By Jim Henry
Andrew Lewis, former all-state offensive lineman at Joplin High School, is spending this weekend back in Missouri.
Lewis, 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior, will start at left guard for Oklahoma State when the No. 17 Cowboys tackle No. 3 Missouri on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.
“It means a bit more to me,” Lewis said at a media luncheon earlier this week. “I was not really recruited by Missouri, so there’s a little extra motivation. I will also get to see some of the guys I played with in the area. It will be fun to see what those guys are like now, four years later.”
Lewis opened last season as the starter at left guard before shifting to center after David Washington went down with a broken leg in the third game of the season. With Washington returning this season, Lewis has moved back to left guard.
Lewis was part of the Cowboys’ offensive line that allowed the third fewest sacks in the country last year. He was named the team’s most valuable offensive lineman against Troy and Sam Houston State.
“Andrew was a guy that we beat (Missouri State) on,” Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy said. “I asked (Joe) Wickline, our offense line coach, ‘Are you sure on this guy, 240 pounds. I can’t believe all these other schools passed him up.’ He said ‘I’m just telling you, the guy can snap the ball, he’s tough and he can run.’
“I said all right, we’ll go with him, and two years later he ends up being a starter and 285 pounds. He has a great attitude, a hard worker. He’s going to be a good player in this league.”
The Cowboys are 5-0 for the first time since 2004, the third time in the last 11 years and the eighth time in school history. Last week’s 56-28 victory over Texas A&M; marked just the fifth time in the Big 12 Conference’s 13-year existence that the Cowboys won their league opener.
“It feels great (being undefeated), but I think we need to keep working hard,” Lewis said. “This is a chance to be 6-0, but we are also playing the No. 3 team in the nation. It is going to prove a lot about how good we really are.”
The game matches two of the country’s best offenses. Missouri, coming off a 52-17 triumph at Nebraska, ranks second nationally in scoring (53.4) and third in total offense (568.8). Oklahoma State is third in scoring (52.6) and sixth in total offense (530.2).
The teams have achieved those lofty numbers in contrasting styles. Missouri, directed by Heisman Trophy candidate Chase Daniel, is third in passing (375.6) while the Cowboys, powered by Kendall Hunter’s 141 yards per game, are second in rushing (315.2).
Neither team, however, is one-dimensional. Missouri running back Derrick Washington averages 100 yards rushing and leads the nation in scoring (14.4 points per game). OSU quarterback Zac Robinson is third in pass efficiency rating (204.6, and Daniel is fifth at 196.4), and receiver Dez Bryant is fifth in receiving yards (110.0, 14 more than MU’s Jeremy Maclin) and second in scoring (13.2).
“We have to have great time of possession,” Lewis said. “We have to keep it away from their offense. They are one of the best offenses in the nation also. It is very important to keep the ball in our hands.”
Missouri’s defense, which sees extended playing time because of the Tigers’ quick-strike offense, has allowed 20 points and 376 yards per game.
“I think their defense is one of the best in the nation,” Lewis said. “They run at the ball, they play hard and their defensive line is as good as any that I’ve seen. We just need to step it up and have a big game this week.”
• Missouri and Oklahoma State are two of the 15 remaining undefeated teams at the halfway point of the season. The Big 12 has five unbeatens — Missouri plus South Division teams Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. Tulsa is a third unbeaten team in the state of Oklahoma.
• At No. 17, it’s the Cowboys’ highest ranking since Oct. 16, 2004, when they were No. 16. OSU lost that week to No. 23 Texas A&M.;
• Missouri and Oklahoma State face each other as ranked teams for the first time since 1976 when No. 16 OSU beat No. 10 Missouri 20-16. A ranked Missouri team is 6-2 against OSU, and a ranked Cowboy team is 6-2 against the Tigers.
• With the potential for a shootout on Saturday, the highest scoring game in the series was Missouri’s 51-50 double-overtime victory in Stillwater in 1997.