Grambling State (2-1) at (16) Oklahoma State (2-1)
Saturday, September 26th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Meeting for the first time ever, the Grambling State Tigers and 16th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys square off at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater this Saturday night.
Grambling, which plays its football at the FCS level out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, is 2-1 on the season following back-to-back wins over Northwestern State (38-17) and Jackson State (27-17). The Tigers dropped a 34-31 decision to South Carolina State in the opener. Coach Rod Broadway is in his third year at Grambling and owns an impressive 21-7 record. He is 54-18 in six years as a college coach.
Oklahoma State is playing the final leg of a season-opening, four-game homestand, and the Cowboys are 2-1 following wins over Georgia (24-10) and Rice (41-24) -- those sandwiched around the team's only loss, against Houston (45-35). The Pokes will be idle next week, giving them ample time to prepare the Big 12 Conference opener at Texas A&M on October 10th.
A win here will be Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's 30th, as he brings a 29-24 record into the contest.
Grambling State averages 32 ppg, utilizing a balanced attack that puts forth 161 ypg rushing and another 157.3 ypg through the air. Frank Warren has enjoyed a stellar start to the 2009 campaign, as he has rushed for 339 yards and two TDs on 46 carries for an average of 7.4 ypc. When coach Broadway makes the call to air the ball out, it's Greg Dillon who must step to the forefront and the QB has completed 58.4 percent of his passes to this point, doing so for 472 yards and two TDs. Despite the team's winning record, turnovers have plagued the Tigers as they have coughed the ball up 12 times in three games (four INTs, eight fumbles).
In last week's win over Jackson State, Warren powered his way to 110 yards and two TDs, while Dillon was relatively ineffective in throwing for just 59 yards and an INT on 10 completions. GSU won the game despite picking up only nine first downs, getting flagged 13 times for a loss of 91 yards, committing four turnovers, and keeping possession of the ball for just 24 minutes.
The Tigers proved to be an opportunistic bunch against Jackson State, coming up with several turnovers. GSU was also credited with allowing zero net rushing yards in the contest. Christian Anthony, one of the favorites to win this year's Buchanan Award (The Sports Network's FCS Defensive Player of the Year), logged eight tackles in the win, 2.5 of which went for negative yardage (1.5 sacks), and he also had an INT he returned 30 yards for a TD. It was the third time he has been in on an INT return for a score this season and he was named the SWAC Defensive Player of the Week for his recent efforts. He was the National Defensive Player of the Week in the FCS following Grambling's win over Northwestern State.
Anthony and T.J. McCord have been all over the field this season, collecting 24 and 29 tackles, respectively, with the former already logging 7.5 TFLs (2.5 sacks) for a loss of 47 yards. Jackson State managed 200 yards passing last week, but Grambling has one of the better pass defenses at the FCS level, currently ranking 20th in pass efficiency defense (98.35) and 32nd in passing defense (159.7 ypg). The Tigers also rank among the national leaders in TFLs with 8.7 per game.
Oklahoma State's offense revolves around the three-headed monster of QB Zac Robinson (43-of-73, 602 yards, five passing TDs, one INT, two rushing TDs), RB Kendall Hunter (32 carries, 104 yards, one TD) and WR Dez Bryant (17 receptions, 323 yards, four TDs). The trio, while supremely talented, have yet to really get into a rhythm this season, as the Cowboys are averaging 200.7 ypg passing (77th nationally) and 163.3 ypg rushing (49th). The Pokes have managed to post 33.3 ppg to rank 36th, and the fact that Robinson has only been sacked twice in three games speaks to the exceptional job the offensive line has done in pass protection.
In last week's win over Rice, the Cowboys were without the services of Hunter who is nursing an ankle injury. Bryant is also a bit banged up, dealing with a strained hamstring. Both are listed as questionable for this game, although it shouldn't surprise anyone if both sat out as OSU should be able to knock off Grambling rather easily, even without two of its stars. Keith Totson (39 carries, 196 yards, one TD) filled in for Hunter against Rice and rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries, while Bryant had a superb game with his nine grabs for 161 yards and two TDs. Getting the ball to Bryant was an efficient Robinson, who completed 14-of-20 passes for 227 yards. He threw a pair of TD passes and ran for a score in helping the Cowboys rebound from their first loss of the year.
Coach Gundy praised Robinson for his play against the Owls. "I thought he ran the ball and played better. He took care of it. Overall, I thought it was the best he had played this season."
The OSU defense has done a much better job against the run this season (105.7 ypg) than it has against the pass (276.3 ypg), and last week was no exception as Rice generated just 76 net rushing yards, but torched the Cowboys for 301 yards through the air. Donald Booker led the OSU defensive stand with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, while Andre Sexton picked off a pass and the team as a whole finished with seven TFLs.
With the Big 12 slate set to get underway, the Cowboys know they have to shore things up on the defensive side of the ball. It's important that they not look past the Tigers this week though, and Gundy, while probably not overly concerned, had some nice things to say about Grambling's Dillon. "Offensively they have a quarterback who has a lot of ability. He moves around a lot and makes plays. For our defense to get him pinned up will be a challenge."
Defensive tackle Ugo Chinasa agreed with his coach and knows that it will take a complete effort to come out of this week's game with a win. "We have to go out there and play hard. We've got to get pressure on the quarterback and stop the run. We need to work on everything."
Even if Hunter, Bryant or both were to miss this game, Grambling doesn't stand much of a chance. The Tigers will surely play hard, but they simply lack the overall talent and depth needed to outgun the Cowboys in their own corral.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma State 49, Grambling State 10
09/23 10:33:10 ET