FORT WORTH (AP) – When Oklahoma State crossed back over the Red River after last playing in Texas, the Cowboys were heading home after a loss.
That was almost two months ago. The Cowboys haven’t lost since and now control their fate in trying to win the Big 12 championship.
No. 13 Oklahoma State, with a six-game winning streak since losing in its league opener at Baylor, plays Saturday at TCU . And coach Mike Gundy knows the Cowboys (8-2, 6-1 Big 12, No. 11 CFP) have to be focused on finishing strong.
“Fatigue could be an issue in conference play, but there is so much parity in our league right now that it’s just a matter of what teams stay focused, make the plays, take care of the football, and so on,” Gundy said. “I do feel better about where we are now than we were at this time last year with our health on the defensive side of the ball.”
Oklahoma State was 10-0 at this point a year ago, but with quarterback Mason Rudolph also hurt, the Cowboys had consecutive home losses to Baylor and Oklahoma that ended their Big 12 and playoff hopes.
With wins at TCU (5-4, 3-3) and eighth-ranked Oklahoma , the Cowboys would be guaranteed no worse than a tie for the Big 12 lead — and would have the tiebreaker to be declared conference champions.
TCU, one win from being bowl eligible, is coming off an open date after a 40-point victory at Baylor .
“We feel confident that we can finish and end the season on a good note,” TCU defensive end James McFarland said. “I feel that we have finally started to get to a point where we trust each other and we feel confident in our abilities.”
The Frogs are eager to get back on the field for the first time since handing Baylor its worst home loss in 11 years.
“When you come off a win like that, it’s torturous to go into a bye week,” receiver John Diarse said. “Guys are channeling that energy into this game.”
Some other things to watch Saturday:
SO CLOSE TO PERFECT
Mike Gundy considers Oklahoma State a 9-1 team. He doesn’t accept the Central Michigan game as a loss after that Hail Mary pass for a TD on an untimed play that officials later admitted should have never happened. In their loss at Baylor, the Cowboys were on the verge of a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter but had a fumble that led to Baylor’s 99-yard drive in a 35-24 win.
RUN BY DESIGN
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill’s 85 yards rushing were his most in Big 12 play. There could now be more designed run plays for Hill, who also throws for 299 yards per game. “He does a lot better when he gets involved in the game, not just be a true drop-back guy,” Patterson said.
Oklahoma State is 4-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer, winning four in a row since the Central Michigan controversy. “However the game flows is how it is, and we just have to make sure we fight hard all the way to the finish,” Cowboys linebacker Justin Phillips said. TCU is 1-3 in such games, including two double-overtime losses.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph has been spectacular during the Cowboys’ six-game winning streak, with 2,088 yards passing. He has 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions while completing 69 percent of his passes (136 of 198).
SAME BUT DIFFERENT
TCU junior running back Kyle Hicks and Oklahoma State freshman Justice Hill both have 789 yards rushing this season. But Hicks is third in the Big 12 with 87.7 yards per game, ahead of Hill at 78.9 yards per game — the Cowboys have played one more game than TCU. Hicks is second in the league with 12 rushing TDs, five of them at Baylor.
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