Dallas Colleges: Daytawion Lowe

Big 12 undrafted free-agent signings

May, 12, 2014
May 12
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Seventeen Big 12 players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL draft. Many other Big 12 alums will have a chance at the next level as undrafted free agents.

Below is a list of undrafted players who reportedly have agreed to free agent deals. This is not a final list, as teams are still working to sign undrafted free agents. But these are the players we know of so far.

Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
TCU
Texas
Texas Tech
West Virginia

Season report card: Oklahoma State

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
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Oklahoma State was one win away from its second Big 12 championship in three seasons. Yet the Cowboys ended the year with back-to-back losses that cast a disappointing shadow over their season. The preseason Big 12 favorite finished 10-3 with losses to West Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri but had to clear some hurdles to win double-digit games for the fourth time in five seasons.

Offense: A-

It seems like OSU’s offense took a clear step backward during Mike Yurcich’s first season as offensive coordinator. Yet the Cowboys finished among the top 3 in the Big 12 in most categories, including points per game (39.1), yards per game (448.8) and yards per play (5.9). But their struggles in key moments, like the road loss at West Virginia and on third down (38.6 percent conversion rate, sixth in the Big 12 and No. 60 among FBS teams), drops this grade to an A-.

Quarterback Clint Chelf saved the offense with his performance in the second half of the season, although he experienced some ups and downs of his own at various times. OSU’s receivers were among the deepest in the Big 12 with Charlie Moore, Jhajuan Seales, Tracy Moore and Josh Stewart each looking like top targets at different points in 2013 making the receiving corps the strongest group on the offensive side of the ball.

The Cowboys running game was the main area where the Pokes took a clear step backward, rushing for 171.9 yards per game and losing the balance their offenses had become known for during recent years. Inconsistency at running back and along the offensive line played a major role in those problems.

Defense: A+

For the first time in recent years the Cowboys defense was the foundation of their success. The Cowboys finished atop the Big 12 in several defensive categories including points per game (21.9, No. 19 among FBS teams), third down conversion rate (31.4 percent, No. 7 among FBS teams) and passing yards per attempt (5.8, No. 10 among FBS teams).

[+] EnlargeJosh Stewart, Andrew Wilson
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart, who announced earlier this week that he's entering the 2014 NFL draft, was the top playmaker for the Cowboys this season.
Veteran leadership from linebacker Caleb Lavey, defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and safety Daytawion Lowe made life easier for Glenn Spencer during his first season as defensive coordinator. Barnett was the anchor of a quality defensive line, Lavey joined Shaun Lewis to create a playmaking duo at linebacker and Lowe joined elite cornerback Justin Gilbert as anchors in the secondary.

OSU’s defense had its share of struggles, particularly late in the season, but it was one of the Big 12’s best units from beginning to end.

Special teams: D+

OSU’s special teams cost them a game against West Virginia and didn't help the cause in the team's Bedlam loss. Overall, the special teams unit was below average for the majority of the season. The Cowboys finished at the bottom of the Big 12 in field goal percentage (61.1 percent) and net punting (34.3 net yards per punt). Only the dynamic punt return skills of Stewart and the sheer speed of Gilbert on kick returns kept this grade from being an F.

Overall: B+

Some people will look at this team and say it underachieved while others could look at it and say it overachieved. Problems along the offensive line handcuffed the offense for a good portion of the year and Chelf spending a portion of the year on the sidelines didn’t help. But the Cowboys still found a way to win 10 games and were one drive from winning another Big 12 title.

Big 12 unsung heroes: Bowl edition

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
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Here are the Big 12's unsung heroes during the bowl season:

Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings: The Bears true freshman defensive tackle was active in the biggest game of his young career. He finished with 10 tackles including 0.5 tackle for loss in Baylor’s 52-42 loss to UCF in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Billings' three solo tackles led all Bears defensive linemen. If he continues to develop and has a jump in production as a sophomore, he could start becoming a force in the middle of Baylor’s defense in 2014.

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsKansas State QB Jake Waters threw for 271 yards and three TDs in the bowl win over Michigan.
Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters: The Wildcats signal caller was overshadowed by a stellar performance from Tyler Lockett (10 receptions, 116 yards, three touchdowns). But Waters was pretty good in his own right, particularly on third down. He finished with a 100 raw QBR (scale of 0-100 with 50 being average) on third-down plays during the Wildcats’ 31-14 win over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Waters was 4 of 7 for 44 yards and one touchdown and added three carries for 25 yards. He was the main reason KSU converted 7 of 11 third down attempts. Waters' strong play at the end of the year is one reason the Wildcats should be right in the mix to be crowned the Big 12 preseason favorite.

Oklahoma receiver Lacoltan Bester: The senior had the quietest 100-yard receiving game of the bowl season. He finished with six receptions for 105 yards and one touchdown in OU’s 45-31 win over Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. While fellow receivers Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders were combining for two touchdowns, Bester made the Crimson Tide pay whenever they focused too much on the Sooners’ top two receivers.

Oklahoma State safety Daytawion Lowe: The Cowboys fifth-year senior was all over the field in his final game. He finished with seven tackles and three pass breakups in OSU’s 41-31 loss to Missouri in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Lowe showed his versatility against the Tigers' running and passing game despite the loss.

Texas defensive end Cedric Reed: The junior joined running back Malcolm Brown and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat as one of the few bright spots in the Longhorns’ 30-7 loss to Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Reed finished with four tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. If he decides to return for his senior season, he provides an exceptional foundation for Charlie Strong’s first defense.

Texas Tech receiver Jakeem Grant: Quarterback Davis Webb was the star of the National University Holiday Bowl leading the Red Raiders to a 37-23 win over Arizona State. But Grant, the sophomore dynamo, was a big play waiting to happen. He finished with 125 all-purpose yards, including six receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Grant has unique speed and quickness and should be one of the Big 12’s top playmakers in 2014.

Bedlam QBs excelling at the right time

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
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As the calendar turned to November, the quarterback positions at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State remained fluid. Cowboys quarterback J.W. Walsh and Sooners quarterback Blake Bell had each had their stellar moments, earning player of the week honors at different points in the year, and each quarterback had stumbled in their team’s lone loss.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsClint Chelf (10) has been a different quarterback since regaining the starting job. He had 15 scores in November.
One month later, both offenses enter the regular season finale with a different level of confidence. And different starting quarterbacks.

Clint Chelf has stepped in for Walsh and played as well as any quarterback in the nation in the last four games. Trevor Knight is coming off back-to-back games in which he has given OU fans a glimpse of the talents that helped him earn the starting quarterback role to start the season. Both quarterbacks began the season as the opening day starter then were replaced for a stretch during the middle of the season before regaining their starting spot.

Their road has been similar but their journey has been much different.

Chelf had plenty of success in 2012, starting the final six games and throwing 14 touchdown passes. He appeared poised to be the man in the Pokes backfield heading into the season. But he lost his starting job within minutes of the opening kickoff against Mississippi State and was left wondering what happened as Walsh started the next five games. Even as OSU played its worst game of the season in a 30-21 loss to West Virginia, Chelf remained on the sidelines helplessly watching. The time on the bench, however, did not change Chelf’s approach.

“He was the same Clint from when he was starting to when he wasn’t starting.” OSU safety Daytawion Lowe said. “Same Clint. Practiced hard, kept the same work ethic. Didn’t slack off any.”

Chelf’s second chance came against TCU, but he was very average while leading OSU to wins over the Horned Frogs and Iowa State. But he’s been a different quarterback in November, leading OSU to wins over Texas Tech, Kansas, Texas and Baylor.

“Whether playing or not, he was always the same,” OSU receiver Charlie Moore said. “Same as he was when he wasn't playing. Now he's making huge plays. That's just who he is. It's been cool to see him persevere, get his shot and do well at it.”

Chelf’s 94.4 adjusted QBR (on a scale of 0-100 with 50 being average) was the best in the nation in the month of November. The senior has proven he can play his best in the Cowboys’ biggest games while helping the offense become more explosive and balanced.

“He kept a positive mindset, and it all worked out for him,” OSU running back Desmond Roland said. “He's been a great role model and leader for our team. And he's taken the offense to another level.”

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesTrevor Knight has improved his passing in recent weeks.
In Norman, Knight’s journey has been much different. The redshirt freshman made his first collegiate start on opening day. It was clearly an overwhelming experience that ultimately resulted in him losing his starting spot to Bell. But while Bell was playing, Knight was improving in practice and preparing like he was still the starter.

“It is tough preparing and knowing that you’re not going to, for sure, be in,” Knight said. “But you gotta have that strong mindset, that thick skin because you never know when your opportunity is going to arise. You have to find stuff to be competitive in when you do get those few reps in practice.”

Thus, the Sooners young quarterback was ready when Bell was knocked out of the game against ISU, stepping in and looking like a completely different player against the Cyclones and looking even better in his first road start, a 41-31 win over Kansas State in OU’s last game.

“You can tell when a player starts to see things clearer,” OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. “When you first get to play, you’re excited and everything goes so fast. I think we saw that slow down [against K-State], he was really focused, I think he saw the plays that were coming and had a good idea what he wanted to do against the defense he saw.”

Knight has played his best football in OU’s last two games, with an 86.4 adjusted QBR in wins over ISU and KSU. His QBR ranks second only to Chelf among Big 12 quarterbacks during that span.

Now the two quarterbacks meet in Bedlam playing their best football.

“I think all players, it’s just about getting into a groove,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Once they are more comfortable in who they are, and you can tell by the way they play, they just seem to be more in a rhythm and very comfortable and seeing things very well.”

Bedlam the final obstacle for Cowboys

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State has won a Big 12 title. And been to a BCS bowl.

The Cowboys have the Big 12’s best record over the last five seasons. And defeated Texas three straight times in Austin.

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy, Bob Stoops
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesWhile Mike Gundy (left) has raised Oklahoma State's profile, he is just 1-7 against Bob Stoops and OU.
Since the turn of the century, the Big 12 has always been about the Big 2 -- Oklahoma and Texas.

But spurred by Boone Pickens’ dollars and Mike Gundy’s coaching, Oklahoma State is on the verge of turning that into a Big 3.

Only one obstacle remains for the Cowboys: consistently vanquishing their in-state rival.

This weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will stage the 108th meeting of the Bedlam rivalry. The Sooners have lost only 17 of those meetings, making Bedlam the most lopsided in-state rivalry in college football history.

“It’s a rivalry,” Cowboys guard Brandon Webb said. “But we haven’t won too many times in that rivalry.”

With opulent facilities, a substantial uptick in recruiting, assistant coaching salaries commensurate to the nation’s top programs, exciting schemes and a galvanized, expanding fan base, Oklahoma State’s rise has been rapid in Gundy’s nine years as head coach.

“Oklahoma State has come a long way in football,” Gundy said. “Our goal nine-and-a-half years ago was year-in, year-out, on a daily basis, when we went to play a football game, to have a chance to win. And not go to a stadium and the fans feel like we don’t have a chance to win. I think we’re at that point. … The program is at a different level nationally.”

Oklahoma State, however, won’t go any further nationally until it can overcome its local problem.

Under Gundy, the Cowboys are 1-7 against the Sooners, preserving the lopsidedness of the series, while also preventing Oklahoma State from climbing to the lofty perch where Oklahoma has comfortably resided since Bud Wilkinson agreed to coach the Sooners after the Second World War.

“They’re standing in our way,” said Webb, whose father Terry was an All-American guard for Oklahoma in the early 1970s and one of countless Sooners who finished their careers unblemished in Bedlam. “If they can beat us every time, it’s not good. We’ve got to beat them to get to where we want to be. It’s something we have to overcome.”

Saturday, the Cowboys have a prime opportunity to accomplish just that.

Oklahoma State is a double-digit favorite in Bedlam for the first time since odds makers began keeping track. And with a victory, the Cowboys can clinch their second Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl appearance in three years.

To the players, the stakes are still higher.

“It’s not just another game at all,” said Cowboys defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, who grew up in Tulsa, Okla. “This is not just for the Big 12 championship, not just to finish the season out winning, not just for a BCS game. It’s about people knowing there’s not just one dominant team in Oklahoma.”

For seven decades, there was just one dominant team. From 1946-2009, Oklahoma won Bedlam by double digits a stunning 43 of 63 times.

“We’ve made it a very competitive game,” said safety Daytawion Lowe, an Oklahoma City native who chose the Cowboys over Oklahoma coming out of high school. “Back when I watched the game growing up, it used to be blowouts. The last five years, it’s been very competitive.”

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesClint Chelf and the Cowboys will earn a second Big 12 title with a Bedlam win.
So competitive that two of the last three games have been decided on the final possession, with the Cowboys actually landing the lone blowout victory.

“That’s what’s changing,” Webb said. “People say we used to be afraid of OU. But we’re not afraid anymore.”

After losing a wild shootout in 2010, Oklahoma State came back to destroy the Sooners 44-10 in 2011 to seize the program’s first outright conference title in 63 years.

Last year in Norman, the underdog Cowboys showed no fear and thoroughly outplayed Oklahoma for three quarters, before the Sooners stormed back to win in overtime. It was the first time in 12 years the Cowboys played Oklahoma to within 27 points in Norman.

“It’s been a give and take where people that watch it, when you went to the stadium, you didn’t know who was going to win,” Gundy said. “There was a time … where I’m not sure that was (true).”

Gundy downplayed the significance of specifically beating Oklahoma, noting the goals at Oklahoma State are now bigger and broader.

“Our goal is to win our conference,” Gundy said. “Then (let) the chips fall based on how the country feels about us. … getting into the (College Football Playoff).”

But winning the conference requires beating Oklahoma more than once a decade. The Sooners, after all, have captured eight Big 12 titles in the last 13 years. Winning the conference also requires being more than just competitive with Oklahoma, which once constituted Bedlam success in Stillwater not long ago.

“Oklahoma has a ton of tradition and has been good for a long time,” Cowboys wide receiver Charlie Moore said. “Hopefully 50 from years now, people will say the same about Oklahoma State.”

To get there, the Cowboys must first beat Oklahoma.

Starting first with Saturday.

“You can only change it one year at a time,” Barnett said. “We’re going to try and help change that this year.”

Under Spencer, OSU D on the attack

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- The play indicative of the Oklahoma State defense’s past came in the waning moments against the Longhorns last year.

On a fourth-and-6, Texas quarterback David Ash completed a 29-yard pass with ease across the middle of the field. During the play, the Cowboys rushed only three. And boosted by the big pass, Texas ultimately came back to win.

But that was then.

[+] EnlargeGlenn Spencer
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma State's defense has improved since Glenn Spencer has allowed a more attacking style.
Under first-year coordinator Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State has finally shed the stigma of a bend-and-hope-not-to-break style this season. And now, heading into another Big 12 showdown with Texas this weekend, the Cowboys are playing defense at heights Stillwater hasn’t seen since the turn of the millennium.

“A lot of people can draw things up, but we’ve got good players that have allowed us to do some things we haven’t done in the past around here,” Spencer said. “Bottom line, we couldn’t do the things we’re doing if we didn’t have good players.”

The Cowboys certainly have good players. And with Spencer’s new aggressive approach, the Pokes are shutting the opposition down for the first time in a long while.

Nationally, Oklahoma State ranks just 20th in scoring defense and 37th in total defense. But those numbers don’t give the Cowboys their due.

Because they play alongside a fast-paced offense, the Cowboys have to defend more plays than most defenses. That’s why “next-level” analytics such as “points per drive” and “yards per play” better underscore the Pokes’ defensive resurgence behind Spencer.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Cowboys rank sixth in the country in fewest points per drive allowed. They also rank ninth in yards per play allowed. Dating back to 2010, Oklahoma State hasn’t finished in the top 40 in either category.

Yet even some of the more traditional numbers suggest a steep upward trend.

The Pokes rank in the top 10 nationally in takeaways (ninth), third down defense (sixth) and red zone defense (ninth).

Put all that together, and it’s not difficult to see why the Cowboys have surged back into the Big 12 title race after an early-season loss at West Virginia. Only, for the first time in the Mike Gundy era, it isn’t the offense leading the charge.

“We’re not sitting back and letting offenses attack us,” senior safety Daytawion Lowe said. “We’re attacking them.”

The last time an Oklahoma State defense was on the attack, Rob Ryan was its defensive coordinator. Since Ryan bolted for the NFL in 2000, the Cowboys have shuffled through several coordinators to little avail.

Oklahoma State’s top defensive effort came behind Bill Young in 2011, when the Cowboys captured their first Big 12 title. The Pokes’ bending defense surrendered points and yards in droves. But they countered by leading the country in takeaways, setting up Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon with short fields.

Yet last season, the defense broke more than it bent. And the Cowboys closed out the regular season getting gashed by Oklahoma and Baylor, prompting Young to step down and Gundy to make another change.

Gundy had always looked outside the program for offensive coordinators, bringing in Dana Holgorsen, Todd Monken, and, most recently, Mike Yurcich all the way from Division II Shippensburg.

But to resurrect his defense, Gundy looked within, and promoted Spencer from linebackers coach to coordinator.

“I liked his demeanor, his style of coaching, how he dealt with his players,” Gundy said. “He’s a very smart coach.”

Gundy also liked Spencer’s plan for a defensive turnaround. No longer would the Cowboys rush three on critical downs. Nor would they play their corners 10 yards off the ball due to the fear of getting beat deep.

“We talked about that the first meeting we had,” Spencer said. “To do that, you can get exposed really fast. They’re getting challenged every day, because of things we as a defensive staff are asking them to do. But play in, play out, we also wanted them to feed on that.”

Despite living on an island, Oklahoma State cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Kevin Peterson have held up well. In fact among Big 12 teams, only Oklahoma has allowed fewer plays of 40 yards or more.

“We’re challenging the receivers,” Peterson said. “And that aggressiveness has really allowed everything to come together.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the defense has fed on Spencer’s assertive approach.

“The effort and excitement is everywhere -- guys want to make plays,” senior middle linebacker Caleb Lavey said. “No one wants to sit back and let someone else make a play. We have 11 guys on defense that are hungry and want to make big plays.”

No one has played with more hunger than Lavey, who has gone from Bedlam goat, to the short list for Big 12 defensive player of the year.

Last year, Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell ran through Lavey for a goal-line touchdown to send the game to overtime, where the Sooners prevailed.

This year, Lavey has become the cornerstone of Spencer’s defense, leading the Cowboys in tackles and tackles-for-loss.

“A lot of them like him have been through those storms, those valleys,” said Spencer, who has had the Cowboys meet as a defense more than in the past to help build unity and accountability.

“I’ve been around and seen them, heard them and felt them get beat up, unwarranted in my opinion in a lot of cases. I just wanted to work so hard for them to achieve some success and some realization of their hard work.”

That hard work is finally coming to a realization. And Saturday, the Cowboys have a chance to show just how far they’ve come since Ash’s fourth-down pass.

“Coach Spencer has given us that identity,” Lowe said. “This last stretch, that’s going to be the real test.

“But we’re on our way.”

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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Taking stock of Week 10 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: The Cowboys on Saturday showed why they were the preseason pick to win the Big 12. Oklahoma State jumped to a 21-0 lead over Texas Tech, and, for the most part, controlled the game the rest of the way. Despite throwing two interceptions, QB Clint Chelf played his best game since last season, accounting for four touchdowns. Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs also spearheaded another tremendous effort on the ground, as OSU converted all six of its red zone possessions into touchdowns. Defensively, the Cowboys were terrific, too, limiting Tech to just three touchdowns over 17 possessions. This is a team beginning to find its stride -- just in time to make a run at the Big 12 championship.

[+] EnlargeJace Amaro
Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY SportsJace Amaro, who caught 15 passes for 174 yards in Texas Tech's loss to Oklahoma State, had a crucial fumble caused by Cowboys safety Daytawion Lowe.
Disappointment of the week: The Horned Frogs had an opportunity to take a step toward securing a bowl berth and partially salvaging the season. Instead, TCU blew a 17-3 lead, then self-destructed in overtime in a 30-27 loss to West Virginia. The Frogs turned the ball over three times in five plays, then committed a personal foul in overtime that resulted in having to attempt a 62-yard field goal. To even qualify for a bowl now, TCU will have to run the table, which is less likely than a 62-yard field goal.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Chelf, West Virginia running back Charles Sims and Kansas State running back John Hubert.

Chelf had two terrible interceptions, including a pick-six, in Lubbock. But he was terrific otherwise. Chelf threw for 211 yards and rushed for another 88 while accounting for four touchdowns.

Sims had his best performance yet as a Mountaineer, piling up 154 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries to power the West Virginia comeback in Fort Worth.

Hubert produced his best game of the season, too, rushing for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

Big (defensive) men on campus: OSU safety Daytawion Lowe, Texas defensive tackle Chris Whaley and K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller.

In the first quarter, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro hauled in a 21-yard pass across the middle on third-and-long. But at the end of the play, Lowe upended him, popping the ball loose, which the Cowboys recovered. The next play, the Cowboys converted a flea-flicker. The play after that, they were in the end zone to storm to a 14-0 lead. Lowe also led the Cowboys with a game-high 11 tackles.

With Texas clinging to a 14-6 lead midway through the third quarter, Whaley delivered his second game-changing defensive touchdown of the season. Teammate Cedric Reed hit Kansas QB Jake Heaps from behind, the ball popping to the turf. Whaley scooped it up and thundered 40 yards for the touchdown. “All of the momentum changed in one play," said Kansas coach Charlie Weis, as the Longhorns charged to a 35-13 win.

[+] EnlargeCharles Sims
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia tailback Charles Sims had his best game of the season vs. TCU, rushing for 154 yards and adding two touchdowns.
Mueller had another huge performance with seven tackles and two sacks. His tackle also knocked Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson out of the game just before halftime.

Special-teams players of the week: Oklahoma State specialist Derek Branson and West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert.

With the Cowboys leading 14-0 in the first quarter, Branson busted through the West Virginia punt protection, blocked the punt and recovered it, setting up the Cowboys with great field position at the Tech 15. Four plays later, Roland was in the end zone.

Lambert was money in the Mountaineers’ rally over TCU. He nailed all three of his field goal attempts, including the game-winning 34-yarder in overtime.

Honorable mention recognition goes to TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom, who converted a 45-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Oberkrom also nearly saved TCU on his 62-yard try in overtime. The kick had the distance, but was wide to the left.

Play of the week: After Tech closed the deficit to 28-24 at halftime, OSU reestablished control in the third quarter. With the Red Raiders selling out on run blitzes off the edge, OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich dialed up the perfect counter, a QB draw. Chelf took off up the middle of the field and raced 67 yards for the touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 42-24 lead. The scamper was the longest TD run by an OSU QB since Brent Blackman’s 72-yarder in 1972.

Stat of the week: With the overtime loss to West Virginia, TCU has lost three games in a row for the first time since Gary Patterson took over as head coach in 2000.

Quote of the week: "I'm pretty sore. I'm pretty beat up. But ... it’s worth it.” -- Oklahoma State's Roland, after carrying the ball 57 times the past two weeks.

Oklahoma State season preview

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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Today we continue our Big 12 preview by taking a look at Oklahoma State, the preseason media favorite to win the league in 2013.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Coach: Mike Gundy (67-35, 8 seasons; 67-35 at OSU, 8 seasons)

2012 record: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12)

Key losses: RB Joseph Randle, K Quinn Sharp, QB Wes Lunt, OL Lane Taylor, CB Brodrick Brown, LB Alex Elkins

[+] EnlargeJosh Stewart
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Josh Stewart was one of the top receivers in the Big 12 last season as a sophomore.
Key returnees: WR Josh Stewart, DT Calvin Barnett, CB Justin Gilbert, LB Shaun Lewis, S Daytawion Lowe, QB Clint Chelf, S Shamiel Gary, LB Caleb Lavey, WR Tracy Moore, QB J.W. Walsh

Newcomer to watch: The Cowboys have considerable depth at wide receiver entering the fall, but Ra'Shaad Samples could have a breakthrough debut season. The freshman from Dallas was an Under Armour All-American and ran a 4.32 in the 40 this summer.

Biggest games in 2013: A lot could be on the line at Bedlam this year when Oklahoma comes to town on Dec. 7. Texas, TCU and Baylor will all be tough conference tests, and OSU doesn’t start off with a cupcake: The Cowboys will travel to Houston to take on Mississippi State on Aug. 31.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Can the Cowboys win the close ones this year? It’s anyone’s league in 2013, and preseason favorite Oklahoma State could struggle to win it outright if the team can’t get it done in the big games like last season. A five-point loss to Texas, three-point overtime defeat against Oklahoma and seven-point loss at Baylor accounted for three of OSU’s five losses last fall. Perhaps more stability at the quarterback spot after juggling three in 2012 will help put the Pokes over the top.

Forecast: Preseason prognostication is all about paper, about how good a team’s projected depth chart looks, and how tough a schedule appears before pads are even put on. On paper, Oklahoma State looks like a potentially great team in 2013.

The Cowboys bring back 15 starters, including perhaps the Big 12’s best receiver (Stewart) and defensive tackle (Barnett). Either Chelf or Walsh could win the starting job and OSU would still have one of the league’s best passers behind center. The cupboard of talent looks pretty stocked.

Mike Gundy finds himself in an enviable position with his preseason Big 12 favorites, but there will be several challengers to the throne. His Cowboys have a chance to go 9-0 if they knock off TCU at home. The final stretch -- Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma -- is tricky, but two games are at home and there’s a bye before OU. The Pokes have the talent and the schedule needed to win this league, there’s no doubt about that.

There are really two big question marks that must be overcome, questions OSU fans are no doubt tired of asking. The first surrounds the team's two new coordinators, including its fourth new offensive coordinator in five years. What will Mike Yurcich, the intriguing hire from Division II’s Shippensburg, bring to the table?

The second is the defense. New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has to fix up a unit that held up well in victory last season but gave up 47.2 points per game in its five defeats.
Phil Steele knows college football, and rolled out his preseason all-conference teams recently, including the Big 12.

You can see the full conference picks here, but plenty of interesting selections from the college football guru. ESPN.com's teams won't be released until much later this offseason, but here's a few thoughts on Steele's teams:
  • Is it a little bit crazy to pick a guy who has thrown 10 career passes as your first-team All-Big 12 quarterback? Absolutely. If I had to pick one, though, would I tab Baylor's Bryce Petty as the first-team All-Big 12 quarterback to close the season? Yes, I would. Generally, I see preseason honors as a "Who's had the best career to this point?" type of deal and not as much of a prediction, but that's a personal belief and not anything the Big 12 officially states when it sends out preseason All-Big 12 ballots. Petty is an intriguing choice as the Big 12's No. 1 quarterback that's obviously going to draw attention, but I'm not going to be one to argue.
  • I'd say selecting Petty as the Big 12's No. 1 QB says just as much about the rest of the guys in the Big 12 than it does about Petty. Steele tabbed TCU's Casey Pachall as his second-teamer, Texas' David Ash as his third and Oklahoma's Blake Bell on the fourth team. I'd say Clint Chelf or Michael Brewer belongs in that mix, but none of those guys have the statistical potential of Petty. Pachall makes great decisions on the field, but TCU's offense doesn't give him the capability to routinely roll up 400-yard games. Ash is above average, but he's not a world-beater (doesn't need to be for Texas to win a Big 12 title, I might add) and still has to prove he can be more consistent.
  • This might be the deepest season at running back we've seen in a long time. I'd put John Hubert or James Sims ahead of Oklahoma's Damien Williams, but good selections from Steele to give Andrew Buie, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown a little love, too. Opportunities are all that's limited Jeremy Smith from having a big year. He'll have them now, and I'm betting on him to be the seventh consecutive Oklahoma State running back to top 1,000 yards.
  • Conversely, this could be one of the weakest years for wide receivers. There are a lot of above average receivers in the league, but there's not a guy that jumps out as one defenses really fear and spend a ton of time game-planning for. Mike Davis and Josh Stewart are good, somewhat obvious picks for the first team, but I'd go with Jalen Saunders ahead of Tracy Moore, and probably Eric Ward, too.
  • Tough picks this year at safety, which has been easy for a while in the Big 12 with Tony Jefferson and Kenny Vaccaro hanging around. Tons of depth at that position. Steele went with Ty Zimmerman and Daytawion Lowe as his first-teamers. I'd probably say Joseph over Lowe by a hair but even when you get down to third-teamers like Baylor's Ahmad Dixon or fourth-teamers like Iowa State's Jacques Washington and Texas' Adrian Phillips, you're talking about guys who can really, really play. Could be a very defensive year in the Big 12, relative to what we're used to seeing in this league. Look at the cornerbacks, too. The dropoff from the first to third teams is negligible. Aaron Colvin and Jason Verrett have NFL-type measurables, but so do Justin Gilbert and Quandre Diggs and third-teamers Carrington Byndom and Joe Williams could be strong.
  • Steele illustrates the weight of Delvon Simmons' departure from Texas Tech. The defensive lineman was on Steele's second team before leaving school and electing to transfer. Kliff Kingsbury said last week he wants guys who want to be Red Raiders, but it's still a big loss for the Tech defense.
  • What about the kickers? It seems like everybody in the league hates their kicker these days, but two guys on Steele's list have their jobs up for grabs. Iowa State's Edwin Arceo is a second-teamer, but he'll be battling freshman Cole Nettlen to even get on the field once fall camp begins. Fourth-teamer Ron Doherty from Kansas is on the chopping block, too. Weis was displeased with just about every facet of his special-teams units last year, and completely revamped the way the units are coached. Every assistant coach now is in charge of one facet of special teams, instead of having one special teams coach. He brought in juco kicker Nick Pardula to try and fix those issues, too. He'll compete with Doherty in the fall, but Weis raved about Pardula's big leg when I talked with him last month. First-teamers Jaden Oberkrom from TCU and Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Kamp are certified studs, but it could be an ugly year elsewhere in Big 12 special teams.

Oklahoma State Cowboys spring wrap

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
10:30
AM CT
2012 record: 8-5
2012 Big 12 record: 5-4
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners: QB Clint Chelf, WR Josh Stewart, CB Justin Gilbert, LB Shaun Lewis, LB Caleb Lavey, WR Blake Jackson, DT Calvin Barnett, S Daytawion Lowe, DE Tyler Johnson

Key losses: RB Joseph Randle, LB Alex Elkins, K/P/KOS Quinn Sharp, CB Brodrick Brown, DE Nigel Nicholas, WR Isaiah Anderson

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Clint Chelf* (1,588 yards)
Rushing: Joseph Randle (1,417 yards)
Receiving: Josh Stewart* (1,210 yards)
Tackles: Alex Elkins, Daytawion Lowe* (75)
Sacks: Tyler Johnson* (4)
Interceptions: Lyndell Johnson*, Daytawion Lowe*, Shamiel Gary* (2)

Spring answers

1. The defense's intentions are clear. Bill Young is out. Glenn Spencer is in, and he's all about playing aggressive. Tight coverage and blitzes are the name of the game, and we'll see if it pays off in a Big 12 lacking in quarterback experience. Last season, OSU's parade of turnovers came to an end, but Spencer seems intent on bringing it back. Nobody's stopping Big 12 offenses, but forcing turnover and holding teams to three in the red zone are how you succeed on defense in this league.

2. The offensive line is set ... for now. Center Evan Epstein and guard Lane Taylor are gone, but the Pokes are going with youth at left tackle in sophomore Devin Davis, moving last year's left tackle, Parker Graham, to left guard. Meanwhile, junior Jake Jenkins is sliding up to take Epstein's spot at center. That's how it ended in the spring, but OL coach Joe Wickline is kind of unpredictable, so those guys better continue to bring it in fall camp.

3. Athletic director Mike Holder is still running the show. Gundy and Holder had a disagreement on scheduling that nearly ended with Gundy packing his bags to succeed Derek Dooley in Knoxville. But Gundy's displeasure with Holder helping schedule Mississippi State this year and Florida State next year -- both on neutral fields -- hasn't changed much. OSU just announced a future home-and-home with Boise State. Who knows what Boise will look like then, but the intent is clear: Holder wants attention-grabbing, money-making games to start the season, not home games against patsies to help OSU run up an easy 3-0 mark before conference play begins.

Fall questions

1. Seriously, what's the deal at quarterback? Chelf is the safe bet at quarterback, but Gundy reneged on a statement midway through spring that he would hold onto his starting spot in Week 1 ahead of J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt. Now, Gundy says the starter for Game 1 hasn't been decided, and quarterbacks are off limits to the media with no updates being given until after the season opener. We'll see if Gundy sticks to it, and if Chelf hangs onto the starting job he earned with strong play to close 2012.

2. Is Oklahoma State a new Big 12 power? The Pokes broke through and won a title in 2011, but one title doesn't mean anything in the big picture. OSU is in position to win another and just may be the league favorite to start the season. They are in my book for sure. Two Big 12 titles in three seasons? That's serious, and the Pokes have a chance to do some special things this season.

3. Is Mike Yurcich the next super coordinator at OSU? Mike Gundy's been a head coach less than a decade, but his coaching tree is already way underrated. He's churning out head coaches year after year, highlighted by guys like Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia, Larry Fedora at North Carolina and Tim Beckman at Illinois. Todd Monken just left for Southern Miss, and if Yurcich, who stepped into the new role from a Division II school, keeps the pace for this offense, I'm betting he may attract interest before too long, too. Watching how he handles Year 1 will be interesting. Monken came from being an NFL position coach and made parlaying that into a head coaching job look easy.

Weak and Strong: Oklahoma State Cowboys

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
2:30
PM CT
Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Next up: Oklahoma State.

Strongest position: Pass-catchers

I'll have to apologize to Oklahoma State's trio of safeties in Daytawion Lowe, Shamiel Gary and Zack Craig here, but I'm going with the guys hauling in balls in OSU's pass-first offense as the strongest position. I don't care to debate whether Blake Jackson is a receiver or a tight end (he's the former), but I'm obviously including him in this group. He'll be an interesting guy to watch this year after struggling with drops but clearly possessing loads of potential and averaging better than 20 yards a catch on his 29 grabs.

Oklahoma State had nine players with at least 12 catches and 150 receiving yards last season and returns six of those players, including Tracy Moore, who was given an extra year of eligibility. He won't be joined by Michael Harrison, who sat out 2012 and was expected to return, but won't be doing so after a strong 2011 season under Justin Blackmon.

Somehow, we've gotten this far without mentioning the unit's headliner, breakout star Josh Stewart. He was overshadowed by a trio of superstars in Baylor's Terrance Williams and West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but all three are gone and Stewart is easily the Big 12's best returning receiver. He caught 101 balls for 1,210 yards and seven scores last season, which is more than 150 yards more than any other returning receiver in the league. Stewart's underrated for now, but that could change soon, even though Oklahoma State has a ton of depth at the position with guys like Austin Hays and Charlie Moore filling out the position and Blake Webb emerging late in the season. Will incoming freshmen like Ra'Shaad Samples and Marcell Ateman find space to make an impact right away? It won't be easy, because this is Oklahoma State's biggest strength.

Weakest position: Defensive end

I've got nothing against juco transfers, who can walk on campus and be game-changers immediately, but if you're bringing in guys to do that, it shows a weakness at the position. Oklahoma State is doing that with Sam Wren, the nation's No. 16 overall juco prospect, after the Pokes lost three defensive ends from last season's team in Nigel Nicholas, Ryan Robinson and Cooper Bassett. Tyler Johnson is a solid player who made six tackles for loss a year ago, but OSU needs to find him help on the other side or opponents will be able to shut him down with double teams. Kansas State's Joe Bob Clements is a new addition to the staff who'll coach the position and try to sort it out this spring, but look for guys like Trace Clark, Jimmy Bean and early enrollee Naim Mustafaa to try to earn a starting spot, too.

More Weak and Strong.

Postseason position ranking: Safeties

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
8:42
AM CT
We'll continue looking at the Big 12's best at positions across the Big 12 today with the guys who serve as the last line of defense: the safeties. It's a pretty strong position across the Big 12, just like pass-rushers. In this league, it has to be. Let's get to it:

Here's what you've missed so far: 1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: Vaccaro is quick, explosive, versatile and has a great feel for the game. That's a fantastic combination for a safety and he patrols near the line of scrimmage for the Longhorns, but has great cover skills, too. The top three safeties in the league are really tight, but for my money, Vaccaro is the top of the list.

2. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma: Jefferson was the biggest piece of Oklahoma's defense this past season, and finished second in the league with 119 tackles. The Sooners' new scheme fed ball carriers his way, but Jefferson was there to make plays all year long. He moved to a more traditional safety spot after spending much of his first two years at nickel back. He's good in coverage, though his straight-line speed isn't eye-popping, and part of that is being a very instinctive player, just like Vaccaro.

3. Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State: Zimmerman's got a nose for the ball that's as solid as anybody on the list, and had a great year despite missing the last few games of the regular season with a broken bone in his leg. He picked off passes in four consecutive Big 12 games and finished with 50 tackles.

4. Cody Davis, Texas Tech: Davis has tons of experience and had a great year for a very improved Texas Tech defense. He picked off three passes, broke up seven passes and made 101 tackles as part of a secondary that limited offenses through most of the season.

5. Sam Carter, TCU: Carter made a splash in his first year in the Big 12 for the league's best defense. He broke up 10 passes, picked off four more and made 63 tackles. He also forced a fumble and had three sacks.

6. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor: Dixon's got a ton of talent and probably has the most NFL potential of any Baylor defender. He had a solid year, and could put together a big year in 2013. Baylor's defense still struggled for much of the year, but Dixon helped spur a late-season charge alongside linebackers Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey. Dixon made 102 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss, and intercepted two passes.

7. Javon Harris, Oklahoma: Harris tied for the Big 12 lead with six interceptions, though half of them came in games against FCS Florida A&M and 1-11 Kansas. He excelled this past season in Mike Stoops' defense, morphing the Sooners' biggest weakness -- defending the long ball -- into one of its strengths for most of the season.

8. Durrell Givens, Iowa State: There were more talented guys on Iowa State's defense, but there's something to be said for being a turnover machine in a breakout season like the one Givens had in 2012. He produced nine turnovers (three INTs, six fumble recoveries) and forced four more fumbles while making 80 tackles.

9. Bradley McDougald, Kansas: Kansas' defense was pretty ugly, but McDougald was a bright spot with 93 tackles, three interceptions and four tackles for loss with a pair of forced fumbles.

10. Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State's secondary was a bit disappointing, but Lowe had a decent season with 75 tackles, three tackles for loss, a pair of interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown.

The All-Big 12 Bowl Team

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
11:00
AM CT
The Big 12 had nine teams in bowl games this season, and here is the best of the best in the Big 12's postseason. Let's get to it.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDavid Ash's big plays fueled Texas' comeback against Oregon State.
QB: David Ash, Texas: He edges out Clint Chelf because of his game-changing plays in the Longhorns' win against Oregon State. Ash had the best play of the entire bowl season with a crazy escape and acrobatic touchdown pass to Johnathan Gray, and he hit Marquise Goodwin on a 36-yard bomb to put the Longhorns ahead in the final minutes. He finished 21-of-33 with 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and a score.

RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Seastrunk helped Baylor rout UCLA with 138 yards and a score on 16 carries in the Bears' Holiday Bowl win.

RB: Glasco Martin IV, Baylor: How many rushers did the Big 12 have this bowl season who had at least 95 yards? Two, and both played for Baylor. Martin scored three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl and carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. Heck of a night for the Bears backs.

WR: Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore was the most consistent receiver in the bowl season with 11 catches for 84 yards, keeping the chains moving for the Red Raiders in their Meineke Car Care Bowl win against Minnesota.

WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Despite playing in a snowstorm, Bailey had the best performance of any Big 12 receiver. He caught eight balls for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It wasn't enough to get the Pinstripe Bowl win, but no other Mountaineer scored a touchdown.

WR: Marquise Goodwin, Texas: The track star's touches were limited, but he had a huge impact. His 36-yard grab with 2:24 to play proved to be the game winner, and he finished with four catches for 68 yards. He also had one carry -- which he turned into a 64-yard touchdown, looking as fast as any player in college football while streaking to the end zone.

TE: Ernst Brun Jr., Iowa State: Brun caught four passes for 102 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, to get the first-quarter party started for the Cyclones, which scored 17 points in the quarter. The rest of the game was forgettable, but Brun had one of the longest plays of Iowa State's season.

OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor: The Bears' left guard was a big reason why Baylor had so much success running the ball. Baylor racked up 306 yards on the ground against UCLA.

OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State: Purdue's Kawann Short is a stud and arguably the team's best player, but Taylor helped Oklahoma State rack up 58 points and helped hold the Boilermakers defensive tackle to just one tackle and one sack. Short had minimal impact throughout the game.

OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ran the ball well -- on the few occasions they did -- and Seth Doege had plenty of time. Waddle was a big reason why for both.

OL: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: Texas A&M wrecking ball Damontre Moore declared for the NFL draft before the Cotton Bowl, but credit Johnson at tackle, who helped hold him to five tackles, one tackle for loss and zero sacks, despite Landry Jones throwing 48 passes.

OL: Ivory Wade, Baylor: Those 306 yards rushing for the Bears didn't come easy. Most of them came on the interior, and Wade was a solid presence in the middle of the line.

DEFENSE

DL: Chris McAllister, Baylor: He was one of a handful of guys to hold UCLA's Johnathan Franklin to 34 yards on 14 carries, had five tackles, including two sacks, and batted down a pass to help keep UCLA's passing game grounded.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor is my defensive MVP of the Big 12 bowl season. He gave Oregon State's offensive line nightmares and helped the Longhorns stage a late comeback with 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and eight stops. He also forced a fumble.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State: The Wildcats had a rough night against Oregon, but Williams played pretty well with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

DL: Terrance Lloyd, Baylor: Lloyd was part of the Baylor gang who helped UCLA have its worst running game of the season. He had four tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. No zone read for you.

LB: Terence Garvin, West Virginia: Garvin was everywhere for the West Virginia defense, which largely struggled in a blowout loss to Syracuse. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, had two sacks, made three tackles for loss and had 15 tackles.

LB: Tyler Johnson, Oklahoma State: Johnson blew up what Purdue likes to refer to as its "passing game." He made six tackles, had two sacks and forced two fumbles, including a huge hit on Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.

LB: Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Lackey was another part of Baylor's defense that put together one of its best games of the season. He made 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and five tackles.

DB: Jason Verrett, TCU: Most of Michigan State's night was frustrating in the passing game before some late success, and Verrett was a big reason for those struggles. He broke up two passes, made a tackle for loss and had 12 tackles.

DB: D.J. Johnson, Texas Tech: Johnson made 14 tackles and is on this team for one of the biggest plays of Texas Tech's season. The defense hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson picked off a Gophers pass in the final minute with Minnesota driving and the game tied. He returned it 39 yards, helping to set up the winning field goal as time expired.

DB: Jeremy Reeves, Iowa State: Reeves returned a Cody Green interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl loss. He had six tackles with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

DB: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: No second-half comebacks for Purdue. Lowe opened the half with a 37-yard fumble return for a score and made seven tackles with half a tackle for loss.

SPECIALISTS

KR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech: This one is pretty simple. Grant returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score, giving Texas Tech a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter of its Meineke Car Care Bowl win.

PR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: Purdue faked a punt to keep its opening drive alive but punted on its next set of downs. The always-shifty Stewart delivered a 64-yard punt return, giving Oklahoma State the ball on the Purdue 19-yard line. The Cowboys scored for a 7-0 lead to kick off the Heart of Dallas Bowl rout.

K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU: He edges out Texas Tech's Ryan Bustin, who kicked a 28-yard winner, for making all three of his attempts, including a crazy 53-yarder for a 16-14 lead with 2:42 to play. He also made kicks of 47 and 31 yards.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State: He narrowly edges out Oklahoma's Tress Way (five punts, three inside 20, long of 58 yards, average 49.4 yards) for this award after pinning Purdue inside its 20-yard line on two of his three punts. He boomed a 65-yarder and averaged nearly 53 yards on his three punts. He was more valuable for Oklahoma State because field position mattered to Purdue. It didn't to Texas A&M.

Instant analysis: Okla. State 58, Purdue 14

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
2:40
PM CT

Well, this is what most expected, no? Your ESPN Bowl Mania confidence points paid off big, I'm guessing. Purdue was the big underdog and Oklahoma State looked the part of big favorite. Let's take a look at some instant analysis for the Big 12's lone bowl game of the day.

It was over when: The bowl matchup was set? The Pokes were 17-point favorites, but I'd point to Daytawion Lowe's 37-yard fumble return on Purdue's opening possession of the second half. You never know what can happen in the second half, but that play, forced by Justin Gilbert, set the tone for the rest of the game, and made it clear Purdue would be making no comeback attempts on this day.

Game ball goes to: Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State. Stewart did a little bit of everything for the Pokes, highlighted by a 64-yard punt return to set up Oklahoma State's first touchdown. He caught five passes for 56 yards, rushed for 21 yards on his only carry of the game and even completed a 15-yard pass. Not a bad day's work for the sophomore.

Unsung hero of the game: Oklahoma State's defense. Forcing turnovers was a struggle all season for this unit, which forced just 17 takeaways after forcing 44 a year ago. Credit Purdue's less-than-stellar offense if you want (it was a factor), but the Pokes' defense put together a strong performance and made life easy for the offense, which will get maybe a little too much credit for the win. The defense forced five turnovers and scored a touchdown. The first turnover helped set up the game's second touchdown, too, and get OSU off on the right foot. Purdue didn't score until the game was well out of hand at 45-0.

Stat of the game: Oklahoma State won the turnover battle 5-0. That's all you need to know. OSU was by far the better team in this one, but Purdue played poorly and played sloppily, which is how you get beat by 44 in a game like this. Ugly from start to finish. For Oklahoma State, it was the first time all season it forced more than three turnovers. Conversely, the Pokes forced more than three turnovers in six of 13 games last season.

Second-guessing: Purdue's early strategy. The Boilermakers faked a punt deep in their own territory on their first drive, which would seem to signify they came to play. However, facing a fourth-and-4 at Oklahoma State's 17-yard line while trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, Boilermakers interim coach Patrick Higgins elected to kick a field goal. Sam McCartney missed the 34-yarder and OSU scored on the following drive to take a commanding 21-0 lead. Is Purdue playing to win or not? With Oklahoma State's high-octane offense, that's sending mixed messages.

What it means: Not a whole lot. Oklahoma State was better than its 7-5 record with a handful of blowout victories against good teams this season, like Texas Tech, West Virginia and Iowa State. The Pokes were within reach of a BCS bowl with just five quarters to play in the season, but landed in the Big 12's No. 8 bowl tie-in against an overmatched Boilermakers squad playing up in a bowl game because Ohio State and Penn State were both ineligible. Purdue barely managed six wins in a down Big Ten.

Oklahoma State spring wrap

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
9:30
AM CT
2011 overall record: 12-1
2011 conference record: 8-1

Returning starters: Offense 6; defense 8; P/K 2

Top returners
RB Joseph Randle, WR Tracy Moore, WR Isaiah Anderson, CB Brodrick Brown, LB Shaun Lewis, S Daytawion Lowe, LB Alex Elkins, CB/KR Justin Gilbert

Key losses
QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon, S Markelle Martin, DE Jamie Blatnick, C Grant Garner, RT Levy Adcock, WR Josh Cooper, WR Michael Harrison

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Joseph Randle* (1,216 yards)
Passing: Brandon Weeden (4,727 yards)
Receiving: Justin Blackmon (1,522 yards)
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe* (97)
Sacks: Jamie Blatnick (8)
Interceptions: Justin Gilbert*, Brodrick Brown* (5)

Spring answers

1. Handing the reins to the youngster: I had my doubts about whether OSU would actually pull the trigger and name a starting quarterback. For the Cowboys to name 18-year-old true freshman Wes Lunt is a big move, and proof of the staff's confidence that the Illinois native is the best man for the job. The summer will be about him establishing himself as the team's leader, but seeing how he handles the fall will be fascinating.

2. Rebooting the offensive line: You could say OSU must replace four starters on the offensive line, but sixth-year senior Jonathan Rush has plenty of experience while he returns from a knee injury, and Lane Taylor returns, too. Michael Bowie was a starter-quality contributor last year, and Parker Graham earned rave reviews for his work in the second unit last year, moving into a starter role for the final five games. Evan Epstein is the man at center, but replacing Grant Garner won't be easy. This is a unit hardly devoid of experience.

3. Emerging stars at receiver: OSU knew Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper would be gone this year, but Michael Harrison's exit from the team was a surprise. OSU needed talents to emerge in the spring, and they did. Josh Stewart was a big standout, as was juco newcomer Blake Jackson, in the mold of former Sooners star Jermaine Gresham. Charlie Moore exploded for 243 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. How far can Lunt take the Cowboys? Oklahoma State will carry the banner of defending Big 12 champs for the first time in school history next fall. They'll do so with a wide-eyed true freshman making his way through plenty of unfamiliar territory and playing plenty of new faces for the first time. His ceiling is high, but Oklahoma State will start in the top 25 and is good enough to be a factor in the Big 12 title race. How far will Lunt carry them?

2. Who's filling in for Markelle Martin? Martin was the leader of the defense in 2011, but defensive coordinator Bill Young says replacing him will be done by committee. Lavocheya Cooper, Zack Craig and Shamiel Gary will be in the mix, but how will that rotation work out in the fall?

3. Can the defense carry more of the load? OSU forced 44 turnovers last season, the most of any team in college football. It also finished 107th nationally in total defense. The Cowboys won't have the same awe-inspiring offense in 2011, but the defense returns a lot of experience and a lot of talent. Defensive ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones leave holes in the pass rush. The defense should be better, but it has to be. The margin for error will be much smaller.

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