Key #1: Regain the "Road Warrior" Mentality…Resume Away Game Victories
In Head Coach Les Miles first two seasons leading the Oklahoma State football program, the Cowboys' posted a 3-7 record in contests away from the home field now known as Boone Pickens Stadium. With explainable losses in hostile environments such as Kyle Field in College Station, TX, KSU Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. and Royal Memorial Field in Austin, TX attributed to a young, inexperienced squad and new coaching staff, embarrassing breakdowns to arguably weaker opponents signaled the need to learn to win football games on the road. The SMU game provides another opportunity for the Pokes to experience the unique twists and uncertainties that present themselves away from Stillwater. A convincing road victory against an underdog opponent indicates the Cowboys' maturation as a team.
Key #2: Solidify Questions on the Offensive Side of the Ball
In a surprising and unexpected fashion, the OSU offense stumbled out of the gate to begin the 2003 season. Through three contests, questions along the offensive line and at wide receiver presented themselves. Resolving these questions and discovering solutions in a prompt manner dictates the overall success of this squad. The offensive line exhibited sub-par pass protection and run-blocking surge against Nebraska. The unit progressed and gained experience in wins against Wyoming and SMSU, however, the Kansas State contest in October issues the next decisive test of the offensive line's growth. Senior Doug Koenig and true freshman Corey Hilliard continue to push starters Matt Hardison and Kellen Davis at the tackle positions, creating heated contests for playing time. Sophomore walk-on strong man Caleb Noble continues to stand out as a valuable performer at guard, displaying the ability to step in and play in the event that another falters. Saturday against SMU, Koenig, Hilliard and Noble continue to vie for playing time, and state their case for starting on the offensive line. At wide receiver, the Cowboys desperately await an answer opposite of Rashaun Woods to alleviate the pressure surrounding the senior All-American. Freshman D'Juan Woods and Tommy Devereaux show evidence of playmaking ability, however neither seized the opportunity to embrace the role as of yet. Both D'Juan and Tommy possess the speed and athleticism to profit the offense by demanding attention from additional defensive personnel. Gabe Lindsay proves reliable on Coach Gundy's "long hand-off" screen pass, and in clutch underneath patterns, however, lacks the ability to stretch defenses deep. The Cowboy offense requires a second receiver to step up and perform along side Rashaun Woods.
Key #3: Continue to Develop Depth on the Defensive Line
The Cowboy defensive overall represents the pleasant surprise of the 2003 season, however, certain areas still require attention and immediate improvement. The defensive line caused reason for concern against Nebraska in certain instances with its consistency in stopping the straight ahead running game. The defensive staff continues to develop new starters in addition to upgrading reserves and younger players. The SMU game challenges raw yet talented defensive linemen Marque Fountain, Xavier Lawson-Kennedy and Brad Girtman in their first significant action in a road game. Clay Coe and Kyle Hix continue to ripen as starters, while junior college transfer Efe Mowarin, and senior Mike Williams continue to seek their roles as back-up contributors. The augmentation of the new starters and back-ups, along with the seasoning and growth of the young, gifted freshmen gives the defensive front a hope of future success in limiting opponent's rushing game.