September 12, 2009

OSU's new Mission: Beat Houston and avoid upset

Mission accomplished.

Oklahoma State's win over Georgia last weekend was the completion of an all-offseason goal to open up 2009 on a positive note and set things up for a big season.

Now that the No. 5 Cowboys (1-0) have that in hand, the new goal is to not trip up against teams you should beat. And what a coincidence, OSU has that kind of game today against Houston. The Cougars aren't world-beaters, but they're quality enough to put a scare in any program. So the new mission for the Pokes today is to win solidly and not let a pesky squad with a good offense hang around very long. The action begins at 2:30 p.m. Central Time and will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest.

The Cougars (1-0) present a different challenge than Georgia did last week. For example, last week OSU faced a senior making only his second career start. Today, they will face Case Keenum, an experienced redshirt junior who threw for 5,020 yards and 44 touchdowns last year.

But don't let those numbers fool you - he's also a smart, quick runner.

"He's a fast guy," Jermiah Price said. "I haven't played too many quarterbacks that fast, except for maybe Colt McCoy and a couple other guys that actually get outside the pocket and move and make you actually work to get to him. He's a great guy so we're going to try to contain him with the ends and get pressure with the defensive tackles."

The Cowboys likely still remember the big game Keenum had against them last year in Stillwater. That night, he threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns. He added in 81 rushing yards for good measure. With that in mind, the Cougars aren't a team you can expect to turn in a half effort and expect to cruise to victory.

"Oh, for sure," said fullback Bryant Ward. "Every opponent you have to prepare for the same way, or you try to prepare for the same way. If you let a big win like that get to your head then it can be dangerous."

This game is more important than some fans might think. Aside from not suffering an early-season upset, OSU faring well against the Cougars is something that gets noticed back in the Bayou City - a prime recruiting ground for the Pokes.

"We've had players in the past and that are currently on our team from Houston that contribute to us having a lot of success," head coach Mike Gundy said. "It will always be important when we play teams from the state of Texas that we perform well. We've had a great recruiting season up until now. We don't have a lot of scholarships left, which is a good thing. It is very important that we continue to play well and develop and build this program to where we want it to be."

Last weekend, the defense carried the team to victory, shutting down the Bulldogs most of the way. Today, they'll have to back up that performance by trying to contain UH's passing attack.

"Our players played very well Saturday, but this will be a different challenge for them this week because of the style of play," Gundy said.

"We've always believed in ourselves and we've always thought that we could push ourselves to a whole other level, and I think we did that. I really do," Shane Jarka said. "I think that this week is going to be another challenge for us, and then the week after that and the week after that. We just have to keep getting better and building our defense as we have."

Someone who will be counted on to have another solid outing today is cornerback Perrish Cox. Against the Dawgs, he had four tackles, four pass deflections and 97 return yards.

"Perrish made some big-time plays for us," Gundy said. "There were times when he went up and made plays in the throwing game that he should make with his ability. He's starting to come around now. Our defense played tremendously but his return changed the game. It ignited the crowd in the second half and we were able to score points and it changed the perception of the game."

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