I hate injuries. I know I'm not alone, but I hate injuries for the players that have to sit out. Elbert Craig, Jr., is a senior and when he tore his ACL in practice last week, his career flashed before his eyes. He thought that was it. With no more eligibility left and the appeal of a sixth year out of the question, Craig thought he had put on the orange jersey for the final time. Well, we now know that Craig is going to rehab and make an effort to come back and play on a damaged, but strengthened knee before the end of the season.
Rehab is not an option for
linebacker Lawrence Pinson. A
broken ankle has to have the time to heal and Pinson is done for this season. He
still has two more years and may get a third if he is granted a medical
redshirt. Both players play with such passion and emotion that they will be
missed for more than just their physical presence.
When it comes to X's and O's, the Cowboys have lost two of their better tacklers, especially tackling in the open field. It will be difficult to overcome the loss of Craig and Pinson, but added depth has helped. I do look for Victor DeGrate, Jamar Ransom, and Freddie Sinclair to help. It will also help having Vernon Grant back at strong safety because he is such a good open field tackler.
That's one factor into the K-State game and the rest of the season, but I'm going to tell you the real difference maker for this Saturday and the rest of the season: Turnovers! The Oklahoma State offense has done a better job since spitting up five giveaways in the loss to Nebraska as they are averaging 1.2 interceptions per game and 0.8 fumbles a game adding up to two turnovers a game. The Cowboy defense has forced 1.2 interceptions a game but just 0.2 fumbles a game. At the very least Oklahoma State needs to keep the score even in the turnover department the rest of the season. Ideally, they need to be on the plus side. I have a good feeling about the offense doing their part in that, but I would like to see the defense do a better job of forcing turnovers. It'd be nice to see what it's like to have five turnovers to work with on offense.
Successfully replacing injured players and getting even or better in the turnover department will go a long way in making the final seven games a lot of fun.
It's no secret that the Cowboys go into the K-State game banged up.
"We lost two good, key guys on our defense, Elbert Craig in the secondary and Lawrence Pinson in the linebacker corps," said defensive end Greg Richmond. "We have some great young guys that are chomping at the bit for an opportunity to play. We hate the opportunity that they have, why they are playing, but that's what they signed with Oklahoma State to do, to come play football. I like that we have great depth and we can just move on."
Pinson, who was leading the Cowboys in tackles this season with 25 when he went down, has respect throughout the team. The guys that block him in practice know how much he means to the team.
"Pinson is a leader on this team," said offensive guard Sam Mayes. "He is a great athlete and really keeps the team going. We're going to miss him on the field, but like Coach Miles says we've got to close ranks and march on."
The offensive line had it's losses on Saturday too. Left tackle Matt Hardison has a sprained right ankle and center Ben Buie's back problem flared up again. Hardison could likely be back for Saturday. Buied could make it back to, but the back problem seems to jump up and bother him at just about anytime. The Cowboys have a good substitute cast in backup tackle Doug Koenig and backup guard Caleb Noble, who comes in and allows left guard Chris Akin to slide to center.
"Anytime you lose somebody that is important to your offense or defense it's the other guys around him, the other starters that have to pick it up and raise the level of their play," said head coach Les Miles.
Defensive tackle Clay Coe gave an example of how the veterans can do just that with youngsters like linebacker Victor DeGrate on defense.
"It's kind of funny because even in practice on Sunday night Victor (DeGrate) was in there trying to call the huddle and give us the play and his eyes were kind of wide open," described Coe. "We had to say Vic, you've got to calm down and tell him to just imagine that he's at DeSoto High School. He's a good kid and he's been working hard. There are going to be 10 guys out there helping him out."
Here is a strong stat for the Cowboys as they lead the Big 12 in red zone offense and red zone defense. On offense the Cowboys have been in the red zone 21 times and scored all 21 times, a perfect 100 percent in the red zone.
On defense the Cowboys have allowed their opponents in the red zone 15 times, but they have only scored on eight of those ventures for a 53 percent scoring rate. The next best in each category is OU on offense with a 91 percent scoring rate and Kansas State on defense with a 69 percent.
Revenge Is On The
Make no mistake the Cowboys have been looking forward to this game with Kansas State for a long time. It was in the opinion of many players the most embarassing loss last season. Defensive end Antonio Smith said he started thinking about playing the Wildcats again on the bus ride home from the 44-9 defeat in Manhattan. Others on the team second his feeling.
"Last year's game was an embarassment, I think in our minds, as far as how we played," said guard Sam Mayes. "We didn't play anywhere near our capabilities in that game. This year with them coming here they can expect a whole new Cowboy team. We are going to be a different team than they saw last season as far as intensity and playing our game."
"It was one of those days that we didn't come to play, and they did everything they were supposed to do in capitalizing on everything that we did wrong," said defensive end Greg Richmond. "That's the sign of a good team that they have down in Manhattan."
How painful was the loss last season? For fullback Tim Burrough it was painful in several ways including the ankle injury that he suffered on a play in which tailback Seymore Shaw also went down. "I don't like to remember that game at all," said Burrough.
There are several keys to the game, but one many Oklahoma State fans will focus on will be how the O-State offensive line handles the aggressive pass rush by K-State. The Wildcats have 27 sacks this season and they are pretty evenly distributed between the front line and a couple of the linebackers. The Wildcats pass rush comes from all angles.
"They always have good athletes up front, their defensive linemen are always very good athletes," said offensive guard Sam Mayes. "They are the best I've seen so far this season, so I'm excited to get some good competition in."
Mayes is looking at the positive and feels like there is no reason to compare this situation to the one the Cowboys faced and failed in the opener at Nebraska.
"Nebraska was four games ago, I'm not really worried about that now," added Mayes. "Some experience and some players in the lineup and we're good to go." Head coach Les Miles is well aware of the Cats sack prowess, and he feels it will be handled this week in preparation for the game.
"We're very aware that their ends make a quarterback scramble when he doesn't want to, and we are going to have to spend some time on it," said Miles. "It's going to be very important to us that we get it addressed by game time. It's not necessarily and extra guy, it's just good pass rushers. We will look at all options in protecting our passer."
Defensive Line Must Pull
While the offensive line must protect quarterback Josh Fields, the Cowboy defensive line needs to go into the seek and destroy mode, or at least the contain mode on slippery K-State quarterback Ell Roberson. Roberson was back to rush for 80 yards against Texas, and he was just warming up coming off the wrist injury that kept him out for three weeks and two games. The Cowboy defenders would like to see him in throwing situations all afternoon.
"We want to make them throw the ball so we can have the opportunity to rush the passer, to get up the field, and try to contain Ell Roberson as much as we can because he is a great runner," said defensive end Greg Richmond. "We just look forward to this big test that we have on Saturday."
"It's a big responsibility," said
defensive tackle Clay Coe. "Our ends are going to get upfield and create
pressure. Our job inside is to make sure that Roberson doesn't get loose and
come up the middle and scramble loose. Whever we get him pinned in and steps up
in the pocket we have to be there. It's going to be a tough
That's not the only challenge as tailback Darren Sproles is second in the Big 12 in rushing with 114 yards a game. Sproles was a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and reminds you a little of Barry Sanders in that he is strong but so small that he can hide behind lineman and cause the defense to lose him.
Dressed To Kill (or
One big topic among the Cowboy players was the suit that ace cornerback and punt returner Darrent Williams was wearing before and after the game on Saturday. The suit had a wide lapel and was bright purple with large white pin stripes. You couldn't miss it from a mile away.
"It was definitely a 10," said Sam Mayes. "I wish I had the guts to pull that off. Did you see that suit -- it was lovely."
How about the color? It seemed to be in line with Kansas State coming to Stillwater. "Very, very appropriate," added Mayes.
Recruiting News: Biggest
Unofficial Weekend Coming Up
There were only a smattering of recruits at the Louisiana-Lafayette game. The list included Cowboy commitments Justin Waller of Ponca City and Walter Boyd of Shawnee. Waller and Boy both play tight end, but Waller projects as a defensive end and Boyd as an offensive tackle. Others there included Willard, Mo, offensive lineman Kellen Green; Ada lineman Cale Roard; linebacker Tyler Johnson of Haskell; Borger, Texas, lineman Michael Galloway, Lawton MacArthur linebacker Michael Pooschke; Lafayette, La, safety Don Hargroder; and Edmond junior center Zach Allen.
This week the list should be
loaded with as many as 60-70 recruits coming in including in-state players such
as Tulsa Washington defensive end Michael Tate, Moore tailback Tarrion Adams and Broken Arrow
defensive end Chris Wade. There are a
number of out of state players expected including Wichita, Kan., tailback Odell Bell and a number of players