Defense Gilds For Oklahoma State Challenge

Members of the Ohio State defense provide their own scouting report on the Oklahoma State offense they will face in Wednesday's Alamo Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN). Plus, we have notes on Anthony Schlegel, Dustin Fox and a special accomplishment OSU's seniors can have with a win.

Members of the Ohio State defense showed nothing but respect toward their counterparts on the Oklahoma State offense. That figures to be the primetime match-up in Wednesday's Alamo Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN).

The Cowboys ended the year eighth in the country in rushing offense at 245 yards per game. Oklahoma State's distant ranking of 111th nationally in passing (144.1 ypg) left the Cowboys at 45th nationally in total offense (389.1 ypg). Their scoring offense ranked a robust 15th nationally at 34.6 points per game.

"What impresses me the most about them is anybody they wanted to run on they have," said OSU linebacker A.J. Hawk. "We look forward to the challenge of a team that likes to run the ball."

Ohio State has been among the nation's best run defenses in recent years. A top-10 fixture the last two seasons, the Buckeyes fell to 36th nationally in rushing defense at 128.7 ypg this year.

Secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator Mel Tucker also discussed the task the Buckeyes face with Oklahoma State, which ran the ball 77 percent of the time during the regular season.

"It's always a challenge to play a team that wants to run the football," Tucker said. "We always talk that the first thing we have to do is to stop the run. It will be a tremendous challenge to all of our players to stop the run and contain their passing game."

The Oklahoma State offense is built around tailback Vernand Morency and the brother duo of quarterback Donovan Woods and wide receiver D'Juan Woods.

"You have to stop Morency and stop Woods – both of them," OSU defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "That's the key."

Snyder was asked to compare Oklahoma State to Ohio State's past opponents.

"This team is a lot more physical than Kansas State was last year," Snyder said. "They have big tight ends who are offensive tackles. When they spread you out, they become Kansas State.

"They are also like Michigan and Wisconsin. It depends what they're in. With the big tight ends, they remind me of Wisconsin. When they spread you out, they become more like Michigan."

Tucker added, "They will try and establish the running game. But they're also going to take their shots. They will take six or seven shots in a game down the field."

Tucker talked about the unique nature of bowl match-ups, where coaching staffs have nearly a full month to look through a full season's worth of tapes.

"When you have a month, you try and sort it out and say, `This is who they are. This is what they want to do. This is what we know we're going to have to stop,' " Tucker said. "You look at the entire season, no matter what game it is these are the plays they're going to run and these are the guys who got the ball.

"This is where the adjustments come in. You see what they have special in there for us."

Scouting Oklahoma State

Donovan Woods was a dual-threat quarterback in 2004, throwing for 1,491 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushing for 364 yards and scoring for 10 touchdowns.

OSU defensive end Simon Fraser talked about the challenge of facing such a threat at quarterback.

"The systems have changed with the type of athletes that are coming out," Fraser said. "You have a quarterback who can run and pass and wide receivers who can make so many big plays. The traditional power back system is moving into a one-back, zone system. That lets the quarterback read adjustments. It's becoming successful for a lot of teams. We've had a lot of preparation for this and we need to study Oklahoma State and see what we can do."

"They are a team that tries to establish the run first, like we do. We know it will be a physical, tough game. We're looking forward to this game and facing the tough challenge we will face here. Hopefully, we can rise to the challenge."

OSU cornerback Dustin Fox also discussed the unique abilities of the 6-2, 215-pound Donavan Woods.

"They do a lot of quarterback runs," Fox said. "He's similar to what we faced last year with Ell Roberson, a running back playing quarterback who can also throw the ball. He has gotten much better at throwing the football.

"I'm impressed with the way they play. It's very similar to the type of football that is played in the Big Ten, very smashmouth, physical type of football. They run the ball very effectively and have a lot of athletes who help them out. They will be a big challenge for us."

Morency, a 5-10, 215-pound junior, had an impressive season with 1,454 yards and 12 touchdowns on 250 carries – an average of 25 carries per game.

"You can see from his athletic ability he shows on film that he has the ability to break a big one," said OSU safety Nate Salley. We just have to contain him. I've seen some great things out of him. He'll give you a good shake and spin move, then try and run you over.

"We will have to be physical. They remind me of Wisconsin. They just like to pound the ball down your throat. I'll have to be like an extra linebacker. It should be fun."

While Morency gets a lot of work between the tackles, Oklahoma State also does not hesitate to mix in the option game, reverses, toss sweeps and other ways to move the ball on the ground.

"For the most part, they run the power and they run the option," Salley said. "They find different ways to get it done. They run three or four different types of runs from different looks. They try and mix you up and motion some guys to confuse you. But we'll be ready."

Hawk continued his discussion on Oklahoma State's power running game tendencies.

"They have a great running back," Hawk said. "They like to run the ball a lot and try to pound it down your throat. That's good. That's kind of like big-time football and what we're used to playing. They've rushed the ball well on a lot of teams. Their quarterback can also rush the ball. He's like another tailback back there. They'll be another challenge, but it's always fun to play a team like that.

"They have a few similarities to Michigan, I believe. That's in how they run their plays and formation-wise. They have a good offensive line."

D'Juan Woods, a 6-1, 195-pound sophomore, is the top receiver with 29 catches for 650 yards (22.4 average) and six touchdowns.

"You see Woods making the big catches," Fox said. "From most of what I've seen, their passing game is big plays. You see Woods running downfield and jumping up and making big catches. They have some definite threats at wide receiver. They have two tight ends who are really good. One kid (Charlie Johnson) is 280 pounds. You see him catching the ball over the middle and breaking tackles. They can run for being so big."

OSU cornerback Ashton Youboty said he knows he will have to stay on his toes against Oklahoma State and guard against those big plays.

"I just know if they're running a lot, I can't fall asleep out there because they're a big play team also," he said. "For the first couple days we practiced, we were running dime and nickel a lot. Now that we know we're playing Oklahoma State, we've just been running our base defense a lot. We use the nickel every once in a while."

More Notables

* Linebacker Anthony Schlegel, who grew up in the Dallas area, has heard some "comments" about his home state from his teammates this week.

"When we get stuck in traffic, they blame me," Schlegel said. "I tell them I have no control over it. It was cold when we got here and they blamed me for that. I said it's not my the whole country had a northern come through.

"But I know (Houston native) Ashton Youboty and I are just looking to playing in our home state and getting ready to go."

* Over the past three years, Fox has built a reputation as a solid corner. The Sporting News recently listed him as the No. 2 safety prospect among seniors for the 2005 draft.

Since becoming a starter in the 2002 national championship season, Fox has 32-3 record in games he played. (He missed three of OSU's losses this season due to injury.)

And, he hasn't given up a touchdown pass in a game OSU has lost since making his first career start in place of the injured Derek Ross in the 2002 Outback Bowl against South Carolina.

Fox may not get the acclaim that Chris Gamble, an NFL first-round pick a year ago, or others have gotten. But he has largely gotten the job done as a Buckeye.

"That feels good, although I don't know if it's all me," Fox said. "I feel it's good to know that when I've been out there the team has been successful. That feels good. I just try to do my best as a leader, more than anything. I just try to let them know I am there for them."

* Fox and Fraser are among a senior class that has a chance to leave OSU with identical 3-1 records in bowl games and against Michigan.

"This is an important game for Dustin and I," Fraser said. "This will be our last time in the scarlet and gray. Coach Tressel said we would be only the second class in Ohio State history to have a winning record against Michigan and in bowl games, too."

Research shows that since players became eligible for four years in the early 1970s, only the seniors in the 1984 season have left the university with 3-1 records against Michigan and in bowl games.

A win on Wednesday would give OSU a third straight bowl win for the third time in school history. The Buckeyes won four bowl games between 1950 and 1969 and also won three in a row between 1981-84.


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