Gridiron Notes: Preparing for SMU

(left)Cowboy tailback Seymore Shaw gains yardage en route to his three TD performance against SMU last season in Stillwater.

Don't Panic, Cowboys Havn't Forgotten How To Pass
The Cowboys struggled in the passing game last Saturday, and by first look you might think quarterback Josh Fields is at fault. I can tell you I've been asked 100 times if Fields is injured. Fields is not injured, and not all of the lack of success in the passing game was his fault. There were also protection problems and some incorrect routes run by the wide receivers.

"I think anytime it's not just the quarterback that bears that burden," said Miles. "I think some of the routes were not as sharp as they needed to be. I think some of the throws that appeared to be off could have been very well thrown, not necessarily with the route that was run. I think that Josh was, at times, as sharp as he needed to be in that game, but at times he wasn't at late season or midseason form last year. Like all of us, he needs to improve. The timing of the passing game depends on the protection, the route depth, the footwork of the quarterback and it all needs to be tightened up a little bit."

Fields, as Miles mentioned, did not have his best game, but fans have started to believe the Stillwater hometown hero has super human status. He doesn't, and he can have an off night. The passing game has looked better in practice, in fact, it looked pretty good today.

As for the defense, SMS lined up with corners 8-10 yards off the ball and safeties 12-15 yards off the ball. SMU plays more press coverage, and unless they get away from that and their typical defensive schemes there should be more opportunities in the passing game on Saturday night in Dallas.

Injury Report
There were no serious injuries coming out of the SMS game, mostly bumps and bruises type of stuff. Safety Jon Holland had a stinger, but was okay minutes after he came to the sideline. Safety Elbert Craig got banged up a little. Safety Fath' Carter had the air knocked out of him and had to go to the sideline. Tatum Bell had a bruised outer foot after his final touchdown run. The bruise happened when he got hit just after he reached the endzone and was spun around. The only serious injury is safety Charlie Ward, who has been slow to come around from a knee injury in preseason practice. Ward suited up for the game, but may have to have arthroscopic surgery to repair the injury.

Offensive Line Shows Improvement
The offensive line was one area that the staff was looking for improvement from. With two 100-yard rushers there is no doubt that they improved some, but according to both Les Miles and right guard Sam Mayes there is still room for more improvement. "It's progress, as long as we get better each week that's what counts," said Mayes of the line's progression. "Pass protection wise I think we had a pretty good night as far as giving Josh time to throw in the pocket. There are still some times with technique, about footwork, that we all need to work on. For him to throw the ball early because he's worried about somebody hitting him makes him look bad. I expect us to have perfect protection every time in every game. We have to have perfect footwork and perfect punch. We can't have people thinking we can't protect the passer because they will blitz us all night long."

"Our offensive line still needs to improve," said Miles. They were better in some areas on Saturday, but this is after the third ballgame, and hopefully that improvement will take place before we take the field for the next ballgame."

One good aspect of the offensive line play is the depth. With Caleb Noble able to spell either guard and backup tackles Doug Koenig and freshman Corey Hilliard getting plenty of time, Mayes says the line is plenty deep.
"That's a great setup," said Mayes. "I've never been on a team that had so many guys that could play first team offense on the line. I know that if somebody goes down the first team we are going to bring in somebody that is just as effective. Caleb, Doug, and Corey are all good athletes."

Linebackers Confident Say Defense Is Improving
The defense had a better effort as they held Southwest Missouri State to only the three points and total offense of 219-yards. A pair of Cowboy linebackers said they were very happy with the improvement over the Wyoming game.

"We didn't allow any play over 25 yards," said linebacker Paul Duren. "We did all of our goals, we were real pleased, but we can't be satisfied. We have to work on getting better, and we have to get better in this game."

"This week we focused a lot on stopping the run," said fellow linebacker Lawrence Pinson. "Last week coach (Clay) felt we didn't do an efficient enough job of doing that. We're getting better and playing with much better technique. It wasn't missing tackles, it was just that we were out of position. Saturday we were much better than we've been all season up to now."

Jones Becoming A Big Play Guy
Robert Jones became the second NEO transfer to really standout in a game this season for the Cowboy defense. Jon Holland opened the season with two big efforts and had six tackles in the SMS game. Jones equalled those six tackles including one tackle for a loss and a huge interception that kept SMS out of the endzone in the second half.

Will Donovan Play?
Next to the is Josh Fields injured question the next most asked query is whether Donovan Woods will play?
"It really comes down to this. Is Donovan ready and can they put him in a situation where he'll have success. Woods spent much of the preseason running Nebraska plays preparing the dfense for Husker quarterback Jammal Lord. Since the Nebraska game he has come a long way in learning the OSU offense, but is he ready? The answer will have to come from Miles and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Gundy. Don't pay any attention to those reports that the Woods family wants him to or not to play. The fact is they would prefer he redshirt, but they are leaving that decision up to the coaching staff. I would like to see him play for a variety of reasons. One being that he may be the guy next fall if Josh Fields were to opt to go on to pro baseball. My best guess is that if you don't see him get in against SMU, you won't see him play this season and he will redshirt.

A Little Bit About SMU
They are pretty good defensively especially up front. They will be undersized against the Cowboys, but they play an aggressive attacking defense that will blitz. Senior linebacker Brain Bischoff leads the team in tackles with 20 and he has a sack. On offense they give the ball to Keylon Kincade. He is the cover boy for Mustang football and has 2-6-yards rushing in the first two games. Quarterback Richard Bartel is a tall drink of water at 6-5 and is averaging 150-yards passing a game. The biggest problems for the Mustangs have been turnovers (six) four interceptions and two lost fumbles. They have also struggled on special teams, particularly kick and punt coverage.

Recruiting Scoop
I spoke with Tyler Lee safety Martel Van Zant's father Andre and he said that Martel, who visited for the Wyoming game really likes Oklahoma State. It dates back to his early football playing days when he played running back and liked OSU because of Barry Sanders. Van Zant, who is a Top 100 Texas player and is totally deaf, wants to study engineering. He is being recruited by a large number of schools, but his father says he thinks he'll wind up at Oklahoma State.

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