Nationally ranked receiver, running back pose challenge for Longhorns

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Conference play has returned to the Forty Acres, and the 3–0 Oklahoma State Cowboys are ready. When you think Big 12 football, it’s easy to let the Cowboys fade into the background of the Red River Rivalry and other great matchups. However, Texas has not beaten the Cowboys since 2014, and with an arsenal of talented skill position players, the Longhorns cannot take this week lightly. 

“Well, they got the leading (running) back in the country and the leading (wide) receiver, so that’s the start of it, and a quarterback that’s very mobile. ” defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. “So, I mean, it’s a really cool system, and I think they don’t get enough credit for how well they run the ball and how good they are up front.”

OSU’s offense is explosive, and with junior wide receiver Tylan Wallace and sophomore running back Chuba Hubbard, this week will prove where the Longhorns stand within the Big 12 ranking.

Wallace is the Cowboys’ greatest offensive threat and currently leads the NCAA with 390 receiving yards on 15 receptions. In three games, Wallace has scored six touchdowns, with his longest reception being a 90-yarder against Tulsa.

“If you put it in the ballpark, he comes down with it,” Orlando said. “I think he’s probably the most complete receiver in the country. He runs every route as hard as he can, even when he doesn’t get the ball. If the ball goes up in the air, he’s going to come down with it.”

Senior safety Brandon Jones will be seeing a lot of Wallace on the field Saturday. He, too, feels Wallace’s talent is undeniable.

“He’s one of the best receivers,” Jones said. “He really has no flaw in his game, from what I’ve seen in film, what I’ve seen playing against him last year. He brings a lot to the table. It’s for sure going to be a big emphasis on the defense to try to minimize his catches as much as possible.”

The defense doesn’t just have Wallace to worry about, but Hubbard as well. The sophomore leads the NCAA in rushing yards with 521, the closest competitor 66 yards behind him. In three games, he has seven of OSU’s 20 touchdowns.

“He’s got, you know, big, big time speed,” Orlando said. “So if you miss a one-on-one tackle with him, he really makes you pay.”

Anchoring Oklahoma State’s offense is redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders. Sanders has passed for 622 yards, but has struggled with his consistency. He completed 79.2% passes against Oregon State, but that number dropped to 54.5% against Tulsa. However, the Longhorns are not taking OSU’s starter for granted.

“From what I’ve seen on TV, (he’s an) extremely explosive, athletic, fast guy,” junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “A great quarterback from what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, so, I mean, I don’t have a whole lot of information on him or analyze this game, but he looks very capable (to) be a great quarterback.”

Early in the season, each of these teams are vying to contend for the conference championship. With one loss already tacked onto Texas’ record, starting off 1–0 against a highly touted competitor can help pave the way to a Big 12 championship run.

“I think it’s extremely important for us to start 1–0 in conference play,” Ehlinger said. “You know, the Big 12, it’s a conference where you never know what’s going to happen each week. A lot of talented teams, a lot of teams will sneak up on you if you don’t take them serious, so we have to have that mentality going into every week. And obviously, starting at home to open up conference play — it’s huge for us.”