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Archive for Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Stillwater power trio

Robinson, Hunter, Bryant making splash in Big 12

The Oklahoma State power trio of wide receiver dez bryant, left, running back Kendall Hunter, center, and quarterback Zac Robinson makes the Cowboys one of the most lethal offenses in the Big 12.

The Oklahoma State power trio of wide receiver dez bryant, left, running back Kendall Hunter, center, and quarterback Zac Robinson makes the Cowboys one of the most lethal offenses in the Big 12.

September 10, 2008

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They're not exactly household names, these three Oklahoma State Cowboys. They're recipients of little national attention. They're overshadowed by the No. 4 team in the nation that resides an hour-and-change south in Norman, Okla.

These three players won't be unknown much longer, though.

This season, the Cowboys offense has produced one of the most lethal power trios in the Big 12: quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant.

Last week, the Cowboys power trio left the Houston Cougars defense more perplexed than Miss Teen South Carolina analyzing a world map. Robinson torched Houston for 320 passing yards and three touchdowns. Each touchdown went to Bryant, who added nine receptions and a head-scratching 236 yards. Hunter didn't do much to alleviate the pain, bruising for 210 rushing yards and two more scores.

It was the first time in Oklahoma State history the Cowboys generated a 200-yard rusher and 200-yard receiver in the same game.

So much for flying under the radar.

"It's difficult to get one player to rush for over 200 yards, and then it's much more difficult for a receiver to receive over 200 yards because it's hard to get the ball to him that many times," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said on Monday's Big 12 teleconference. "I hope they continue on. We have a lot of confidence in them."

After two games, Robinson has averaged 275.5 yards of total offense; Hunter leads the Big 12 with 317 rushing yards and four touchdowns; and Bryant leads the Big 12 with 326 receiving yards.

OK, so maybe the stats are inflated from the first two games of the non-conference schedule. But the Cowboys have faced respectable opponents in Washington State and Houston, which reached the Texas Bowl last year. And that "neutral" game against Washington State in week one was anything but neutral, as OSU faced WSU in Seattle. Home-field advantage, anyone?

OSU still prevailed, 39-13.

In some way, each component of the power trio was groomed to flourish in their respective positions.

Robinson, for instance, took over at quarterback last season after junior Bobby Reid, who had started since halfway through his freshman season, was benched for two games. The result by the end of the season? The then-sophomore Robinson scored 32 total touchdowns, started the final 11 games and led Oklahoma State to an Insight Bowl victory over Indiana. Reid transferred to Texas Western, which went 0-11 last season.

The sophomore Hunter doesn't have experience as a full-time running back, but saw extensive looks (107 rushes, 696 yards, four TDs) last season as a freshman backing up Dantrell Savage, who currently suits up on Sundays for the Kansas City Chiefs. Hunter, who averaged just under nine carries a game last year, had 23 carries the first week this season and 22 last week. It appears the heavy workload will continue.

"If Kendall gets 22 (carries per game) and the other guys (Beau Johnson, Keith Toston) get 10 each, that puts us around the low 40's," Gundy said. "We're going to throw it around 35 times per game, so that's what we're looking for."

Then, there's the sophomore Bryant, who's giving Missouri's Jeremy Maclin a run for his money for the Big 12's king of all-purpose yards. Bryant, who also returns punts, currently leads the conference with 484 all-purpose yards. The casual Big 12 fan likely didn't hear much about Bryant as a freshman last year, as Adarius Bowman was the focal point of the Cowboys receivers. This year, different story. The 210-pound Bryant has developed a dangerous familiarity with Robinson. There were several times against Washington State and Houston where Robinson simply threw the ball high in the air in the general direction of the 6-foot-2-inch Bryant to let him reach the ball before the smaller cornerback.

It could be considered a surprise that the Cowboys power trio broke out so soon this season, considering two of the three were second options just a year ago. But a surprise to their coach?

"Honestly, no," Gundy said. "We have a lot of confidence in what we do. The players believe in the system. But the success we've had on that side of the ball, people are aware of us and they're out to get us. It only gets more difficult from here on out. Teams will be much better, faster and they'll tackle better. The (teams will) only continue to get better in league play."

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