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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) – Following a convincing 49-31 victory over then-No. 22 Texas last week, Oklahoma State is feeling pretty good about where it is right now.
A win Saturday at home against Iowa State would allow the Cowboys (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) to keep the momentum going and continue building toward their goal for a league championship.
“I think as long as we keep taking care of conference play and we are preparing each week to the best of our ability, we can hopefully get ourselves in a good spot for a Big 12 title,” said quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was injured for last year’s regular season-finale that his team lost to rival Oklahoma with the Big 12 championship on the line. “This week is important just like every other week.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy liked what he saw against Texas.
“We took good care of the ball, made some plays on offense, the running game was better, blocking was better and we were good on special teams,” Gundy said. “It was a good win for our program. We’ll continue to get better at what we think gives us the best chance to be successful over the next couple of months.”
The Cyclones (1-4, 0-2) are coming off an agonizing 45-42 defeat to No. 13 Baylor in which they led 42-28 entering the fourth quarter before losing on a Bears’ field goal as time expired.
Iowa State first-year coach Matt Campbell was happy with how his team responded in practice this week and believes it will be focused on Saturday.
“Really proud of our kids’ effort,” he said. “A lot of lessons learned, a lot we have to continue to grow and get better on.”
Five things to watch for on Saturday:
RUNNING DOWN HILL
Freshman running back Justice Hill had another big game for Oklahoma State last week, rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, with no turnovers. After gaining a total of 89 yards on 24 carries over the first three games combined, Hill broke out for 122 yards and a touchdown on 20 rushes in a 35-24 loss to Baylor on Sept. 24, but also lost two fumbles, including a momentum-changer on the 1-yard-line in the fourth quarter.
“He has a tremendous work ethic and did a great job protecting and securing the football,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said of Hill’s performance against Texas. “I’m excited about how much better he can become.”
Before last week’s loss to Baylor, Iowa State’s previous three games featured starting quarterback Joel Lanning sharing time with backup Jacob Park. Park completed 15 of 19 passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-10 win over San Jose State on Sept. 24, but he never made it into the lineup against Baylor, as Lanning threw for a career-high 261 yards on 17 of 23 passing, with two touchdowns, while also rushing for 57 yards and another score.
“Joel has earned the right to be the starter,” Campbell said. “When you’ve got two guys playing, you’ve got to go with your gut sometimes and keep the flow of the game going. We believe in both of those guys. I think you’re going to still see plenty of Jacob Park.”
After blocking three consecutive PAT kick attempts against Texas, one of which was returned for two points, Oklahoma State now leads the nation with four blocked kicks on the season. Three of them have come from defensive tackle Vincent Taylor.
The Iowa State running game has come alive the last few weeks, as top running back Mike Warren, after totaling just 58 yards in the first two games of the season, has averaged 109.3 yards, with three touchdowns, in the last three outings. Two weeks ago, he amassed 103 yards and a touchdown on 19 rushes, with another 68 yards on three receptions. Against Baylor, he had 130 yards and two TDs on an eye-popping 30 carries.
AIR IT OUT
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph enjoyed a strong performance last week against Texas, completing 19 of 28 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for another score. Eight of his 19 completions for were for 20 or more yards, with TD passes of 54 and 52 yards. Following a school-record game of 540 yards earlier in the season, Rudolph now ranks seventh in the nation with 1,688 yards passing.
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