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No. 22 Cowboys finally hit road vs La-Lafayette
STILLWATER, OKLA. (AP) - Ask Brandon Weeden the biggest challenge that No. 22 Oklahoma State will face as it heads on the road for the first time this season and the quarterback can only hazard a guess.
"It's hard to say," Weeden said, "without going on the road."
Weeden is one of 14 players expected to make their first road start for the Cowboys (4-0) on Friday night when they face Louisiana-Lafayette (2-2), their first game since cracking the Top 25 this season. Oklahoma State started with four consecutive home games, but will now play five of its next seven games away from Boone Pickens Stadium.
Besides Weeden, others making their first road start for Oklahoma Sate are four of the five offensive linemen and three-fourths of the defensive secondary after safety Victor Johnson was lost to a knee injury last week.
Even Justin Blackmon, the nation's top receiver with 139.5 yards per game and 10 total touchdowns, hasn't started on the road _ although he's had eight starts at home and played in a reserve role in away games last season.
"Hopefully, the other players that have traveled and played on the road will help them through that," coach Mike Gundy said. "It's not going to change at this point, so as a coaching staff we've got to do a good job of getting them prepared and find a way to make them understand that once we get out there and kick off, it's the same."
Oklahoma State followers may see some similarities to the team's last trip to face a Sun Belt Conference opponent, a 41-23 defeat at Troy in 2007. That was also on a Friday night, and against a team with a good track record against Big 12 competition.
The Ragin' Cajuns knocked off Kansas State last year at Cajun Field, a 31,000-seat stadium that Gundy expects to be as noisy as any Big 12 venue. Until this week, the only ranked team to visit Lafayette was No. 25 Texas A&M in 1996 _ and the Aggies lost 38-35.
"The fans we have there, I know will be loud," Louisiana-Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle said. "Our crowd is like spinach to Popeye, and it helps them."
The Ragin' Cajuns beat K-State 17-15 last year by allowing the Wildcats to convert only 3 of 16 third down attempts and kicking a 48-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining.
"I think the biggest thing is just to get in your kids' minds that you can do this," Bustle said. "This whole conference plays a lot of great people. (Oklahoma State) had a heck of a game with Troy already this year, and Oklahoma State is playing extremely well. The good thing is we get them at home, and we like playing at home."
Gundy's first college game back in 1986 was played at Louisiana-Lafayette, with a Cowboys squad featuring future NFL stars Thurman Thomas and Hart Lee Dykes needing to rally from 11 points down in the final 3:09 for a 21-20 victory.
But that history, and the Cowboys' 2007 loss at Troy, means little to Gundy. Some of his players remember the Troy game, too, but say it was a valuable lesson.
"Just stay focused, work hard and don't underestimate your opponent because it's their house, they're going to be wanting to win the game," said Dan Bailey, whose 40-yard field goal as time expired lifted Oklahoma State to a 38-35 win against Texas A&M last week.
By Bob Dole
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