Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Mike Gundy was already worried about Houston only a few minutes after notching an impressive victory over Georgia last week.
The Cowboys' conquest sent fans celebrating into the streets of Stillwater after arguably the biggest nonconference victory in school history. It pushed Oklahoma State to No. 5 in the most recent AP media poll -- their highest national ranking in nearly 25 years.
That accomplishment only makes the Oklahoma State coach more wary that he won’t let his team overlook the underrated Cougars, the consensus preseason favorites of Conference USA’s West Division.
“Our toughest game will be our next one," Gundy said. "This team coming in here next, they'll be ready to play. They're not going to be concerned with [OSU's victory over Georgia]."
Other Oklahoma State teams have struggled in previous situations. But Gundy hopes his senior-laden team led by players like quarterback Zac Robinson, linebacker Andre Sexton and cornerback Perrish Cox should help this team refocus after the breakthrough triumph against the Bulldogs.
“You just never know as a coach,” Gundy said. “You always worry about the next game after you had a big win. There was so much put into this last one. But we do have some (veteran) guys that should be able to help with that.”
Gundy’s concern is understandable considering the Cougars’ last trip into Stillwater last season.
Houston quarterback Case Keenum blistered the Cowboys for 468 yards of total offense -- most by an Oklahoma State opponent last season -- to boost the Cougars to an early lead. But Dez Bryant produced four touchdowns during a wild spree of 49 Oklahoma State points during the final 31:23 of the game that sparked a 56-37 triumph.
“What we had to do to beat them last year reminded us about how tough they are,” Bryant said. “It was a tough game and we’ll be ready for them.”
Coming into the season, the Cowboys were a fashionable outside pick to challenge the Texas/Oklahoma logjam that has resulted in 10 straight Big 12 title-game appearances for either the Longhorns or Sooners. Their defensive effort against Georgia is a strong indicator that the Cowboys won’t be as reliant on shootouts as they have been in previous seasons.
The opening-game victory came despite a lackluster performance by the Oklahoma State offense and special teams. Those presumed strengths sputtered as the Cowboys won because of a sterling defensive effort.
After allowing Georgia to score on its opening possession, the Bulldogs were limited to a field goal the rest of the game as they produced only 177 yards.
That effort has given the Cowboys confidence they will be ready for another shot at containing Keenum’s high-powered offensive attack. The Houston quarterback led the nation in total offense last season and picked up where he left off in the Cougars' season-0pening win over Northwestern State by accounting for five touchdowns.
"The stakes are way higher now," Oklahoma State defensive tackle Shane Jarka told the Tulsa World. "We've set a standard for the defense now, and we can only go higher. We're not going back."
The defensive performance provides Gundy with some assurance about his team, despite the challenges he expects from the Cougars on Saturday.
“Offensively, we played very sloppy,” Gundy said. “The special teams played sloppy. But we were still able to find a way to win the game which is important. Our team is starting to learn how to win.”