STILLWATER. (AP) — After three straight bowl trips, Oklahoma State opened last season with a lack of leadership and a surplus of confusion.

Entering Mike Gundy’s second season as coach, the Cowboys believe they have addressed both of those areas and are ready for a return to the postseason.

“We had a bad season last year,” quarterback Bobby Reid said. “We’re trying to approach things differently this year. We have more leadership on the team now and it’s coming from some of the young kids.”

The Cowboys have had an infusion of new talent since last season’s disappointing 4-7 finish. Transfer Adarius Bowman is expected to make a splash at wide receiver, and freshmen Perrish Cox and Brady Bond have been impressive in fall camp.

Their first test will come Saturday against Missouri State. Last season, Oklahoma State struggled to put away another Division I-AA foe, Montana State, in a 15-10 win in the opener. Looking back, the Cowboys feel they have plenty to learn.

“Not just the opener, the whole season. We’ve got to get better prepared than last year, just believe in ourselves and just stay focused every play,” Reid said. “If something goes wrong, we’ve just got to have a certain type of weapon to counterattack it.”

Gundy’s tenure as the Cowboys’ coach got off to a rocky start last season. After a 3-0 start with hard-fought wins against Montana State, Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State, the Cowboys went 1-7 in Big 12 play as injuries piled up and the team showed signs it hadn’t mastered the new coaching staff’s schemes.

“We are a better football team now than what we were,” Gundy said. “We are looking forward to playing and seeing how our team has formed. We want to see how far the young players have come along, and the players who were young last year should play better now.”

Defensive end Darnell Smith said that experience should make a big difference in confidence, as the Cowboys enter this season with more knowledge.

“Since we have a year under our belt, we know what the coaches want from us more so than we did last year,” Smith said. “Last year with the new coaches and coaching style, we had a lot of ... miscommunication. We’ve got to communicate more.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the team’s approach to preparation has changed. After all, the Cowboys are only one year removed from one of the most successful runs in school history.

“Every year we come in with our minds made up what we have to do,” Smith said. “We want to be focused, we want to be determined, we want to have fun, we want to go out there and we want to win. Every year we go out there like we have something to prove.”

This year, there’s perhaps more to be proven than in the recent past. Can Gundy lead the Cowboys to the postseason as his predecessors did? Will Reid become the star quarterback he was expected to be when he was recruited out of Houston two years ago?

“There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a lot of pressure on me, being the quarterback. I know there’s a ton of pressure on coach Gundy. He’s the head man. He runs everything,” Reid said. “If we start playing bad, they’re going to point fingers at him even though he doesn’t play. They’re still going to say, ‘You’re the head coach. You’re letting this happen.”’

First, though, the Cowboys must figure out how deal with Missouri State under the guidance of new head coach Terry Allen — a familiar face from his years as Kansas’ head coach and the past four years as an assistant to Dan McCarney at Iowa State.

“We do not have any idea of what Missouri State is going to do, obviously with a new coaching staff and the coordinators coming from different places,” Gundy said.

Oklahoma State has won all four meetings with Missouri State, although the Bears pushed the Cowboys into the first overtime in college football history when they played in 1996.

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