No. 23 Oklahoma State and Houston will meet for the first time as Big 12 Conference members on Saturday in Houston as both try to rebound from disappointing defeats.
Oklahoma State (7-3, 5-2) saw its five-game winning streak come to an end in a humbling 45-3 defeat at UCF last week. The Cowboys remain in the mix for the Big 12 title game but are in search of the proper mindset moving forward.
“We’re still together as family,” Oklahoma State linebacker Zavier Benson said. “We realize there’s not much to be said. It wasn’t acceptable. We have to own up to that, be men and take accountability of actions.
“I like how everyone’s responding in more of a positive manner, realizing we got to start from ground zero again because we got to earn what we lost. It starts with the simple things.”
Houston (4-6, 2-5) must win its remaining two games in order to become bowl eligible following a 24-14 home loss to Cincinnati last week. The Cougars have reached a bowl game in each of the last three seasons under coach Dana Holgorsen.
“It was a disappointing loss,” Holgorsen said. “Kept it a close game. … Offensively (it was) just not good enough.”
Saturday will mark the first meeting between the programs since 2009 when Houston earned a 45-35 victory. It is not the first conference matchup between the programs, though, as both were members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1951-56.
For Oklahoma State, it’s about getting back on track in its race for the Big 12 title game. The Cowboys were riding high after knocking off rival Oklahoma 27-24 on Nov. 4 before the collapse at UCF.
The Knights held Oklahoma State standout running back Ollie Gordon II to just 25 yards on 12 carries. Gordon is still the nation’s leading rusher with 1,250 yards on the ground, including 17 carries of 20-plus yards.
Quarterback Alan Bowman also had a forgettable game against UCF with three interceptions but played well in previous games against ranked teams such as Oklahoma and Kansas.
“It’s not like that we’re still not a good football team, we just have to rally and understand the mistakes we made,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
That’s the mindset Houston has going into the game, too, with Holgorsen dismissing the UCF game.
“This is going to be a heckuva challenge for us,” he said. “Throw that game away last week.”
Cincinnati held the Cougars to 241 yards of total offense with three turnovers.
Houston has been inconsistent on offense for much of the season, averaging the third-fewest points per game (24.1) in the Big 12.
Over his last three games, Cougars quarterback Donovan Smith has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (four). But Smith is a dual-threat quarterback who can cause problems for defenses.
On the injury front, the Cougars lost receiver Matthew Golden to a season-ending foot injury. Golden has been a dynamic playmaker, scoring two touchdowns on kickoff returns and six more on TD receptions.
On Saturday, Houston will honor the passing of former players D.J. Hayden, Zachary McMillian and Ralph Oragwu, who died in a car accident in the early-morning hours on Nov. 11. The team will wear a commemorative decal for the remainder of the season.
–Field Level Media
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