- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - No. 20 Oklahoma State is coming off a game in which its ground attack gained just 2.2 yards per carry and its top running back’s status for this weekend is questionable.

Coach Mike Gundy isn’t overly concerned about it.

After the Cowboys (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) escaped with a 30-27 victory at Texas last weekend, Gundy initially wasn’t happy with the running game, which gained just 103 yards on 46 carries. Then he watched game film.

“Offensively, we actually ran the ball a little better than what I thought,” Gundy said. “We had three plays where we got hit behind the line for a yard or two, and I guess that kind of clouded my image of the other plays where we did get the 6-, the 8-, the 10-yard runs. So I felt a little better about that situation.”

The overall team numbers were skewed a bit by quarterback Mason Rudolph’s total of negative-32 yards on six carries. But taking Rudolph completely out of the equation, the team total of 135 yards on 40 rushes equals an average of 3.4 yards per carry. That’s less than last season’s average of 3.5 that Gundy said needed to be improved upon.

“We need to improve overall, we understand that,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “We ran the ball into some bad looks. At the same time, they took away some running lanes, they had some numbers in the box, and that’s difficult to run the ball when you’re consistently outnumbered in the run game.”

Complicating things for Oklahoma State as they prepare for this Saturday’s game against Kansas State (3-0, 0-0), is that starting running back Chris Carson may not be in the lineup.

Carson rushed for 39 yards on 12 carries (3.2 yards per carry) against Texas before sustaining an undisclosed injury. Junior Rennie Childs took over the bulk of the work and gained 54 yards on a career-high 21 rushes (2.6).

Carson’s absence would also press inexperienced backups Jeff Carr (51 yards on 10 carries this season) and Raymond Taylor (76 yards on three rushes, including a 58-yard touchdown, in the fourth quarter of a 69-14 win over UTSA on Sept. 19) into action as the reserve backs.

Both Gundy and Yurcich were happy with Childs’ performance, and even sounded like they might be considering having him assume the primary role whether Carson is active or not.

“I liked his aggressiveness,” Gundy said of Childs. “He ran hard, showed signs of being durable and tough, and we were pleased with his performance. He ran through arm tackles and dropped his pads and ran through some second-level defenders, and for the most part, didn’t take lost yards.”

No matter who lines up in the backfield, Oklahoma State will need a very strong effort to succeed on the ground against Kansas State’s rushing defense that tops the Big 12 and ranks eighth in the nation with 78.3 yards allowed per game and 2.4 yards allowed per carry.

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