Much like last week's game against TCU, Oklahoma State's Saturday contest at Iowa State matches two teams with scuffling offenses and a real weapon on special teams.
That makes the punt game — yes, the punt game — intriguing. Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Kamp ranks 15th in the nation in punting at 44.3 yards per game, with 10 boots beyond 50 yards and 14 downed inside the 20. OSU's Josh Stewart, meanwhile, is second in the nation with an average of 23.8 yards per punt return.
OSU, of course, has questions about who will punt for the Cowboys, as Kip Smith left the TCU game with an apparent leg injury. OSU coach Mike Gundy would not give an update on Smith's status for Saturday's game, but did say he did not believe the injury was season-ending.
KEVIN PETERSON A ‘CONSISTENT' CONTRIBUTOR ON DEFENSE
When asked to name a teammate who is potentially overlooked on the OSU defense, Cowboy linebacker Shaun Lewis immediately came up with sophomore cornerback Kevin Peterson.
“He's real consistent from how young he is and he works hard,” Lewis said. “Every practice, he's making plays. He just doesn't get those chances in the games, but he's been as consistent as anybody on this defense.”
Peterson has started all six games for the Cowboys so far this season and has compiled 11 tackles (one for loss) and four pass breakups.
OPPONENT WATCH: IOWA STATE ALSO BATTLING OFFENSIVE LINE WOES
OSU's offensive line troubles have been well documented.
The Cowboys have started five players at right guard. They made three switches against TCU — Parker Graham moved from left tackle to right guard, Daniel Koenig from right tackle to left tackle and Chris Grisbhy from right guard to right tackle — before Grisbhy left the game after one series due to illness and Brandon Garrett stepped into his spot.
Similar shuffling has taken place at Iowa State. The Cyclones have yet to start the same offensive line so far this season, as center Tom Farniok, guard/center Jamison Lalk and tackles Jacob Gannon and Kyle Lichtenberg have all sustained various injuries throughout the season.
A rotating line has certainly contributed to Iowa State's offensive troubles overall. The Cyclones rank 119th in the nation in sacks allowed (3.83 per game) and eighth in the Big 12 in rushing offense (136.5 yards per game) and scoring offense (25.2 points per game)
“That hurts all of us, and it's frustrating,” guard Daniel Burton told the Ames Tribune. “It really is. We haven't found a way to get it done.”
STEWART ON PAT MCAFEE HIT: ‘MAN, YOU'D FEEL VERY EMBARRASSED'
Stewart hadn't seen the play in which Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee leveled Broncos return man Trindon Holliday last Sunday.
But he was going to check it out.
And probably cringe.
For return men like Holliday, and Stewart, almost anything is better than being blown up by a punter or kicker.
“Man, you'd feel very embarrassed,” Stewart said.
And there's no place to hide.
“Then you'd have to get up and keep playing,” he said. "Let it go. Move on.
“Run it back next time. Make him miss next time.”