the Alamo Bowl in Holgorsen's last hurrah while wearing orange.

"It's still the same guys blocking, catching, throwing, running," quarterback Brandon Weeden said. "I think [Dana] is one of the best playcallers in college football, but you've still got to execute. ... The transition's been really smooth."

Everyone knew that Oklahoma State returned much of last season's team, which won a school-record 11 games. But who deserved the credit for the rise with so little experience and even lower expectations?

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden
Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden completed 42 of 53 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns -- both to Justin Blackmon.
Holgorsen's offense hung 34 points on Marshall in its Morgantown opener, but it's pretty clear by now that he didn't string together a record-setting offense in Stillwater with a bunch of scrubs.

For now, 2011 looks very much like a carbon copy of 2010.

Score 60 points in the season opener? Check.

Justin Blackmon racking up 100 yards receiving? Check.

Keep Weeden above 300 yards passing in both? Check, and he didn't even do that in 2010.

Beat Arizona by four touchdowns? Check, give or take a few points.

New coordinator Todd Monken's biggest tests are on the way, but the warmups? He's aced them all.

"Todd's doing fine," said coach Mike Gundy.

Out-of-character penalties stalled a few drives that could have put even more points on the board, but Oklahoma State has shown signs that it might be even better in 2011 armed with the experience from last year's overachieving season.

Weeden broke his own school record for completions on Thursday night with his 35th, and that was before the fourth quarter even began. He finished 42-of-53 for 397 yards and two touchdowns, both on goal-line fade routes to Blackmon.

Oklahoma State's top two backs, Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, combined for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries.

Volume and balance, two very good words coaches like Monken want associated with their offenses.

"I was just focused from the minute I ran out of the tunnel," Weeden said. "The confidence when you get a couple short ones and you hit a long one and then a couple more short ones, you just get that confidence. You get in the flow of the game and that's kind of how it went."

Expectations were high. For now, Monken's taken a more experienced offense higher.

"I want to be somewhere where the expectations are high and there's good players. So, if you're afraid of that, you'll never go any place where they've got good players and you're afraid of following in someone's footsteps," Monken said. "I'm not really worried about that. I came here because I knew the place was different when I was here before and has got good football players that give us a chance to win every week."

Oklahoma State might do exactly that this season. Early on, at least, it looked capable. And for as much well-deserved attention as Weeden and Blackmon draw, they're far from alone.

"Last year, it was kind of like Kendall [Hunter], Blackmon and Brandon," Blackmon said. "Now, you've got Joseph and Jeremy back in the backfield. You got receivers Hubert [Anyiam] and Josh [Cooper] on one side with Tracy [Moore] on the other. And you've also got Mike Harrison out there making plays. Overall, you've just got more people out there making plays."

Weeden completed a pass to 11 receivers on Thursday. Even the punter, Quinn Sharp, had more rushing yards than any single Arizona running back. His 23-yard scamper on a third-quarter fake was more than the 22 and 19 yards Arizona's top backs finished with.

Penalties plagued Oklahoma State, in part because of confusion surrounding what a new rule stipulates receivers can and can't do on cut blocks. But Gundy's well aware of what he has.

"One concern I have with this team, is they're so experienced on offense, and they're so confident in themselves, that I don't want them to think they can just go out there and it's going to happen," Gundy said.

That didn't happen Thursday night, despite a mid-game lull with a comfortable 21-7 lead.

But as the season progresses, Weeden, Blackmon & Co. will go out there. And it probably will happen.

But trust that both will do what's necessary to make it happen. Regardless of who's up in the booth.