Preview: Houston at Oklahoma State
by Dave Congrove
If you want offense, this game should deliver. The spotlight will be on the quarterbacks but both teams bring more to the table than just prolific passing games. Both teams also return 1,000-yard rushers as well as 1,000-yard receivers.
Houston junior QB Case Keenum threw for 5,020 yards last seasons with 44 TD's and 11 INT's. WR Tyron Carrier caught 80 balls for 1,026 yards and 9 TD's to lead all freshmen. Bryce Beall set a school freshman record for running backs with 1,272 yards as he crossed the goal line 13 times.
Oklahoma State senior QB Zac Robinson began the 2009 campaign with 6,233 career passing yards and 1,553 yards rushing under his belt. Robinson's favorite target is junior WR Dez Bryant who caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 TD's last season. Junior RB Kendall Hunter evoked memories of Barry Sanders with 1,626 yards rushing and 15 TD's in 2008.
In their respective openers last week, Keenum threw 4 TD passes in a 55-7 romp over FCS member Northwestern State (La.) and Robinson connected with Bryant for 2 scores in the Cowboys' 24-10 win over Georgia. Houston's Carrier had just 3 catches for 24 yards but freshman running back Charles Sims had 6 catches for 128 yards and a TD as 66 players saw action.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin said, "Last Saturday, we came out in a business-like fashion which I was happy to see from a young team. There were a bunch of things from last year that were a problem but we were able to execute in the first game. We executed in the red zone and started fast, which was an improvement from last year."
Sumlin led Houston to an 8-5 record last year and an Armed Forces Bowl win over Air Force. The computer (Congrove Computer Rankings) has the Cougars projected as a 9-3 team this year, though they are 11.34-point underdogs this week.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy is in his 5th year at Stillwater. His overall record is a pedestrian 27-23 but the Cowboys broke out to a 9-4 finish in 2008 after back-to-back 7-6 campaigns.
The Oklahoma State defense should be much improved with the introduction of Bill Young as defensive coordinator. The OSU grad spent last season with Miami (Fla.). He has also had stints with USC, Oklahoma and Ohio State. Last week, Georgia managed only 257 total yards and 10 points against a defense that gave up an average of 405.5 yards and 28.1 points a year ago.
Gundy's reaction to the defensive play was measured. "I think that he has corrected some mistakes and I think that he's pulled the players together and they're playing together. But we have a long way to go. It's a long season."
The home team has won the last two meetings. The Cowboys won 56-37 last year in Stillwater when OSU outrushed Houston 379-96. The Cougars won 34-25 at home in 2006 when they met for the first time since 1987. The overall series is even at 9-9-1.
The game will be broadcast on FSN at 3:30 pm ET on Saturday.