Old problems solved, new ones created

Defensive backs improve, while Josh Fields arm may prove a concern for the future. OSU also collected six penalties - four of which were drawn from personal fouls. (left: AP PHOTO)

Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles and his staff have to fill like the little boy at the dyke. As the Cowboys continue through this four-game non-conference slate perfectly scheduled to promote improvement, the minute they stick a finger in to plug one hole it seems like another springs up. The problems that received extra special attention heading into the 42-3 win over Southwest Missouri State included offensive line play, defensive front play against the run, and secondary play in stopping the long pass. The intensity toward correcting these problems included a rare 30 minute full scrimmage in practice on Wednesday with the first team offense going against the number one defenders. The Cowboys scrimmage a couple of times every week, but usually only for a handfull of plays. The players seemed to get the message.

The offensive line was clearly better as O-State powered to 417 yards of offense and a good chunk of it could be directly contributed to the offensive line. Tatum Bell and Seymore Shaw both topped the 100-yard mark and the Cowboys had a total of 264-yards on the ground. That total came against a defense that knew the run was coming and did their best to stop it. Bell had 143 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries. His longest run was 26 yards and he averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Shaw came on in the second half and accumulated 107 yards on 10 carries with his big blow being a 53 yard touchdown run after the offensive line backups blew open a big hole right up the middle.

"It is great to get two backs over a hundred yards," said center Ben Buie. "It gives us a sense of pride. You don't care how you get the yards as long as the offense is producing and moving down the field."

"They're getting better each week," said Tatum Bell of the offensive line. "I stay on them and they stay on me. It is a team effort. We finally got in a rhythmand got the rush going. I think everybody is starting to get it."

The offense averaged seven yards a snap and tackles Matt Hardison, Kellen Davis, Doug Koenig, and Corey Hilliard teamed with guards Chris Akin, Sam Mayes, and Caleb Noble; plus center Ben Buie to pave the way all night. The pass protection was okay, but the offensive line paved the way to victory and looked better against a better defense than they played the week prior in Wyoming.

"Tonight was good for us," added Buie. "It was good for us to get a bunch of yards and to work on our technique."

The defensive front was improved. A week ago they had allowed a lousy rushing team to run the ball pretty well, but against SMS, a team that loves to run and has two talented tailbacks, they held the running game to 102 yards on 46 attempts. Overall, SMS only mustered three-yards a snap. Cody Pratt had 79 yards on 22 carries, while Tommicus Walker had just 20 yards on nine carries. Stopping the run didn't cause any sacrifice in the pass rush as the Cowboys had three sacks with Antonio Smith, Greg Richmond, and Jamar Ransom all getting into the act.

"I thought it was the kind of contest I would have expected," said Les Miles. "They had more talent than people would have thought. Their tailback ran well, and he was a good test for our defense."

The secondary wasn't challenged like they were by Wyoming's air attack, but you can only defend against what the other team tries. SMS did try several long passes and they never connected with their longest pass completion being 16 yards. Tony Hill came in a 6-3, 203-pound speedy receiver that stood out. At Boone Pickens Stadium, 42, 152 fans saw Hill go "oh-fer." He threw several balls, but they all fell away or were knocked away. Michael Sparks was the leading receiver with six receptions for a paltry 45 yards. The Cowboy pass defenders even came up with a pair of interceptions that turned away two pretty good SMS scoring opportunities.

"Any confident corner expects a pick every game," said cornerback Darrent Williams, who along with Robert Jones was responsible for the two interceptions. "We knew they were going to throw the ball a little bit tonight. We knew if we could shut down the running game they would try to pass. It showed that we are getting better every week. All we are trying to do is get better every week before conference play."

So three problems, if not completely solved, were certainly improved. New problems arose.
The Cowboys' passing game, even when they wanted to stress it early in the second half, struggled. After a good week of throwing the ball in practice quarterback Josh Fields struggled. He had throws that were short, overthrows, and two interceptions. Several times he had plenty of time and just couldn't find a receiver. Rashaun Woods caught just four passes for 71 yards, 38 that came on an early vintage touchdown connection from Fields. Fields finished 14-of-26 for 153 yards with the touchdown and two interceptions. The passing game was going to get a good workout in the second half, but when Fields knee locked up on the first play of the second half and he threw an interception. So much for working on the passing game as it was back to the run.
"He has been much sharper," said Les Miles of Fields. "He threw some sharp nballs tonight. He is still talented. He was 14-of-26 passing and that's still a pretty decent percentage."

Other problems, not quite as dramatic, included kickoff and punt coverage as SMS had 121 yards on kickoff returns and 19 yards on two punt returns. Special teams coordinator Joe DeForest will tell you that's not good enough. The Cowboys also allowed the Bears a successful fake punt, and that really frustrated DeForest. The other problem would be penalties. The Cowboys had six penalties go for 60 yards. There were four personal foul penalties. The numbers don't seem so bad when you see that SMS had 11 penalties for 91 yards.

"As much as I cannot stand personal fouls, there are probably two of which I have to take," said Miles. "The guys didn't hear the whistle and they were blocking and playing hard. Then there are probably two that guys will run for a long time because of. "

The good thing is OSU, for the third-straight week, will be a heavy favorite heading to Dallas and SMU. It's another opportunity to get the fingers ready to plug a few more problems. 

  OSU-SMS Game Notes

Miles Is Over .500
With the 42-3 win over SMS, head coach Les Miles went over the .500 mark for the first time in his three-years at Oklahoma State. Miles is now 14-13 and has a chance to keep moving up in win percentage. He is the first winning head coach on record since Pat Jones, who finished his long Cowboy career at an even .500.

One More To Go
Rashaun Woods 38-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter tied him at 28 with Hart Lee Dykes for career touchdown receptions. One more will give Woods that record and basically makes it a clean sweep for the All American as he will own every major game, season, and career Cowboy receiving record.

Still Moving Up
It may have been a subpar night for quarterback Josh Fields, but his 153-yards passing moved him to 4,061-yards passing in his OSU career. He becomes the fourth quarterback in school history to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark. He also moved past Tone' Jones into third on the all time OSU passing chart.

New Cowboys
Add freshman tight end Tremayne Standberry and defensive back Grant Jones to the list of new Cowboys that have stepped on the field. Both played for the first time against Southwest Missouri State.

Recruiting Roll
It was a light group of prospects that attended the Cowboys game with SMS on Saturday. In all, the Cowboys had 26 high school prospects at the game. Most of those were from Oklahoma including a possible record of nine players from Wellston. They were all good looking youngsters, but probably not going to end up signing Division I scholarships. Among the standout in-state prospects was Broken Arrow defensive end Chris Wade. Wade is a great looking athlete that has excellent speed and is being recruited by a number of schools. The best undersized player in the state is Carl Albert linebacker Steve Dunn. Dunn is 5-10, 210 pounds and plays as well as any linebacker in Oklahoma. Speaking of linebackers, Westmoore's linebacker and fullback Jerod Boyer is a good prospect.

O'Dell Bell is possibly the top running back prospect in Kansas as the Wichita Northwest prospect rolled to another 100-yard plus win on Friday night. There was a rumor last week that he had committed to Oklahoma State, but Bell again said on Saturday that he is looking at Kansas State and Colorado State in addition to the Cowboys.

Out of Texas came Garland Lakeview Centennial offensive tackle Cedric Dockery. The 6-4, 305 pounder runs well with a 5.2 in the forty. He is big and impressive and the Cowboys are on his short list. Dockery is a second team Super Team selection in Texas football. 

Two players that were signed by OSU last February and are expected to enroll in January were on hand. Defensive end Maurice Cummings and New Orleans wide receiver Eddie Brown were both there to see the game. Both say they are on schedule to have everything complete so they can enroll.

O-State commitment Justin Waller of Ponca City was there. The Ponca City tight end had two receptions for 41-yards in the Wildcats 41-0 win on Friday over Bartlesville.

Oklahoma State wide receiver D'Juan Woods, right, picks his way through Southwest Missouri State defenders Saturday, Sept. 13, 2003, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

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