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Notebook: Bouncing Back from Losing in the Bounce House, Cowboys Facing Stephon Johnson Jr.

‘It wasn’t acceptable. We have to own up to that.’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — After about a week of being the hunted in the Big 12, the Cowboys are tasked with going back to being the hunter.

Oklahoma State plays Houston at 3 p.m. Saturday in TDECU Stadium, as the Pokes are coming off a 45-3 loss to UCF in Orlando. Oklahoma State is now in a complex tie in second in the Big 12 needing to win out and some other results to go their way to get back to Arlington for the Big 12 title game. Here are three storylines entering Saturday’s game.

How the Team Has Responded

The Cowboys took a long plane ride to Florida, lost by 42 points, got rained on and came home.

That certainly doesn’t sound fun. Saturday’s game was an example of the human element to football. Teams aren’t their video game ratings all the time. There are ups and downs.

So upon returning to Stillwater and getting back to work, the most common question Oklahoma State players were asked after Monday’s practice was how the team has responded in the fallout from Saturday’s game.

“We’re still together as family,” linebacker Xavier Benson said. “We realize that 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 everybody’s responded in more of a positive manor, realizing that we gotta start from ground zero again because we gotta earn back what we lost.

“It starts with simple things: discipline, being behind the line, running out from the huddle — stuff like that. That’s just unacceptable for us because that’s not our standard. We feel worse than everybody else because we put that on tape, and that’s just ugly to see. I know I’m not the only one. I know there’s a bunch of other guys that are invested in changing that, and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Avoiding a Post-Kansas State Slump

The last time the Cowboys lost by 40+ points, the rest of the season didn’t look too good.

Oklahoma State was 6-1 when the Pokes travelled to Manhattan for a game against Kansas State last season, but OSU was served a 48-0 loss in the Little Apple. The Cowboys won just one more game from that point on and finished 7-6.

But the Cowboys have a more recent example of a big loss not completely derailing things. South Alabama beat the Pokes by 26 in mid-September in what appeared to be a sign that OSU fans could expect more of the same from the season prior. But after that loss, the Cowboys went to Ames and played better against the Cyclones before ripping off five straight wins against some solid teams. So, the idea is for this UCF setback to be met with a post-South Alabama bounce back instead of whatever happened after Kansas State last season.

“Like the South Alabama game this year — no one wants to lose, obviously,” fullback Braden Cassity said. “That’s not why we show up at 5 a.m. in the winter, things like that, to come out and lose. But having that in the past and already being able to bounce back from that, it lets this team know, ‘OK, this isn’t the end of the world.’ It really doesn’t matter at all. I mean, it matters, obviously, but it doesn’t matter in a sense of dwelling on it. You can move on and continue to still be a good football team and have chances to do big things.”

Cowboys Face Off with Former Cowboy Stephon Johnson Jr.

For the second time in the past three weeks, the Cowboys will face a player who was a Cowboy just last season.

OSU is 1-0 against former players this season after beating Trace Ford in the Sooners in Bedlam. This week the Pokes will see Stephon Johnson Jr., a wide receiver on last season’s team who transferred to Houston.

Johnson had a promising true freshman season in Stillwater, finishing the year with 17 catches for 293 yards and a pair of scores. He had six catches for 90 yards in OSU’s win against Texas last season and took a ball 84 yards to the house in OSU’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl loss to Wisconsin.

Johnson has caught a pass in all 10 of the Cougars’ games this season, where he has 18 receptions for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Johnson’s best game of the year came in Houston’s crazy win against West Virginia. Johnson caught four passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns that day, including the Cougars’ Hail Mary winner.

Johnson also had a solid outing in the Cougars’ win in Waco — catching three passes for 32 yards.

The sample size isn’t huge, but it sure seems like the Cougars are better when getting Johnson the ball. In Houston’s five Big 12 losses, Johnson has averaged 1.2 catches and 12.8 yards a game. In Houston’s two Big 12 wins, Johnson has averaged 3.5 catches and 64 yards a game.

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