Five questions after win over A&M

How good IS Tatum Bell? What was the turning point in the game? Robert answers these questions and more...

1. Is the Cowboy defense improved or is the Texas A&M offense digressed?

This Oklahoma State defense is better, but the Texas A&M offense is not as strong as some previous seasons. Losing their leading receiver Jamar Taylor this past week was a big blow to the Aggies, but another major factor to answering this question is that the style of offense Texas A&M runs is a better matchup for the Cowboys. It didn't necessarily show up with Aggie redshirt freshman tailback Courtny Lewis running for 171-yards, but the Cowboys are better at stopping a run first attack. Lewis benefitted from a poor tackling day by the OSU defenders, who were often in position to stop Lewis in the early stages of his runs. The pass rush was very effective, without a lot of blitzing, as they had five sacks and constantly pressured McNeal into poor throws. The secondary executed their coverages well with just a few busts. 

"We told the defense this week the intensity of their play would determine how this football game would end," said Miles. "The way they played on the road is the mark of a good football team."

When the defense really needed to step up early they did.

"We turn the ball over (Bell's fumble), the defense comes on to the field and Darrent Williams gets the pick," said Miles. "We answered the call in a momentum shift. We played well without exception through three quarters and then they got a few scores, but we did what we needed to do on defense. They have good players in McNeal, who is very elusive and Lewis. Overall, we did a good job."

There is still plenty of room for improvement, but the Cowboy defense is much better than they were a year ago, and should continue to get better.

2. What was the turning point in the win over the Aggies?

 Normally, turning points come later in the game, but on Saturday you need look no further than the second offensive series of the game for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State had taken advantage of a key offsides penalty in their first series to kickstart a drive and go 80-yards in 11 plays for a touchdown. The defense had stopped A&M three and out on their first offensive series. Now facing a fourth and one at the A&M 40-yard-line, Les Miles said go for it. With the A&M defense coming hard at the middle of the OSU line, Josh Fields paused on the counter and handed the ball to Tatum Bell going right, Bell got several good blocks, excelerated to the outside and went 40-yards untouched for the touchdown. It wasn't game over, but the tone was set. It showed in the Aggies play and on the faces of their fans in the Kyle Field crowd of 79,000. Oklahoma State was going to win, and A&M was going to lose.

3. How good is Tatum Bell?

It may be time to do a little bit of a reverse in promotions. There is no need to downgrade the effort of pushing wide receiver Rashaun Woods for postseason honors, but at least, kick up the effort for Bell. Tatum now leads the nation in rushing with 135.1-yards per game, which is the priority stat in determining the top runner in the NCAA. Bell also has 15 touchdowns on the season after his three on Saturday.

The best barometer of how good Bell is may be his head coach Les Miles. Earlier in the season against Louisiana-Lafayette, Bell fumbled early in the game and spent the rest of it on the bench. Saturday Bell fumbled in the second quarter, albeit on a good play by the A&M defense. This time Bell was right back out there after Darrent Williams intercepted an Aggie pass on the play following Bell's fumble.

"I really didn't get the handoff," said Bell in the locker room. "I'm not going to make excuses, but I was hoping that Coach Miles would give me another chance."

"He's having a great season," said Miles. "If he continues to play the way he is playing right now, he'll distinguish himself with the other great tailbacks that have played at Oklahoma State."

Of course, I havn't seen all the backs in the nation, but right now there isn't anybody out there that I would take over Tatum Bell.

4. Is there reason to worry about protection because of the hits Josh Fields took?

I don't think so. I will admit it is very nerve wracking to see Fields get his, but you have to understand that on most of the plays Fields was touched A&M was coing with extra pass rushers. As the game wore on, especially in the late second quarter and third quarter, the Aggies were feeling they had to gamble to get back in the ballgame and one of the choices they made was to throw blitzes at the Cowboys. On several ocassions they came with two or more linebackers and sometimes safeties or corners. Fields understands it.

"Whenever you play the position that I play you know that you are going to get hit every once in awhile," said Fields after the game. "You don't want to get hit, but when you do you understand that those things are going to happen."

Worry, yes, wholesale changes, no. Just continue to work on it, improve, and remember that even with the two sacks that A&M had on Saturday opponents have only registered a total of eight sacks in eight games this season, an average of one sack a contest. That number surely leads the Big 12 and may be one of the best in the nation.

5. When was the first mention of OU or bedlam on Saturday at Kyle Field?

We have to divide this question into two answers, inside or outside the team. Outside the team the first mention of Oklahoma was probably hours before kickoff, but the first we noticed was just after the game ended when the Oklahoma State fans started chanting to the gahering football team in front of their section, "beat OU!"
As for the team, we never heard any mention of Oklahoma or the bedlam game until after the squad was in the locker room and head coach Les Miles mentioned it to the players. It is obvious that the attitude toward this game on the O-State side has changed. There was a time and many teams in the Cowboys past that got nervous and uncertain when talking about playing Oklahoma. The success and confidence that team possesses had every player to the man that we spoke with exclaiming what a fun game bedlam was and how they really enjoy this week and all the lead up to the game next Saturday.

"It's a lot of fun," said defensive tackle Clay Coe. "I can't wait to start getting ready and to go down there and play. I love that atmosphere."

"I can't wait," said Rashaun Woods. "We enjoy playing that game because it is important, and both teams get ready for a challenge."

"All week long this is what everybody is going to be talking about," said Cole Farden. "You know this state is going to be going crazy with all the hype."

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