The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys hit the road for the first time this season, as they face off with the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns this Friday at Cajun Field.
The inexperienced Cowboys continue to prove doubters wrong, as they enter their final non-conference game with a perfect 4-0 record. All four victories have come at home and that includes a dramatic 38-35 triumph over Texas A&M in OSU's Big 12 opener last Thursday.
"I'm very, very happy with our team and the way we battled back," said head coach Mike Gundy, whose club overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit.
With the victory, OSU moved into the Top 25 for the first time this season, as the team now heads out to the road for the first time.
As for the Cajuns, they too were involved in a thriller last time out, using a blocked extra-point to survive North Texas for a 28-27 victory this past weekend.
"I'm just proud of our guys for hanging in there. In the end, somebody made a big play," state head coach Rickey Bustle.
It marked the second win in three Sun Belt games for Louisiana, which suffered a 55-7 loss to Georgia in its lone non-conference game.
This is the sixth all-time meeting between Louisiana and OSU on the gridiron, with the Cowboys winning each of the prior five encounters, including two in Lafayette.
Brandon Weeden shrugged off turnover problems and a slow first half to throw for 284 yards and a pair of TDs in a wild victory over Texas A&M this past week. The 26-year-old first-time starter had three turnovers in the contest, but showed his poise by helping OSU tally 31 points in the second half.
"I didn't really do anything different," said Weeden when asked about any halftime adjustments. "I told the line, ?We are going to win this football game, just give me time and we are going to make throws and they are going to make catches."
Weeden has enjoyed good success with a 71.3 percent completion rate and 13 TDs, and WR Justin Blackmon has been the beneficiary of his fast start. Blackmon is among the top WRs around with 558 receiving yards and nine TDs and that includes 10 catches for 127 yards and a score versus Texas A&M.
The Cowboys also have a serious weapon in the backfield with Kendall Hunter, who rushed for 101 yards and two TDs on 22 carries last game. The former Big 12 rushing champion has certainly regained his form and he has gone for 574 yards and eight scores on the ground this season.
OSU's defense gave up 535 total yards, spent nearly 39 minutes of the game on the field and allowed Texas A&M to go 15-of-26 between third and fourth downs. With that said, it was the defense that really won the game for the Cowboys last week. The unit forced five turnovers, including four INTs, and none bigger than the one by Shaun Lewis, who picked off a pass in the final seconds to set up a game-winning 40-yard field goal by Dan Bailey on the last play.
"I was proud of Shaun [Lewis], a true freshman for making a big play like that," stated Gundy.
James Thomas also returned a fumble 63 yards for a score for the Cowboys, who have now forced 14 turnovers on the campaign. The defense, though, is still allowing 29.5 ppg and 414.5 total ypg, so this unit needs to improve with a much more difficult schedule ahead. Orie Lemon is the team's top tackler with 36 stops and he turned in 13 stops, including three for a loss, and a sack in last week's win.
The Cajuns are averaging only 20.0 ppg mainly because of their poor play in the fourth quarter, where they have failed to score a single point in four games. Despite just seven total points after the break last weekend, Louisiana was able to hang on for a 28-27 victory over North Texas. QB Chris Masson was sensational in the victory, throwing for a career-high 310 yards and two TDs on 18-of-32 tosses. It was clearly the best effort of the year for Masson, who had thrown for just over 400 yards and three TDs through the first three games.
Masson's performance was even better considering TE Ladarius Green did not play. Green, one of the top players at his position, leads the Cajuns with 14 catches, 222 receiving yards and three TDs, but is listed as questionable for this game.
Tailback Aaron Spikes stepped up in Green's absence and made his presence felt with an 82-yard TD grab. He finished with four receptions for 99 yards, helping make up for an 18-yard rushing performance.
Defensively, the Cajuns gave up a pair of fourth quarter TDs, but were bailed out when the special teams blocked an extra-point with 31 seconds left in the 28-27 win over North Texas. Louisiana allowed North Texas to drive 91 yards on 12 plays to almost tie the game before the blocked kicked saved the game.
The Cajuns surrendered 187 yards on the ground to North Texas and are now giving up 151.5 rushing ypg on the year. The pass defense hasn't been all that much better, as Louisiana is permitting 257.2 ypg through the air. The defense has only seven takeaways and five sacks to its credit, so creating big plays isn't a huge strength either. However, Lance Kelley, the team's top tackler with 27 stops, did return a fumble 40 yards for a score last weekend, giving the defense a spark.