BOULDER - Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy knows enough about the brutal hits quarterbacks take - he played the position at the school he now coaches - to cringe even at the licks that don't seem so vicious.
But the helmet-to-helmet hit he witnessed Saturday night on Cowboys QB Zac Robinson might have been in the "double cringe" category.
Robinson, a Chatfield High School product, was bashed by Texas Tech safety Jamaar Wall in OSU's 24-17 victory. Robinson underwent tests for a concussion on Sunday, and on Monday's Big 12 Conference coaches' teleconference, Gundy said he believes Robinson can play Thursday night against Colorado (5:30 p.m. MST, ESPN).
"As of now, we're expecting him to play," Gundy said, adding Robinson would be further evaluated in the three days prior to the game.
The Buffs are familiar with Robinson: Last season in Boulder, he was the catalyst behind the Cowboys rolling up 443 yards in total offense (226 rushing, 217 passing) in a 30-17 OSU victory. He completed 15 of his 23 pass attempts for one touchdown and threw one interception.
CU coach Dan Hawkins called Robinson "a tough guy," and said the Buffs expected to see him under center. "He'll be back, I'm sure . . . but we'll prepare for their offense."
If Robinson can't play, Gundy can call on junior Alex Cate or sophomore Brandon Weeden, both of whom are inexperienced.
Reflecting on hard shots taken during his college career, Gundy remembered a hit delivered by a Nebraska cornerback in the late 1980s.
"That reminded me of the hit (Robinson) took," Gundy said. "I cringe at the hits that take place. There's three to four a game now compared to maybe three to four like that in a season (in the past).
"Fortunately for Zac, it's not a serious injury. But you always cringe . . . it's one of the tougher parts of the game."
NO WORRIES? Hawkins said on the Big 12 teleconference he was "not at all" concerned about retaining his job, and he reiterated his belief again following his weekly press luncheon.
He said athletic director Mike Bohn and Chancellor Phil DiStefano "have been great. Both have been very supportive. I think they understand the nature and scope of job, what has gone on here . . . in terms of helping things get back on track, we've had to undertake a number of things."
Bohn reiterated his backing of Hawkins, adding there is no timeline for making a decision on Hawkins' future because his football coach is under contract through 2012.
WHAT'S TO PLAY FOR? Simple, said Hawkins: The non-bowl eligible Buffs (3-7, 2-4) are "playing for the purest part of the sport . . . Our guys have been great; they're in it heart and soul.
"I have every confidence they will play it hard and play it out. There's no quit in them. They're going to keep coming."
HIT PARADE: Are today's defensive players more mindful of highlight tapes that glamorize "knockout" hits?
That could be the case, noted Gundy, who also believes defensive players are "tackling higher" than they did when he played.
"(Networks) put them on their highlights and show the 'big hits of the week,'" Gundy said. "And I think that encourages players to tackle high . . . they're taking shots from the waist up."
And the hits are coming from bigger, stronger, faster players whose strength training now is a year-round obligation.
Gundy acknowledged the college game has changed and mentioned "how finely tuned the athletes are." It's not uncommon to find defensive backs weighing 205 to 210 pounds and safeties heavier than that.
"Now, it's kind of the law of physics," Gundy said. "Athletes are getting bigger, stronger every year."
HOT DB: OSU cornerback Perrish Cox, a 2009 Thorpe Award semifinalist, made two interceptions and broke up three passes in the win against Texas Tech. He was named the Big 12's defensive player of the week.
Cox, one of 22 seniors who will make their final OSU home appearance Thursday night, has three interceptions in the past two games.
He also returns kicks (22.6 average) and punts (8.8), with four career touchdowns on kickoff returns.
"He's done a great job, he's come a long ways," Gundy said. He's been a senior leader and helped bring young players along."
NO DEZ FALLOUT: The Cowboys have been without suspended top receiver Dez Bryant for a little more than a month. Gundy said Bryant's absence affected some players, but most have "put it aside and focused on the next game."
The NCAA, he said, handles such matters in its own way and, "We follow their guidelines and are not allowed to give our opinions on whatever sanctions they put on Dez."
Bryant was suspended by the school after allegedly lying about an off-season meeting with Deion Sanders. The NCAA investigated and upheld the suspension, ending Bryant's season.
BUFF BITS: Because of this week's altered schedule, the Buffs practiced Monday night as to not interfere with players' class schedules. Monday is a normal day off . . . . CU's season of odd game days ends with a Thursday night contest followed by the finale on Friday afternoon (Nov. 27 vs. Nebraska). The Buffs also have played on Sunday and Friday nights, as well as Saturday afternoon and night. Hawkins on the odd game days: "It's like life - you've got to play it." . . . . The Cowboys (8-2, 5-1) climbed from No. 17 to No. 12 in this week's AP poll . . . . OSU is playing its first Thursday night game since Sept. 8, 2005 (at Florida Atlantic). Thursday's home game marks the first for the Cowboys since Aug. 31, 1995 - the debut of former CU assistant Bob Simmons as OSU's head coach . . . . The Cowboys defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. OSU's defensive coordinator is veteran Bill Young, who returned to Stillwater after a brief stint on the Miami (Fla.) staff . . . . OSU is 18-6 in its past 24 games, with four of the six losses to teams ranked in the top three of the AP poll . . . . Hawkins said he "anticipated" Bryce Givens starting at right tackle Thursday. Two flags against Givens (hands-to-the-face, unsportsmanlike conduct) cost CU 30 critical yards in last weekend's 17-10 loss at Iowa State. After the penalties, Givens was benched for the rest of the game . . . . The status of safety Ray Polk (broken bone near little toe) is to be determined. Polk did not make the trip to Iowa State, but last week's plan was for him to play this week . . . . With 11 penalties at Iowa State, CU plunged to No. 119 out of 120 FBS teams. The Buffs are averaging just over nine flags (9.3) a game. Texas Tech is No. 120 (9.7).