On The Game
I like the way this team has responded in practice this week. The Cowboys have practiced angry following their opening loss to Nebraska. They act as if they have a chip on their shoulder, and that could wind up being a big help the rest of the season. Remember, it was a butt kicking in Manhattan last season that turned this team around. They came home embarassed, and decided that they were going to do something about it. The loss to the Huskers wasn't a butt-kicking, but it was embarassing as the loss was shown on national television on ABC. I almost hate to say it, but the Nebraska loss may end up being a plus for the Cowboys at the end of the season. That loss may have set the mental approach for the rest of the campaign.
Forget Wyoming this Saturday, Southwest Missouri State, SMU, and Louisiana-Lafayette. The next four games over the next five weeks aren't about who Oklahoma State is playing, but instead, it is all about Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will win these four games, but it is how they win these games, how they improve over the next four games that will really be important. To be the kind of team they have set for themselves as a goal, they have to become nearly letter perfect. No turnovers, force turnovers, get off the field on defense, big plays and long scoring drives on offense, a good running game, good pass protection, special teams touchdowns, making field goals, good coverage on kicks and punts, big plays in the return game, and finally grab back that confident edge they had when they came into Lincoln.
It's time to set the stage for a successful return and run in the Big 12 season. Nebraska is over, but if they don't correct the wrongs of opening day the rest of the season could be over early. There is no more margin for error. These Cowboys have used up their blanks and it's time to start firing real bullets.
Fields Still Okay
Quarterback Josh Fields was certainly banged up following the loss to Nebraska on Saturday, but he was back at practice on Tuesday and has practiced all week. Fields was able to throw the ball well, and should be at full strength with his throwing by Saturday. There were bruises as he was bruised in the ribs, shoulder and elbow. However, the rumors of Fields being seriously injured before or during the Nebraska game are just that, rumore. What Fields is going through this week is what I call NFL quarterback syndrome. The fact that you are hit so hard in a game that it takes the full week to get to the point that the soreness is gone and you even feel like playing again.
Lots of New Faces
Expect to see plenty of new faces on Saturday. Only three freshmen played at Nebraska with those being defensive tackle Brad Girtman, wide receiver Tommy Devereaux, and safety Jeremy Nethon. Junior college transfers that played in Lincoln included defensive tackle Efe Mowarin, safety Jon Holland, cornerback Robert Jones, and safety Jamie Thompson.
Saturday against Wyoming you can add a number of players to the list including cornerbck Ricky Coxeff, linebacker Victor DeGrate, defensive lineman Marque Fountain, offensive tackle Corey Hilliard, defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, and quarterback Donovan Woods. DeGrate has moved up to second team at the mike linebacker, Coxeff is moving up the depth chart, and Hilliard is close to even with Kellen Davis.
That's right! There is a chance that Donovan Woods will make his debut in the Wyoming game. That decision will be based on score and game situation. Woods has received a lot of work this week with the offense, while Mike Friess has moved down with the defense to handle the scout team chores of impersonating Wyoming throwing quarterback Casey Bramlett.
Woods was very impressive working against the first team defense as the scout team quarterback in preparations for Nebraska. In one scrimmage Woods had success both running and throwing the football. He has talent in both areas as evidenced by his 1,081-yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground his senior season at Millwood High School. He also threw for 2,453-yards and 32 touchdowns.
Look for Woods to operate the offense in more of a run/pass mode. Woods is capable of running plays in the offense that former Oklahoma State quarterback Tony Lindsay used to run including quarterback sweeps, draws, and options. Woods is also very capable of throwing on the run with rollouts and boots.
Nebraska's tactics on defense last week including heavy use of
the zone blitz showed the Oklahoma State staff that a quarterback of Woods
abilities would be valuable in coming off the bench and attacking that style of
defense with more mobility at the quarterback position. I'm expecting a
shortened package of plays within the offense to be used by Woods.
This is in no way intended to imply that Woods could pass Fields as quarterback, just that Woods could come in and help out in certain situations then allow Fields to come back and operate the offense. Think of it as a pitcher out of the bullpen to get out a stubborn lefthanded hitter. The only difference is that like in little league baseball, the starting pitcher can come back.
The drill most often used this week is pass pro as the Cowboys offensive tackles of left tackle Matt Hardison and right tackle Kellen Davis along with backups Doug Koenig and freshman Corey Hilliard have had plenty of reps. That included loads of work against speed rushers off the edge simulating zone blitzes. Hardison and Davis have remained the starters, but Koneig and Hilliard have had plenty of reps including time with the first unit.
Expect Wyoming to use the zone blitz, but they don't have any athletes like Nebraska linebacker Demorrio Williams. The tackles should handle the pressure and pick up protection much better. You will see plenty of all four tackles in the game. It is an absolute must that the Les Miles and offensive line coach Chuck Moller find the right combination to handle the situation because October 11, Kansas State will come to Stillwater and they wil employ zone blitz tactics with a speedy corps of linebackers.
Beware of Turnovers
The biggest factor in Oklahoma State's loss to Nebraska was the five turnovers in the game. Last season the Cowboys turned the ball over five times to UCLA and lost. They had three turnovers at Texas and lost. At Kansas State they had five turnovers and were beaten badly. The rest of the season they had only six turnovers in winning six out of seven games. Wyoming opened their season last Saturday with a 21-10 win over Division I-AA opponent Montana State. The Wyoming Cowboys had only 234-yards, but forced five turnovers and blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown. Even at home against Wyoming the Cowboys cannot afford to tunr the ball over. It is a trend that has to stop now.
Let's Be Honest
We're not talking about a jugernaut here. Wyoming finished 2-10 last season with wins over The Citadel and Air Force. Last week they opened the season with a 21-10 win over Division I-AA Montana State, a team that hadn't beaten a Division I foe since 1986. In the win over Montana State, Wyoming had just 234-yards of total offense despite coming up with five turnovers in the contest. Wyoming did block and punt and return it for a touchdown.
Joe Glenn, who has a 160-59-1 record as a head coach, takes over in his first year at Wyoming coming from Montana where he won a I-AA National Championship in 2001. Before Montana, Glenn coached at Division II Northern Colorado where he won two National Championships. Glenn is a good coach that brought over a very good staff, but Wyoming doesn't have the athletes to get it done yet.
The Cowboys have a pretty fair passing game thanks to senior quarterback Casey Bramlett. Bramlett threw for over 3,200-yards last season, and the 6-4, 225 pound dropback passer has some talented receivers to throw to including preseason All Mountain West pick Ryan McGuffey. The problem is Wyoming has no running game with only 31-yards on 30 rushing attempts last week. The offensive line averages 6-4 1/2 inches and 290 pounds. They are young with two redshirt freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup. Last week they gave up six sacks to Montana State.
On defense Wyoming is neither blazing fast or big. Strongside linebacker Tyler Gottschalk is a 6-4, 240 pounder that is very physical. He is the leading tackler from a year ago that returns. The secondary is okay and the deepest are depthwise on the team. Oklahoma State can expect to see plenty of zone blitzing, more than they saw at Nebraska. Wyoming has a 4-3 look that is really more of a 3-4 defense and they are trying to be strongest in the area of denying the big play. The problem is their personnel is not as good as they will face in Oklahoma State.
The special teams are pretty good. They have a knack for blocking kicks and return an excellent punter in Luke Donovan, who averages right around 44 yards a punt. The coverage teams lack a little to be desired as they don't have the added athletes to really put together top flight coverage units.
Same Place, New Name
As of Saturday, Lewis Field will apply to only the floor of the stadium. Those of you attending the home opener will be sitting in Boone Pickens Stadium. Pickens' $20 million gift this past spring toward the stadium rennovation project was well worth placing his name on the stadium. Pickens' is a competitive man that has used that competitive instinct to become a millionaire over and over again. He is adament about Oklahoma State being the best it can be in every area including athletics. A little Pickens' spirit is a good thing.
Pickens' was very moved at the press conference on Wednesday
that announced the new designation of the facility. It is obvious the man truly
loves Oklahoma State University and he stepped forward with an overall gift of
$70 million to prove it.