Battered and broken

Oklahoma State's Josh Fields (13) gets sacked by Nebraska's Benard Thomas (5) and Barrett Ruud (38) in the second half of in the Aug. 30, 2003, game in Lincoln, Neb. Fields threw three interceptions and was responsible for a fumble.

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Oklahoma State sits in a sad and unexpected state of affairs.


The defense played solid, but the highly vaunted and hyped offense could only post seven points against Nebraska's famed Blackshirts.


The Cornhuskers exploited several weaknesses, but the biggest one was easily the offensive line.


After an opening drive that capped with a touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Fields to Heisman candidate wide out Rashaun Woods, the Cowboys failed to score the rest of the game.


Fields couldn't get time in the pocket, and running backs Tatum Bell and Seymore Shaw could rarely find holes to run through.

In fact, Nebraska nailed Fields so hard and so often in the first quarter and a half that the unshakeable quarterback became antsy and hurried – a rarity.


Whether due to hearing footsteps, being bruised and battered or a combination of the two, Fields couldn't seem to complete a pass in the second half.


He threw three picks in the game, and several of his second-half passes flew horribly off the mark.


With three new starters on the line, it is understandable to have early troubles, but if the Pokes are going to accomplish their goal of a Big 12 championship, they now have a steep uphill battle because of it.


Not only did it cost them the game, but it could cost them a quarterback if the problem persists.


But the linemen aren't the only ones to blame. Late in the fourth quarter they actually gave Fields reasonable time to throw.

Fields needed to step up, overcome the previous problems and march his team to victory.


Instead, when those few chances arose to complete passes for substantial gains, he threw interceptions or the ball fell harmlessly to the ground well shy of his target.


Rattled? Yes. But that must be overcome to win.


Overcoming adversity is hardest for a team visiting the Mecca of college football. Nebraska fans showed 78,000 strong, and after the Huskers first touchdown, they came to life as only Nebraska fans in Lincoln on a Saturday can.


When Nebraska gains momentum in Memorial Stadium, the fans make sure they never lose it, and they did just that against OSU.


No doubt, it is a tough assignment to charge into Lincoln and walk out with a win. The roar of the fans could break the will of even the strongest teams.


But when your defense only gives up 10 points, and your offense is supposed to be one of the best in the country, it should happen nine times out of 10.


Woods only managed five catches for 47 yards. Fields threw for a meager 97 yards, and the rushing game netted less than 90 yards. In short, the offense did nothing past their first drive. And with the defense's play, OSU still could have won if it weren't for the five turnovers.


All things considered, the loss could be the best learning experience for OSU. They have now played in the most hostile environment, and kept it close – even though they should have won.


The Pokes' next four games are against sub-par teams. If they use these games wisely and get the offense – especially the line – in rhythm, then there is still a chance.


And with Woods, Bell and Fields hope always exists.


Saturday made their road more difficult, but it let them know exactly what they need to beat any team in the country.


They're not finished yet.





Matt Palmer can be

reached via e-mail at

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