Big 12: Tyron Carrier

OSU can't sustain high ranking -- again

September, 12, 2009
9/12/09
10:25
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AP Photo/Brody Schmidt
Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy, right, was not buying into the SI jinx after the Cowboys' 45-35 loss to Houston.

STILLWATER, Okla. – So much for the displays of national sports magazines that highlighted Oklahoma State’s quick ascent into the national title hunt after only one week this season.

Coming into stores across Stillwater earlier Saturday, fans were buying anything that had a Cowboy on it in a moment of exultation and pride for the long-suffering program.

The national attention – along with the top five national ranking after last week’s convincing victory over Georgia – was hopefully going to mark this season as different. So much different than all of those long previous years in the football wilderness.

But all of that excitement was punctured a few hours later after the kind of loss that has typified Oklahoma State so often during its football history.

On a dank, gloomy day that matched Coach Mike Gundy’s post-game attitude, Houston claimed a 45-35 victory that will cease most of the early buzz about Oklahoma State.

“Now, they get to see the other side of it,” Gundy said. “Everybody’s been telling them how they’ve been and how good they are. They’re going to see the other side of it.”

Oklahoma State has been ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll five times previously. Four of those times, the Cowboys had lost their next game to fall out of the high ranking. And in the other instance, they lost after two weeks.

Excitement after the season-opening triumph over Georgia and all of the resulting media attention would be an easy rationalization for Gundy. But he wasn’t buying any of it.

“I don’t believe in the SI jinx and I don’t believe in being ranked really high and everybody telling them they are good and then not preparing,” Gundy said. “I thought this team prepared well. I was disappointed that we made mistakes and turned it over. And I think Houston played a good football game.”

The Cowboys were victimized by four turnovers and 81 yards in penalties that repeatedly popped up at inopportune times.

And after what appeared to have been a breakthrough defensive effort last week, the Cowboys were gashed for 512 yards and 6.2 yards per snap by Houston.

An explosive Houston offense keyed by a smart, gritty quarterback like Case Keenum and fleet receivers like Tyron Carrier, Patrick Edwards and James Cleveland just seemed more explosive than Georgia last week.

“It was just a totally different style of offense (compared to Georgia) with the speed sweeps and the zone reads,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “It was assignment football and we just didn’t play nearly as sound as we would have liked to.”

The Cowboys played without Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter for most of the game. Hunter appeared to injure his right ankle early in the second quarter and was sidelined for the rest of the game.

Hunter, who rushed for 29 yards on nine carries and accounted for Oklahoma State’s lone first-half touchdown, appeared along the sidelines later in the game in street clothes. His immediate playing status is unknown.

“I’m sure he was hurt,” Gundy said. “How severe? I didn’t get that information.”

He’ll likely need him back if the Cowboys have any hope of winning their first Big 12 South Division title – which seems a more immediate goal than getting back into the top five anytime soon.

“We still have a chance to win the Big 12,” Oklahoma State cornerback Terrance Anderson said. “We’ve got to keep that in mind. It’s still all out in front of us. We can’t let this beat us down. ”

Instant analysis of Houston-OSU first half

September, 12, 2009
9/12/09
5:23
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

STILLWATER, Okla. -- It's started raining just as the first half ends, making the mood even darker and gloomier for Oklahoma State fans who have seen the No. 5 Cowboys fall into an early 24-7 hole against Houston.

Here's a quick look at how the first half played out in a game where Houston could be ahead by a larger margin considering their two turnovers deep in Oklahoma State territory.

Turning point: David Hunter's crunching tackle forced a fumble by Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter at the Oklahoma State 16 to conclude the Cowboys' first possession. Houston quarterback Case Keenum scored on a 16-yard keeper on the next play and the Cougars have never been behind since then.

Stat of the half: Houston has produced 322 yards on 42 plays -- an average of 7.7 yards per snap. That offensive proficiency is the main reason why the Cougars haven't been forced to punt in the first half. The only time the Cougars have been stopped came on two drives ended by turnovers.

Best player of the half: Keenum was sharp from his opening possession. He has completed 19 of 25 passes -- including 11 straight completions at one point -- for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Keenum also added a 16-yard TD run on his only carry.

Best call: Houston singed an Oklahoma State blitz when Keenum hooked up with wide receiver Tyron Carrier on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 30.3 seconds left. The big play -- Houston's largest gain of the first half -- boosted the Cougars' halftime lead to 24-7. Keenum stood up to the maximum blitz by Oklahoma State linebacker Donald Booker before hitting Carrier barely past the line of scrimmage.

What Houston needs to do: Keep doing what it has so far, especially on offense. The Cowboys haven't had an answer for Dana Holgorsen's innovative combination of passes and runs. The defense will be challenged by Oklahoma State's high-powered offense, so better pressure will be necessary. And the Cougars have done a nice job on special teams, picking up an onside kick that set up their final drive.

What Oklahoma State needs to do: The Cowboys need to flush away the memories of their first-half struggles -- and quickly. The Cowboys defense, which looked so promising last week against Georgia, needs to get more pressure on Keenum. The Houston quarterback has barely been touched in the first half. And it would behoove them to get into their offense as quickly as possible because they likely will have to win this game in a shootout if their defense continues to struggle.

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