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SPORTS: Oklahoma State University

Preview: Oklahoma State vs. UT - San Antonio

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas -

Oklahoma State heads back to the Lone Star State for the fourth straight game dating back to last season but this trip to the Alamodome should be the easiest of the bunch. The No. 13 Cowboys take on relative FBS newcomer UT-San Antonio for the biggest game in Roadrunners' history. Here is a look at the matchup:

 

5 Things To Watch


1. J.W. Walsh

The quarterback gig is officially Walsh's and it will be interesting to see how he responds after a solid outing in Houston. Most OSU fans are hoping to see a little more productivity out of the passing game and that wish is likely to be granted. OSU has a stable of receivers that will cause matchup nightmares for the Roadrunners and Mike Yurcich is likely to open up more of his offense in Week 2. The Roadrunners rank No. 5 in the country in pass defense after one week but that might not be all that indicative of what OSU fans should actually expect. UTSA struggled mightily against FBS competition a year ago, giving up 34 points to Rice, 52 to San Jose State, 48 to Utah State and 51 to Louisiana Tech in a four-game losing skid. This should allow Walsh no shortage of opportunities to get into a passing rhythm and test UTSA all over the field.

2. Defensive Consistency

OSU is coming off one of the best defensive showings in the Mike Gundy-era and will be looking to prove it wasn't a fluke. The Roadrunners don't have the offensive talent MSU possessed, but the Cowboys will still have to be on their A-game against a well-balanced unit that seldom makes mistakes.

3. Turnover Production

The Cowboys got back to their ball-hawking ways in the season opener, forcing MSU into two interceptions. This is obviously a step back in the right direction after struggling to get takeaways in 2012 after leading the NCAA in 2011. The Roadrunners might seem like a squad ripe for the picking in the turnover department, but it will be impressive if the Pokes force UTSA into miscues. Soza is about as good as they come in ball protection, throwing just three interceptions against 20 touchdowns a season ago. And he's already back on a good pace with two TD passes and no picks this season. The Roadrunners have also had success in the run game, losing just eight fumbles last season. If OSU is going to get turnovers, it's going to have to go get them.

4. Special Teams Improvements

Kip Smith had an outstanding debut as the Pokes' new punter and Justin Gilbert is one of the country's best return men but there is still work to be done on special teams. OSU has well-documented struggles in return coverage and will need to be on alert with UTSA junior Kenny Harrison. Harrison ranked second nationally in 2012 with 17.3 yards per punt return, highlighted by a 79-yard touchdown. But he won't be the only focal point of the unit. OSU freshman kicker Ben Grogan attempted his first career field goal last Saturday and it was blocked and nearly returned for a touchdown by Mississippi State. The coaching staff is clearly focused on getting this rectified as quickly as possible.

5. Cowboys' Focus

This is widely considered a no-brainer victory for the Cowboys but that mindset can make games a lot more dangerous than they need to be, especially given the magnitude of this game for the Roadrunners. While the Pokes aren't really in any foreseeable danger of being upset, it is important that the Cowboys take care of business and use this as an opportunity to fine tune in every facet and work on the things that will make a big difference a few weeks down the line.

 

Notables

• UTSA coach Larry Coker was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State when Mike Gundy was the quarterback in the late ‘80s. He was on staff in Stillwater from 1983-89. Coker was also the head coach of one of the most dominant national title teams in college football history, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.

• J.W. Walsh became the first OSU QB since 2007 to rush for more than 100 yards when he scampered for 125 on 9.6 yards per carry and a TD against Mississippi State. Walsh currently leads the Big 12 in rushing.

• OSU linebacker Caleb Lavey earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording 11 tackles, two tackles from loss and half a sack against the Bulldogs. He was the first Cowboy to win the award since teammate Shaun Lewis in 2011.

• OSU held MSU to just 2-for-16 on third downs, ranking as the third-best performance by a defense in the Gundy era. The only two better came in Gundy's first season in 2005 (Texas Tech 0-for-10, Florida Atlantic 1-for-11).

• The Cowboys might be playing their fourth-straight game away from home but it sure doesn't feel that way for a lot of the roster. All four games have been in Texas and OSU has 69 Texans on the roster, the most of any program in the country outside of the Lone Star State. The next closest is OU with 43.

• UTSA is a member of Conference USA. The Pokes have won eight consecutive games against teams from C-USA by an average score of 44-18.

• The last time OSU played in the Alamo Dome it set a then-school record for victories with No. 11 in a 36-10 win against Arizona in the 2010 Alamo Bowl.

• OSU is the first ranked team UTSA has ever hosted in a home game.

• UTSA scored 21 unanswered points to beat New Mexico last Saturday to move to 3-0 all time in season openers.

• Interestingly, Coker isn't the only former Cowboy leading a UTSA program. The men's basketball coach is former OSU star Brooks Thompson.

 

Prediction

UTSA is well coached and has experienced a lot of success early in the program's life, but the talent differential between the two teams is impossible to ignore. OSU is bigger, stronger and faster at nearly every spot on the field. UTSA's ability to protect the football will be paramount in the Roadrunners' hopes to keep this game close.

The Cowboys should be able to move the ball with relative ease and the improved defense is out to show last week wasn't a fluke. If the special teams improve, the Cowboys maintain focus and OSU can force UTSA into some mistakes, this game could get worse than the 27.5-point line.

Final: OSU 45-10

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