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'It'll be a real challenge': Defending Texas is Oklahoma State's toughest task of the year so far

Scott Wright
Oklahoman

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy knows what he wants from his team when it faces Texas at 11 a.m. Saturday in Austin, and more importantly, Gundy knows what he doesn’t want.

“I would prefer not to get in a shootout with (Texas),” Gundy said Monday at his weekly press conference. “They’ve done some of that with big plays and they accomplished some of that Saturday with big plays.”

It’s clear through five games that this OSU offense isn’t built for 50-point games, and the Longhorns are averaging 44.5 points per game this season, fifth-best in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

They have scored 32, 58 and 70 in victories this year since Casey Thompson took over at quarterback, and 48 in their loss to OU on Saturday. So the Horns have proven they know how to score under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. 

On the other side, Oklahoma State ranks in the top 25 in total defense (305.2 yards per game), rushing defense (91.0 yards per game) and scoring defense (18.6 points per game).

More:Does Texas' collapse vs. OU help or hurt OSU's chances Saturday? Mike Gundy has a few thoughts.

Oklahoma State's Kolby Harvell-Peel (31) and Jason Taylor II (25) celebrate a defensive stop in the third quarter of a 31-20 win against Kansas State on Sept. 25 in Stillwater.

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“It’ll be a real challenge for us,” Gundy said. “This will be the most athletic team we’ve competed against so far. It’ll be important for us to minimize big plays and try and keep the quarterback corralled, keep him pinned up. He runs around pretty good. The running back’s a good player, obviously, and they have skill at the wideout spot.”

“I mean, you’re talking about Texas. I don’t need to stand here and convince people they have good players.”

While the Longhorns are coming off a devastating loss in which they let a 21-point first-half lead slip away, the Cowboys are coming off an open week — a scenario that tends to favor Gundy’s squad.

Since the start of the 2009 season, OSU is 13-7 in the game after an in-season open week.

Regardless, the Cowboy defense has yet to face a task as complex as what the Horns present, particularly with their run game, which averages 242.8 yards per game behind sophomore Bijan Robinson. 

Robinson rushed for 137 yards on 20 carries against OU, but the run game slowed down in the second half when Texas was trying to preserve its lead. 

‘I know who we are’:Mike Gundy confident in what he has seen from Cowboys through five weeks

Texas running back Bijan Robinson averaged 6.8 yards per carry against OU on Saturday.

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“Oklahoma had some answers defensively in the second half, and in my opinion, it started with putting pressure on the quarterback,” Gundy said. “Then it allowed them to help themselves with the run.”

But Robinson still averaged 6.8 yards per carry, and that’s the kind of number OSU folks don’t want to see from him on Saturday. 

“He’s a good player now. He’s gonna be a pro player. If I was him, I’d just stay one more year and leave,” Gundy joked. “He has good balance, and he bounces off tackles. If you just go in and try and knock him down, I have not seen much success there. And he has elusiveness and the ability to break away.

“He’s got the entire package, in my opinion.”

OSU at Texas

KICKOFF: 11 a.m. Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin (Fox)