BEVO BEAT Football

Texas vs. Oklahoma State: A Q&A with a Cowboys beat writer

Posted October 20th, 2017

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We’re interviewing the beat writer of Texas’ opponent each week this season. This week, John Helsley (@jjhelsley) of The Oklahoman offers his insight on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

1. Even after the loss last month to TCU, are the Cowboys still optimistic that they can contend for the Big 12 championship?

They remain optimistic that all their goals are still in front of them, starting with the Big 12 championship. Of course, the loss to TCU left them with no margin for error, or so it seems. But for now, they still control their path to a championship although that likely means winning out in the regular season, no simple thing. This upcoming stretch of four games — at Texas, at West Virginia, home for Bedlam — seems season-defining for the Cowboys.

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2. Texas has already seen Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. Might Mason Rudolph, though, be the best quarterback they face?

He just might. We’re splitting hairs here, as all three are really good. But one thing that plays in Rudolph’s favorite is his array of weapons, especially at wide receiver. Rudolph can make all the throws, handles pressure well and has really grown in reading and anticipating defenses; and he’s given a lot of freedom to make calls at the line of scrimmage.

3. Oklahoma State doesn’t have a shortage of talented receivers. Who’s their No. 1 threat?

James Washington is special. Former Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said he was a “running back playing wide receiver.” And there’s a lot of truth in that, as he’s a physical receiver who can do so much with the ball after the catch, both with his speed and in using his strength to fend off or even bull through tacklers. He also has an uncanny ability to go get the ball and adjust to throws on the go. He leads the nation in yards per game and yards per catch. Last week he averaged almost 40 yards a grab on 6 receptions. He’s the very definition of a deep threat.

4. Oklahoma State currently boasts the Big 12’s best pass defense. Is that a reflection of the secondary’s talent or the quarterbacks the Cowboys have faced?

Some of both, probably. They’ve gone with some youngsters at the corners in A.J. Green and Rodarius Williams and they’ve played well. They’re bigger corners than the Cowboys have had, and the coaches think they’re going to be really good in time. So far, they haven’t given up big plays. But they haven’t faced the best quarterbacks they’re going to see, not by a long shot. So the jury is still out.

5. Name one Oklahoma State player that Texas fans aren’t talking about — but should be.

Are they talking about Marcell Ateman at all? If not, they should be. Washington gets most of the attention at receiver, for good reason. But Ateman has been dominant, too, with four straight 100-yard games. He’s a big, physical receiver who has grown into his 6-4 frame and learned how to use it. Watch out for his stiff-arm, it’s lethal. Ateman missed last season with a foot injury after finishing as OSU’s second-leading receiver in 2015. And he admits the time off made him hungrier. And it shows. He’s an NFL prospect.

6. Since this game is in Austin, are there any places you’re looking forward to eating at?

Oh, man, so many choices! My wife and daughter are joining me — it’s fall break here — and they always insist on going to Walton’s, the Sandra Bullock place. And it’s good, for sure. Franklin for BBQ, if we can get in. We’re arriving early Friday so I’m pulling for a full experience at Alamo Drafthouse. And hey, we’re always up for recommendations from the locals!

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