Dallas Colleges: David Glidden
Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs: The junior was the Cyclones' leading receiver with seven catches for 63 yards in ISU’s 21-17 loss to TCU. Bibbs provides a solid athletic target, particularly on third downs. He had three receptions for 28 yards (two first downs) on third down against the Horned Frogs.
Kansas linebacker Darius Willis: The senior was productive in spot duty for the Jayhawks in their 42-6 loss to Oklahoma State. He had a season-high six tackles, including four solo stops, and looked like one of the few KU players who was engaged and excited to compete against the Cowboys.
Kansas State cornerback Randall Evans: Playing alongside Ryan Mueller, who had three sacks, and Ty Zimmerman, who returned an interception for a touchdown, it was easy to overlook Evans’ performance. He had 10 tackles, one pass breakup and one interception in KSU’s 49-26 win over Texas Tech.
Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander: Corey Nelson’s replacement has been growing into his role during his first four games as a starter. Even though he still shows his inexperience at times, he flashes the upside that had OU’s coaches raving about his ability earlier this season. He finished with 11 tackles, including eight solo stops, one sack and one forced fumble in OU’s 41-12 loss to Baylor.
Oklahoma State receiver David Glidden: The sophomore was terrific after standout receiver Josh Stewart left with an injury. Glidden finished with six receptions for 73 yards in OSU’s 42-6 win over Kansas. He entered the game with eight career receptions but filled in admirably against the Jayhawks. Three of his six receptions came on third down.
Texas defensive tackle Desmond Jackson: The junior stepped right in for the injured Chris Whaley with little drop off in the Longhorns’ 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia. He had eight tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, with two sacks and one forced fumble. It’s rare to lose a player like Whaley without taking a step backward, but Jackson seamlessly filled in to help UT remain undefeated in the Big 12.
Texas Tech running back Kenny Williams: The junior is a solid threat as a running back in the Red Raiders’ offense. Kansas State took control of the game and limited Williams’ opportunities, but he finished with 15 carries for 66 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per play. He hasn’t had a 100-yard rushing game this season, but he is a quality running and receiving threat in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s attack.
TCU linebacker Paul Dawson: The junior quietly has been playing as well as any linebacker in the Big 12 during the past month. He’s recorded double-digit tackles in four of his past five games, including the past three. Dawson had 14 tackles, including eight solo stops and two tackles for loss, in TCU’s 21-17 win over Iowa State.
West Virginia receiver Mario Alford: The junior had arguably the most explosive game by a Mountaineers’ receiver this season. He finished with 205 all-purpose yards, including 97 receiving yards, 88 kick-return yards and 20 rushing yards. His 72-yard touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter looked like last season's WVU offense.
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Just seconds after the ball was kicked off, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was streaking down the sideline, poised to put the Cowboys up by one touchdown and help his squad send another message to the rest of the Big 12 with a statement win.
Well, 1-for-2 isn’t bad.
No. 14 Oklahoma State hammered Kansas, 42-6, at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, but it was far from the same impressive effort that had become commonplace in the previous few weeks by the team from Stillwater. The Cowboys offense ran 70 plays for 359 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per play against the Jayhawks just days after looking like it had finally found its rhythm with Clint Chelf under center against Texas Tech and Iowa State.
The Cowboys’ hopes of a Big 12 title could be counting on it. With Texas in Austin and Baylor at Boone Pickens Stadium looming in the next two weeks, OSU’s offense will have to look much more like the squad that put up 55 points per game, 456 yards per game and 5.6 yards per play in back-to-back wins over Texas Tech and Iowa State than the group that punted on six of eight possessions during a mid-game stretch against the Jayhawks.
Yet the Cowboys could have a valid reason for the up-and-down nature of their offense Saturday. Gilbert’s 100-yard kick return for touchdown to start the game coupled with a Kevin Peterson interception helped OSU take a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Pokes, quite frankly, didn’t need an explosive offense against the Jayhawks so they didn’t strive to have one, particularly when KU started stacking the box to stop the run.
“We were pretty vanilla,” Gundy said. “We felt comfortable with our defense and their ability to play well today. We weren’t as wide open as we would normally be on other Saturdays.”
They'd better hope so.
The Longhorns, even though they stumbled around against West Virginia on Saturday night, won’t be easy to beat in Austin, and the Bears, well, they’re looking like legit BCS title game contenders after their 41-12 thrashing of Oklahoma on Thursday.
“We were pretty vanilla, there wasn’t anything too exotic,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “We knew we just had to secure the ball and do what we do.”
The result? Chelf was 19-of-37 for 265 yards and three touchdowns as the Cowboys focused on maintaining control of the game and not committing turnovers to let the Jayhawks back into it.
“You’d like to really explode and be better,” Yurcich said. “You’re never really satisfied with those numbers, but we did what we had to do to win the football game.”
With KU aimed at stopping the run, Oklahoma State’s running game took a clear step backward. The Cowboys’ 2.7 yards-per-carry average and 85 total rushing yards will raise eyebrows, as main ball carrier Desmond Roland could only manage 44 yards on 16 carries (2.8 yards per) after combining for 57 carries for 315 yards and seven touchdowns against the Cyclones and Red Raiders.
That type of ground game won’t get it done against Texas, Baylor or Oklahoma in the final three games of the season as OSU tries to secure its second Big 12 title in three seasons.
“We just have to take one game at time,” said receiver David Glidden, who stepped in for an injured Josh Stewart to record six receptions for 73 yards. “This is the biggest part of the season, we’ve started to get it rolling the past few weeks and Coach Gundy says all the time we’re coming together as a team.”
Stewart, one of the Big 12’s most explosive players, suffered an leg injury early in the contest. While it didn't appear to be serious, his status is unclear, according to Gundy. Getting him healthy and productive would help, as will a Ben-and-Jerry’s-type approach on offense instead of the vanilla flavor that reigned Saturday.
“We feel like we still have our rhythm and confidence,” Roland said. “As a team, we’re playing hard and relentless, and that’s what we’ll have to do in this last stretch.”
Yet top to bottom, coach Mike Gundy agrees his Cowboys have never featured a deeper, more talented overall receiving corps than the one he’ll take into this season.
“But from top to bottom ... we have 10 or 12 guys that I think in three weeks could play in a game and go out there with the ones and have success. So we may be as good at that position as we’ve ever been -- without having maybe a potential first-round guy.”
The Cowboys might not have that potential first-round pick, but thanks to the fortuitous timing of an injury, they do have two go-to guys.
Oklahoma State went into 2012 counting on senior Tracy Moore to take over for Blackmon as the No. 1 receiver. Moore proved up to the challenge, hauling in four touchdown passes in a shootout loss at Arizona early in the season. But a month later, Moore’s season was derailed when he suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the year.
“Other than (running back) Joseph Randle, before Tracy got hurt, he was our best player on offense,” Gundy said.
Moore getting hurt, however, provided a silver lining that should benefit the Cowboys this season: it cleared the way for Josh Stewart to shine out of the slot. After taking over as Oklahoma State’s primary pass-catcher, Stewart rapidly developed into one of the most dangerous receivers in college football and finished with 101 receptions, third-most in the Big 12.
And because Moore played less than 30 percent of the 2012 season, he was given a medical redshirt to come back, providing Oklahoma State with two playmakers who have shouldered the No. 1 receiver role.
“Not a lot of teams have that,” Stewart said.
Moore and Stewart will have plenty of help, too.
The Cowboys return two other starters at receiver in Charlie Moore and Blake Jackson, who combined for more than 65 receptions and 1,000 yards last season. Oklahoma State also brings back Austin Hays, who filled in admiringly after Tracy Moore got hurt with 29 catches, and Blake Webb, who got the start against Oklahoma.
“It’s crazy because last year I thought that we had great depth at the position,” said Jackson, who plays on the inside opposite Stewart. “Now getting Tracy back for another year, it’s crazy how many good receivers we have. We have 12 guys that could start right now and we’d be productive and keep moving.”
Among those 12 are underclassmen David Glidden, Brandon Sheperd and Jhajuan Seales, who all are vying for time. Seales has been especially turning heads. Gundy singled him out as someone who developed physically during the offseason as much as anyone on the squad.
“Anyone in the starting lineup go down, we’ve got someone that could fill them up at every spot and do good, and I’m not just saying that,” Stewart said. “We’ve had pretty good depth the last three years -- but nothing like this.”
The Cowboys are also about to reap the benefits of more fruitful recruiting efforts. In its most recent signing class, Oklahoma State landed four-star receivers Ra'Shaad Samples and Marcell Ateman, incoming freshmen who appear talented enough to contribute right away.
“The success we’re having has a lot to do with this, the previous success,” Tracy Moore said. “People see what Blackmon did, people see what Dez Bryant did. They want to come here and we’re getting top guys now."
The Cowboys don’t have a Blackmon or a Bryant. But the position in Stillwater has never been better.
“We are so stacked on receivers,” Moore said. “We’re definitely pretty stacked.”
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