STILLWATER — The Cowboys’ secondary has been put under a microscope this season, as the inexperienced group has tried to mesh together through Oklahoma State’s nonconference slate.
Oklahoma State doesn’t have a game this weekend, but the Cowboys prep for Big 12 play and a conference title rematch against Baylor. The last time the Cowboys played the Bears, Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen started 17-for-17 against the Cowboys’ secondary, a Big 12 title game record. And that was an experienced secondary that included the likes of Kolby Harvell-Peel, Christian Holmes, Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Tanner McCalister and Jason Taylor.
“I think it’s definitely a challenge, but I can’t really look too focused on that game last year,” said Taylor, OSU’s lone returning starter from last season’s secondary. “A lot of different factors. Two different teams. Their team has changed a lot. Our team has changed a lot. This is a new game. Next Saturday, we’ll play a new team.”
Shapen finished the Big 12 title game 23-for-28 with 180 yards and three touchdowns. Three games into his sophomore season, Shapen has thrown for 535 yards and four touchdowns as he and the Bears prep to play Iowa State this weekend.
The Cowboys have given up 265 passing yards a game to this point. Alarm bells were ringing when Central Michigan quarterback Daniel Richardson threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns against OSU in Week 1, but passing numbers have come down in the ensuing weekends. Arizona State threw for 223 yards and one touchdown, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff threw for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Korie Black, Jabbar Muhammad, Sean Michael Flanagan and Kendal Daniels will get their first extended look at Big 12 play against Baylor (Thomas Harper is in the middle of that group and Taylor in terms of experience). Taylor said there isn’t a ton he can do in getting his young pups ready for conference action, but it’ll be something learned through experience.
“You really can’t — after the first conference game, they’ll understand more,” Taylor said. “I remember me being in that position, I would think it’s another game, but obviously the stakes are higher. They’re more familiar with you because you play them every year. Once you hit that first one, you understand, and I think that’s what’s gonna happen.”
It’s almost unfortunate for the Cowboys that this inexperienced group’s first Big 12 game could have major implications on the conference title picture, but the schedule is what it is. After swimming in the shallow end for three weeks, is that group ready to plunge off the diving board?
“I think so,” Taylor said. “We’re ready, and we’re gonna keep striving to be ready for next Saturday.”