Next Saturday's showdown with No. 12 Texas is a highly anticipated game for Oklahoma State, and a contest that will likely go a long way in determining the Big 12 standings.
But with an extra week to prepare for the Longhorns — possibly with a new starting quarterback in J.W. Walsh — coach Mike Gundy said the slate of work this week during practice has been about 75 percent base offense and defense, with a little Texas game planning mixed in.
“We still have to continue to get better at just the structure at what we do,” Gundy said. “And then we game plan some. But we have four full days next week to work on specifics with Texas.”
Following Thursday's practice, the Cowboys will be off until their typical Sunday evening workout. That gives many players time to travel home for the weekend.
UT also has a bye this week.
BILL YOUNG: COWBOYS ‘NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH' TO FORCE TURNOVERS
Last week, Oklahoma State defensive end Cooper Bassett called some of the Cowboys' practices before their loss at Arizona “lackadaisical,” specifically referring to the defense needing to do more to be aggressive and force turnovers.
Defensive coordinator Bill Young agrees. Young returned to the sideline against Louisiana-Lafayette after missing the Cowboys' first two games while recovering from an undisclosed medical procedure.
While Young said he was pleased with the way the players stayed with their assignments and got pressure on the quarterback in Saturday's bounce-back win, he knows they need to get more takeaways.
“Sometimes it's just blind luck, sometimes it's just not working hard enough,” Young said. “I've got to lean toward the second one. We're not working hard enough. We're not being demanding enough as coaches, and our players are not following through and doing the job. We've got to do that.
“For us to be a great team, we've got to do a great job of forcing turnovers.”
Last season, the Cowboys were both a great team (Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl champions) and did a great job of forcing turnovers (an NCAA-best 44). This season, the Cowboys have just three takeaways in three games, with two coming against lowly Savannah State and one coming on a completely unforced fumble against ULL.
OSU is currently tied for 107th in the nation in turnover margin (-4) and tied for 95th in the nation in takeaways (three). Alabama and Mississippi State are tied for first in the NCAA in turnover margin (+11), while those two schools and Kansas lead the nation with 12 turnovers forced so far in 2012.
OPPONENT WATCH: LONGHORNS CONFIDENT, BUT NOT COCKY
Blowout victories over Wyoming, New Mexico and Mississippi in nonconference play have helped Texas climb in the polls, shown David Ash is an improved quarterback and may be the early indications that the Longhorns are “back.”
The first three games of conference play will be very telling for Texas, however, as the Longhorns follow their trip to Stillwater on Sept. 29 with a home date against West Virginia and then their annual Cotton Bowl showdown with Oklahoma.
Because of the soft early schedule — and what's ahead starting next week — coach Mack Brown insists his team is not overconfident.
“It's a younger team, and we'll talk to 'em,” Brown told the Austin American-Statesman. “Around here, we get too high too fast and too low. But they pretty much understand what's ahead of them. They know who's playing good and who's not. They're not going up there (to Stillwater) cocky.”