Fiesta Bowl Notebook: Forcing Turnovers

If you count back from game day, which is next Monday, Jan. 2, then Wednesday would be Monday on the Cowboys weekly schedule, which is an off day. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy wasn't benevolent enough to give the Cowboy players a complete day off in Arizona but he did have a short practice at Scottsdale Community College.

The Cowboys were in shorts and were on the field for only an hour and 20 minutes. There was a heavy emphasis on special teams as Joe DeForest and the other coaches involved in directing special teams were very aggressive and into the process.

It is not that the Cowboys have any special tricks on special teams, but it is the desire to be very sound and make sure special teams has a positve impact on the effort next Monday. The practice, which was held on all three of the lush natural grass fields at Scottsdale Community College was concluded by 2:20 p.m. local time.

The team bused back to the hotel, the beautiful and spacious Scottsdale Plaza Resort, and had some free time before heading out to one of their three straight nights of special meals.

The Fiesta Bowl was hosting the Cowboys Wednesday night at Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steak House. The big guys will get plenty of beef including filet mignon as all cuts of beef keep coming to your table served by waiters dressed as Gauchos.

Barry J. Sanders to Stanford?
The word from his high school coach and now confirmed by Sanders himself is that Barry J. Sanders, the highly recruited and gifted running back and son of former OSU Cowboy running back and Heisman Trophy winner and College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, is set to make his college decision public at the U.S. Army All-American Game on Jan. 7, and it is between Stanford (slight leader) and Oklahoma State.

Sanders visited Stanford in early October for the Cardinal win over UCLA. He spent some time with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

"He is really talented and he is smart, has a great personality," said Luck. "He would be a great fit at Stanford."

Asked if he does a lot of hosting and recruiting for Stanford, Luck said he waits to get a call from the coaches. "My main job is playing football games and not recruiting, but if the coaches ask me then I help out," Luck said.

Turnover Crazy
If Oklahoma State can find a way to gain four takeaways from a stingy Stanford offense that has only turned the ball over 15 times all season then the Cowboys will own the new NCAA Division I record for most turnovers forced in a season.

Either way the Cowboys have a had a great season in that regard, while having a defense that sometimes is criticized for not being overpowering enough.

"We played just a little bit better than most people think," defenmsive coordinator Bill Young told the media on Wednesday morning. "The problem with us is playing in the Big 12 is such a bunch of explosive offenses. I would say five or ten of them, I mean, five or six of them in the top 10 or 15. You face a lot of very talented team. It skews up your stats a little bit.

"We had a nice solid game against Oklahoma and was excited about that," continued Young. "That was a huge game for our program."

As far as the turnovers, Young says the Cowboys don't get those by accident. They work very hard at forcing turnovers.

"Nobody in the country works harder in forcing turnovers than we do," explained Young. "It has been a point of emphasis for the last three years. We double whistle all of our scrimmage plays against the scout team. At the first whistle everybody stops on offense and the defense tries to get the ball to turn over, rip it out, strip it out.

"But you line up against Baylor and Oklahoma and Texas Tech and teams like that, the offensive stats are going to be a little tougher to accomplish," continued Young.

Double Tough Against Stanford
Markelle Martin, the Cowboys All-Big 12 and All-American safety, knows those turnovers will be harder against a wise quarterback like Andrew Luck and a hard-nosed Cardinal offense. He had a hard time comparing Stanford to anybody in the Big 12.

"It is kind of hard to ... I think the closer we can get to is A&M and what they try to do with us in the second half and they tried to run the ball and we wanted to come out pounding the game," said Martin. "Outside of that, I don't think there is a team in our conference that does what they do."

A quick start by the OSU offense would help in forcing Stanford to take more chances.

"You understand you have to be patient," added Martin. "Whether the time comes, you can't force it too much. We just have to be patient. They don't turn the ball over and we live on turnovers. Something has to give. I don't know.

"I just go out there and have fun. It defines the moment of the game. Lucky for me I had the opportunities and I made the most of them. That's what we preach. Go out there and make your plays. I think we have a couple guys doing it."

GoPokes Top Stories