Scouting the SMS Bears

A look at the Division I-AA Bears and Oklahoma State tidbits as they prepare for their game Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.

On the game
Welcome to week two of the Cowboys self improvement program. Like last week, this game is a lot more about Oklahoma State than it is playing Southwest Missouri State. After the 48-24 win over Wyoming the key areas targeted for improvement include the offensive line, the defensive front and stopping the run, and the secondary in stopping the big pass play. There should be opportunities in all three areas. Head coach Les Miles wasn't flapping his jaws just to be nice to visitors when he said that SMS will be more athletic and have better team speed than Wyoming.

The Bears are loaded with junior college transfers and Division I transfers that for one reason or another didn't make it to or work out at Division I schools. It's the skill positions where SMS is strong. It's in the trenches where the bigger and stronger Cowboys should have a decided advantage. They will also have an advantage in the skill positions where the Cowboys are better and faster, but not by as much as they were with Wyoming. I'm not trying to convince you that SMS can come in and beat Oklahoma State. They can't, unless the Cowboys serve it up on a silver platter.

The offensive line will get a good test blocking the running game and pass protecting against a trio of linebackers that aren't very big but have a lot of speed. There is no doubt that SMS will blitz as they have the Nebraska tape. The Bears have former Nebraska and TCU running back Tommicus Walker and Cody Pratt, who combined for 284-yards rushing and four touchdowns in the opening 48-0 win over East Central Oklahoma. Don't laugh, that duo is pretty good. I'll bet Baylor would take them. They should give the defensive front practice on stopping the run game. If SMS falls behind expect to see backup quarterback Steve Cota. He passed his team to a junior college national championship several years ago. He also hit 6-3, 203 pound wide receiver Tony Hill for a 25-yard touchdown against East Central. They should provide some challenge, albeit not as great as Wyoming, in the passing department.

Win and improve, it remains the motto for the Cowboys until Oct.11 when Kansas State comes to town, hopefully to take on a more finished product.

Good memories, bad memory
Oklahoma State and Southwest Missouri State have met three times, all in Stillwater. The good memories would be the first two meetings as the Cowboys spanked the Bears 45-7 in 1993, and then 35-7 in 1995 for the first win for first-year head coach Bob Simmons. SMS was back the next season for what nearly turned into an embarassing night for OSU. The Cowboys allowed SMS to hang around and finally, in the fourth quarter, a 14-yard touchdown run by Michael Cosey put SMS up 17-10. Chris Chaloupka came off the bench to play quarterback and after nailing a fourth and long with a line drive pass completion, Chaloupka hit then-tight end Jack Golden for a seven-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. By a little over two hours, the Cowboys and Bears became the first NCAA regular season game to be decided by overtime.

In the overtime the Cowboys trumped an SMS field goal with a 13-yard touchdown run by David Thompson to squeeze out a 23-20 win. Cowboy head coach Les Miles remembers the last two games in the series well as he was in the press box calling plays as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator.

Noble has their backs
Overlooked with all the focus on the tackle position is the role of Caleb Noble on the offensive line. The Cowboys' strongest player is the best depth provider on the entire squad. The 6-1, 300-pound Noble can spell any one of three players on the Oklahoma State offensive line. He can come in and play for right guard Sam Mayes or left guard Chris Akin. When he comes in for Akin, Akin can slide over and play center giving Ben Buie a rest. It is a tremendous advantage for the line and line coach Chuck Moller.

"Caleb is playing at high level," said Moller. "He is like our sixth man and is as good as the starters. There is no drop off with Noble in there."

Evidence of that came in last Saturday's win over Wyoming. Noble was in on the first touchdown drive of the offense, and review of the two-yard touchdown run by fullback Shawn Willis shows Noble blocking two Wyoming defensive linemen halfway through the endzone with Willis following easily for the score.

Looking gor two more TDs
The Rashaun Woods countdown is down to one, just one more record and Woods will hold every significant receiving record  for the Cowboys. The last to go will be most receiving touchdowns in a career. Hart Lee Dykes currently has the mark with 29 touchdown receptions, but Woods has 28. The record could go this Saturday as Rashaun is a lethal matchup for the SMS secondary. Once Woods does break the record, he could set his sights on national records as he is just 72 recpetiosn away from the NCAA career mark.

Woods does enjoy setting records, but his real aim will be to keep the Cowboys in the race for the Big 12 South and take a shot at making the Big 12 Championship Game and a shot at the league title and a BCS bowl bid. Either way, with two more touchdown catches the easy answer to all receiving records at Oklahoma State will be Rashaun Woods.

Injury report
The Cowboys go into the game with SMS still dealing with some injuries. Safeties Charlie Ward and Thomas Wright are out. Ward is still recovering from a minor knee injury from the preseason. The medical staff is being cautious because he sprained a knee that he had surgically repaired for a torn ACL last season. Thomas Wright had been dealing with a turf toe, but in practice this week sprained his knee (MCL), and he is likely out until the Kansas State game. Jon Holland will continue to fill in for him at free safety with freshman Jeremy Nethon backing up at he position.

Defensive end Trumain Carroll is probable with a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle and end Antonio Smith should play despite a case of bronchitis this week. Offensive linemen Ben Buie and Sam Mayes both had turned ankles in practice, but are okay and ready to go. Freshman cornerback Ricky Coxeff is likely to miss the game with an undsiclosed injury.

Crowd expected to be good
Normally a game like this one Saturday with SMS, a I-AA school, would be an excuse for Cowboy fans to do something besides come to Boone Pickens Stadium, but early word is the crowd will be similar to the home opening crowd of 44,158. That's good news for the athletic department.

Oddly enough, games with OSU in Stillwater represent three of the largest six crowds to see SMS play football. The Cowboys and Bears drew 40,105 in 1993; 37,350 in 1995; and 33,500 in 1996 for the overtime thriller.

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