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FOR THE PAST TWO SEASONS THERE WASN'T MUCH MYSTERY TO Oklahoma State's offensive play-calling. "On any key third or fourth down you could just throw it to [Justin] Blackmon," says coach Mike Gundy. "Everyone in the stadium knew he was getting it. They still couldn't stop it." After leading the Cowboys to a two-year record of 23--3, winning the school's first conference title since 1948 and capping it with a Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford, the prolific passing tandem of quarterback Brandon Weeden and two-time Biletnikoff winner Blackmon has moved on to the NFL. Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken have no plans to shift from the wide-open offense that often saw the Cowboys attempt more than 45 passes a game, but they're entrusting it to a quarterback nearly a decade younger than his predecessor.
After enrolling this past January, 18-year-old true freshman Wes Lunt needed just 15 spring practices to win the starting job vacated by the 28-year-old Weeden. If Gundy stays true to that decision, the 6' 4", 211-pound Lunt will become the first OSU true freshman quarterback to start a season opener since at least 1950. "He's a thrower, not a runner," says Monken. To replace Blackmon (which isn't really possible), senior Tracy Moore, who had 45 catches for 672 yards last year, will step into the spot on the outside. With five of the Cowboys' top eight pass catchers from last season departed, less experienced players such as junior Charlie Moore and sophomore Josh Stewart need to have breakout seasons.
Despite losing his two biggest stars, as well as All--Big 12 defensive end Jamie Blatnick, Gundy insists the program will continue its recent momentum (41 wins over the past four years). "We have proved we have staying power," says the former Cowboys quarterback, who last January signed a new eight-year contract worth $3.79 million annually. Oklahoma State's offense won't be as explosive without Weeden and Blackmon, but it does need to approach last year's production (545.9 yards per game) to contend. "You have to minimize mistakes, penalties, turning over the football, all those things, and you have to find a different way to win games," says Gundy. It doesn't get much different than going 10 years younger at quarterback.
COACH Mike Gundy (8th year) 59--30 (33--24 in Big 12)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Todd Monken
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Bill Young
2011 RECORD 12--1 (8--1, 1st in Big 12)
FINAL AP RANK 3