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Speedy Cowboys present plethora of challenges for Wildcats

By Joel Jellison

Oklahoma State can do it all.

They have a quarterback that can sling it around the yard or run, a stable of running backs with varying skill sets, and wide receivers with sure hands and the ability to go up and get any ball.

And the Kansas State defense knows it will have its collective hands full when it faces the Cowboys on Saturday in Stillwater, Okla.

One of the toughest things about Oklahoma State, though, is its offensive tempo. K-State faced a quick-paced offense against Texas two weeks ago, but coach Bill Snyder said this team is a whole different animal.

“They will be faster — this will be the fastest team that we have faced so far this season,” he said. “The following week (against Baylor), it will get a bit faster than that, but it will be more of a challenge than it was at the Texas game.”

Linebacker Mike Moore said when he watched film of the Cowboys this week, their tempo was what stood out to him.

But it’s also what excited him about this week’s game, too.

“It gives us the opportunity to prove that we have improved over the week,” he said. “It gives us a chance to show that we are a defense to be reckoned with.”

Oklahoma State is reeling from its 30-21 loss at West Virginia that opened up the competition for the Big 12 championship. The Cowboys were a near unanimous selection around media outlets to be the Big 12 champs, but now they’re fighting back to stay at just one loss.

Because of that loss to West Virginia, and it being a return home for the Cowboys, Snyder expects to be facing a motivated team.

“They will be angry,” he said. “They certainly will continue to be very competitive. I think it’s that emotion when you lose a ballgame — the real competitive people get very upset about it and anger can be channeled in the right direction to help perform.

“I guess it could work both ways. I understand that as well, but each individual is a little bit different in how he deals with that emotion. You can see it being a benefit.”

The Cowboys are led by do-it-all quarterback J.W. Walsh, who has rushed for 234 yards and thrown for 964 and 10 total touchdowns this season. But Oklahoma State has also spread the ball out on the ground, with Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland combining for 83 carries, and several receivers getting involved in the run game as well.

Snyder said the Cowboys’ run game is very versatile.

“There are a lot of different ways you can approach the running game and they have done so by formations as well as personnel,” he said. “Their quarterback is actively involved in the run game more than they have been in the past, so it makes it more varied, more diverse.

“They have some very strong and physical fullback-type players that lead block extremely well for their running backs. They involve their wide receivers in their running game as well — their speed stuff — that creates a great deal of variety and problems because you can only prepare for so much.”

Of course, the Cowboys can also throw the ball, meaning the pass rush will be as important as ever this week. As that aspect seemed to have waned in the Wildcats’ loss at Texas, defensive end Marquel Bryant said improving in that area has been a focus, especially for this game.

“Lately these last few games, we have not been giving too much (pass rush),” he said. “I feel like we can give so much more. They are more of a passing team, so it is a big deal for us to get back there. The coaches have been on us during practice and drills about our handwork to get to the quarterback.”

This week’s game will be a reunion of sorts between former K-State coach and player Joe Bob Clements, who left last winter for the defensive line coaching position with the Cowboys.

Bryant said they had to change some of their defensive signals because of the game against Clements this week, but he’s more excited for the game because he gets to go against his old coach.

“Even though he’s on another team I feel like I want to prove something to him,” he said. “I wasn’t on the field yet when he was here, I wasn’t starting. I want him to feel me on the field.”

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