K-State leads the Big 12 in turnover margin with a plus-15 on the season, and a 1.88 average advantage in each game. They are second in the Big 12 in fewest penalties with 29 for the season and an average of 29.1 yards penalized in each game. That is why a sluggish start, mistakes, and opportunities to fall behind early won’t cut it on Saturday.
OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken said there was no magic potion last Saturday in the Cowboys 36-14 win over TCU. They just went from the left to the right, figuratively speaking.
“We just started doing things right,” explained Monken. “Early on we lined up wrong on a third down, we had a missed assignment on the interception and on the next third down we made a decision on a route that we hadn't done before, so it stopped us from piecing good plays together.
"We finally got a first down, then we hit a big play and we kind of settled down. We hit a few big plays and just started playing better football.”
Some of it can be contributed to the return of freshman and original season-starting quarterback Wes Lunt. Lunt had some rust early, but then he got it going.
His teammates say Lunt is not as quiet as he is reported to be. He has a good personality and they like him. They also feel he will be chilly in the face of a wild Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“He played really well, even more so because of the situation,” said Monken of Lunt’s return. “If it was an experienced guy like Brandon Weeden, you wouldn't compare it to that. You would probably say it was average, but for a guy who hadn't played much or practiced much, I thought he bounced back pretty well.”
Just like at the start of the season, the Cowboys have an anchor to fall back on in running back Joseph Randle, who now leads the Big 12 in rushing with 891 yards on 160 carries (an average of 127.3 yards rushing per game).
“It's been good having Joe, thank goodness, especially when Jeremy Smith had gotten hurt,” Monken added. “Joe, even since I've gotten here, is very durable. He stays away from being hurt a bunch and he doesn't really complain. He just works and goes out there and plays.”
A huge regret is that Randle’s excursion of throwing the football on the option pass for a touchdown to Blake Jackson was called back on a holding penalty. The Cowboys reached into the tricks portion of the playbook on Saturday, and you can’t waste those if you want the treat. Halloween is coming up, and so is Kansas State with a top scoring defense in the league. You will need those to work against the Wildcats defense.
“They're a lot like Iowa State,” described Monken of the K-State stoppers. “They're real sound, they don't gamble a lot, they keep everything in front of them and their offense does a good job of limiting their exposure on defense.
"They're really well-coached, and their linebacker, Arthur Brown, is a really good player. They have a lot of juniors and seniors who have played a lot of football at the junior college level, so they don't have a lot of holes. I don't know what we'll be able to expose other than we have to play good football and not turn it over.”
The margin for error is as slim as it has been for any game this season.