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3 players to watch: Will Kansas State's Deuce Vaughn run wild on Oklahoma State?

Jacob Unruh

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State’s first Big 12 game of the season is a tough one with No. 25-ranked Kansas State coming to Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys and Wildcats kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN+. Here are three players to watch, two big questions and one wild prediction for the game:

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3 players to watch in OSU vs. Kansas State

Kicker Alex Hale: In a game that could come down to his leg, Hale is an important weapon. But he has struggled through three games. The Australian kicker is just 1 for 2 on field goals, his miss coming in the second half at Boise State and 9 for 10 on extra-point kicks. OSU coach Mike Gundy said they have identified a “technical issue” and hoped to get Hale enough reps to clean it up for this weekend.

Defensive tackle Jayden Jernigan: After missing last season due to COVID-19 complications, Jernigan had his best game of his career at Boise State. He had six tackles, a sack, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. Now he’s tasked with helping to slow down a heavy run attack led by speedster Deuce Vaughn. Jernigan’s presence will be more important.

Wide receiver Rashod Owens: Forced into action at the outside position after beginning the year in the slot, Owens produced two catches for 34 yards but also had two drops on the blue turf. He should get more chances this week, but his role could also be limited should star Tay Martin return from an ankle injury. If Martin returns, Owens becomes his backup and will still see some crucial time.

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2 big questions in OSU vs. Kansas State

Can the Cowboys continue their run-game success? OSU ran for 246 yards — 218 from Jaylen Warren — against Boise State, establishing the run attack it lacked in the first two games. The offensive line finally has stability with the return of Hunter Woodard from an injury. But will that matter against a Wildcats defense that is sixth in the FBS allowing just 54.7 rushing yards per game? OSU might need more through the air this weekend to aid the run attack. But confidence is a huge thing and the Cowboys now have that. 

What will Kansas State’s offense look like? Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson is out indefinitely with a knee injury, which led to some issues in last week’s win over Nevada. Backups Will Howard and Jaren Lewis both played and completed only 9 of 13 passes for 129 yards. The Wildcats did rush for 269 yards, with Vaughn accounting for 127. Expect more from Howard, but also expect a heavy dose of the run game again. But Kansas State will need some balance against an OSU defense capable of stopping the run as well. The Cowboys allow just 95.3 rushing yards per game.

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Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn (22) runs through several Nevada defenders last Saturday.

1 wild prediction in OSU vs. Kansas State

Spencer Sanders will throw for more yards than the Cowboys total rushing. Kansas State isn’t going to allow OSU to run all over the place again, which will force Sanders to the air. If some key receivers return or debut, he’ll have a chance for a big game through the air.

Jacob Unruh, Staff writer