November 10, 2003
After two weeks of disappointing blowout losses Oklahoma State fans are frustrated, Cowboy players and coaches are disgusted, and everybody is more than ready to turn the tables around on the tail end of the 2003 season. Oklahoma State finished up the most stout portion of their schedule against five teams, all ranked at some point during the season, with a 3-2 record. The Cowboys won the first three, but lost the final two against easily the most physically talented of the teams on the schedule. There are reasons for the losses. The Cowboys had problems in both games protecting quarterback Josh Fields, which hampered the passing game and getting the ball to All American wide receiver Rashaun Woods. In the Texas game the injury to tailback Tatum Bell, who despite playing just half of the first quarter is still the leading runner in the Big 12 and sixth in the nation in rushing. The injury to freshman right offensive tackle Corey Hilliard also limited the offense.
Those aren't excuses, just facts. The primary reason for the losses is that the Cowboys aren't as experienced and physical as they need to be at certain key positions on the offensive and defensive lines. The loss of offensive tackles Jason Russell and Kyle Eaton had more impact than many thought. That is where some of the protection problems have stemmed from. On defense Clay Coe has been steady as expected as he is an experienced Big 12 caliber defensive tackle. The problem is you need about four of those type players and the Cowboys have done a lot of shuffling in trying to find the answer. Kyle Hix preseason injury and the fact that he never was completely healthy hurt. The answer is that young newcomers like Brad Girtman, Xavier Lawson-Kennedy and even junior college transfer Efe Mowarin are going to be good, but need time to develop. Next year the defensive interior should be a strength with the focus on replacing the defensive ends like Greg Richmond, Antonio Smith, and Khreem Smith.
. The overall answer is recruiting. This staff has done a tremendous job of bringing in talent with some of the best recruiting classes in school history. It needs to continue, so that in some season real soon the Cowboys won't be rebuilding a significant segemnt of the offensive or defensive line. They will build up enough skill players so that no significant player will go into the season having never played a snap of Division I football. It's got to be a goal to keep the babyfaced from having to battle the five o'clock shadows every season. When the program gets to that point then the hype coming from media types like me and the excitement of fans dreaming of a championship and BCS bowl won't turn sour in November.
In the meantime try to enjoy what has been a very good season. If the Cowboys can take care of business in these final two contests then there is a great chance that Oklahoma State will be playing on January 2nd in Dallas. That's a landmark season as the last time OSU played on or after January 1st was 1949.
CLAY ON CLAY
Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Clay could be found in the same place he is every Monday afternoon during the season, in the defensive meeting room studying video of the upcoming opponent coming up with a plan to stop their offense. I stopped in and interrupted Clay's viewing of the Jayhawks to ask about the second half of the Texas game. Not being defensive, but in a matter of fact way, when told of the displeasure of Oklahoma State fans, Clay pointed out that Oklahoma State has had a history of getting beat by Texas.
As for the problems the Cowboy defense had, Clay gave credit to the Texas offensive staff for deciding at halftime to put the game on tailback Cedric Benson and force feeding him the ball behind that big offensive line.
"We were fine against their finess game," said Clay. "It's when they went to knuckle down football with Benson that we had problems, they were a more physical football team than we are."
Clay puts in a lot of hours, and hopes that Cowboy fans appreciate the effort that the players and the defensive staff put in preparing for each week's contest. He won't apologize for their effort, and says he'll be glad to take the heat for any lack of success.
ALL I WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY...
Looking no older than he did on Saturday, Les Miles celebrated his 50th birthday on Monday. Miles, born on November 10, 1953, was reminded of his birthday on the Big 12 Coach's Conference Call when Big 12 Assistant Commissioner Bo Carter wished him a happy birthday. Miles received more well wishes from some of the media attending his weekly news conference. Miles didn't plan on doing anything special today outside a birthday celebration with his family. The normal Monday working on a game plan for the upcoming opponent was the focus of the day.
If there was any one gift that Miles would like for his birthday, he said it would be a win this Saturday against Kansas.
There are 19 seniors that will be honored on Saturday during Senior Day ceremonies before the kickoff with Kansas. Below is a list of the 19 players that will be making their final appearance in uniform at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday.
Brent Baisden, K, Bethany (Putnam City West), OK
Tatum Bell, RB, DeSoto, TX
Tim Burrough, FB, Moore (Westmoore), OK
Fath' Carter, SS, El Reno, OK
Elbert Craig, WS, Oklahoma City (Millwood), OK
Matt Hardison, OL, Adair, OK
Jon Hayhurst, OL, Choctaw, OK
Doug Koenig, OL, Cape Coral, FL
Gabe Lindsay, WR, Denver (Jefferson), CO
Luke Phillips, K, Tulsa (Metro Christian), OK
Greg Richmond, DE, Oklahoma City (Douglass), OK
Sky Rylant, P, Temple, OK
Antonio Smith, DE, Oklahoma City (John Marshall/NEO), OK
Khreem Smith, DE, Miami (Carol City/Garden City C.C.), FL
Freddie Sinclair, WS, Raytown (Raytown South/Misouri Western), MO
Bryan Vardeman, FS, Lawton (MacArthur), OK
Josh Wheeler, LB, Oxford (Southwestern), KS
Mike Williams, DT, Denver (Jefferson), CO
Rashaun Woods, WR, Oklahoma City (Millwood), OK
This is one of the most decorated classes to have moved on from the Cowboy football program in sometime. Two members of the class, Elbert Craig and Luke Phillips, both said it has been a big honor to play with these guys throughout their college careers.
"It's a priviledge and a honor just to play with those guys, Greg Richmond, Khreem, Antonio, I can't even name them all," said Craig. "Greg Richmond is probably my best friend now, we've been living together for three years. It's just so much fun. I mean it's a business out there, but we also enjoy it. We have a lot of fun when we are playing."
"I want it to be special," said Phillips. "I want to go out with a win. People like Elbert Craig, Rashaun Woods, Tatum Bell, those are the guys that have come out and bust their rears everyday to make this program what it is now."
Head coach Les Miles said it is certainly a motivation for the rest of the squad to prepare and go win on Saturday so that these seniors experience a win in their final game at Boone Pickens Stadium.
"I think that any young guys that have played alongside these seniors, played in the trenches with these seniors will respect what they've meant to this team, to this program, and they will want to send them off with victory," said Miles. "I don't think there is any question, I think Senior Day at any school, in particular a senior class as siginificant as ours, they will ant to go out and get the job done."
BANGED UP, BUT COULD PLAY
The Cowboys had four key players go down with injuries in the Texas game, and while the school does not update injuries here is an update from what we have learned. Tailback Tatum Bell is day to day with a right ankle sprain. There appears to be a good chance that Bell will play. Defensive end Antonio Smith has a lower leg injury, but he too could be ready to go on Saturday. Backup tailback Seymore Shaw is likely out for sometime with a quadracep pull and offensive tackle Corey Hilliard is going to miss the final two regular season games with a left knee sprain.
PROTECTION PROBLEMS COULD IMPROVE
The biggest reason for improvement is that Kansas is not as big on the defensive line. The Cowboys have really struggled with jumbo types on the defensive line over the past two weeks. O-State will be going with a backup at right tackle as the season's original starter, Kellen Davis moves back in for the injured freshman Corey Hilliard. Doug Koenig is set to start at left tackle after being limited last week by a back injury. Matt Hardison will backup at tackle.
Kansas goes with a smaller defensive line than either Oklahoma or Texas. That's not to say the Cowboys can take the Jayhawks lightly, but they aren't as dominant up front as the Longhorns or
"We are going to make corrections and point our guys in the right direction in that area," said Miles. "Right now, we are not in a position to make personnel changes other than for injury, but we have confidence that Kansas will have a hard time handling us."
KANSAS SCOUTING REPORT
Kansas is a much better team than the one Oklahoma State disposed of 55-20 last season in Lawrence. In that game the Jayhawks were without their starting quarterback Bill Whittemore. It appeared that Kansas would be without Whittemore again when he suffered a shoulder injury against Kansas State. The injury was thought to be season ending, but word out of KU is that Whittmore may play on Saturday. Whittemore has passed for 1,921-yards and run for another 365-yards as he is second in the Big 12 in total offense and 12th in the nation. If Whittemore still can't go for Kansas then sensational freshman Adam Barmann will start. The freshman out of Weston, Mo., has completed 49-of-71 passes in his first two starts for an average of 249-yards per game and four touchdowns.
The Jayhawks lost to Nebraska last Saturday to drop to 5-5, but are still hungry to get that sixth and bowl qualifying win. Kansas is averaging 422-yards a game on offense and has passed by the Cowboys in that regard. Clark Green is leading the team in rushing and was impressive against the Cowboys last season. Mark Simmons is their top receiver and they have made great strides on the offensive line.
On defense Kansas has had a hard time stopping the run, been a little bit better against the pass, but they are giving up an average of 29 points and 405-yards a game. They are 89th in the country in turnover margin, not far behind the Cowboys 84th ranking.
Kansas will get creative in special teams, but it has worked as they have the best special teams overall in the Big 12 by the rating OSU special teams coordinator Joe DeForest uses. Charles Gordon is second in the Big 12 in punt returns averaging 14.2-yards a return. They have been very good on their coverage units as they are second in the Big 12 in kick coverage.
TIME CHANGE FOR BAYLOR GAME
Fox Sports Southwest picked up the Cowboys game at Baylor as the 11:30 a.m. televised contest for Saturday, November 22. That will give the Cowboys a final tally of nine of their 11 games being on some form of television during the regular season. There were four games (Nebraska, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma) on ABC. The Texas game was on Fox Sports Net. The SMU, Kansas State, and Baylor games on Fox Sports Southwest, and the Wyoming game was on Fox Sports pay per view. It represents the most televised games for Oklahoma State in a single season with the previous record being seven games in the 1997 season.
The Cowboys had three official visits this past weekend by recruits. All three are good size defensive linemen and all three said they had good visits to OSU and the Cowboys are in the running.
Tyson Jackson is a 6-7, 275 pound defensive lineman out of West Saint John High School in Louisiana. Jackson had perviously committed to LSU, but took the visit to Stillwater. He said he had a great time and that the visit gave him some things to think about. Right now he plans on concentrating on the high school playoffs, but added that OSU is in the running along with LSU, Florida, and South Carolina. Jackson would be a huge addition to the O-State defensive line corps.
Anthony Strauder is a 6-4, 260 pounder out of Natchez, Miss. Strauder suffered a broken leg in the fifth game of the season and made the visit to Stillwater on crutches. Before his injury he had 40 tackles and five sacks. He told us that his visit was great. He really liked the school, the players, and the coaches especially Karl Dunbar, who is the coach recruiting him. "Coach Dunbar is a good man," said Strauder. Strauder told me that Oklahoma State offered all three of the linemen that were on their visits. He also told me he has a visit set up for Southern Miss. on Nov. 19. Other schools recruiting him are Miss. State, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Louisiana Tech, Jackson State, and Grambling.
Charles Alexander is a 6-4, 265 pound defensive lineman out of Breaux Bridge, La. We have been unable to reach Alexander since his visit, but told one of our reporters on Saturday that he was enjoying his visit so far.
Among the over 40 prospects that were making unofficial visits to Oklahoma State were Galena Park North Shore teammates Robert Reid and Stephen James. Reid is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and James a highly thought of safety prospect. Both players are commitments to the Cowboys and they met with some academic people to look at classes to take in the spring as both plan to enroll at midterm and start college early. The pair should be busy until mid December as the undefeated North Shore Mustangs are a favorite to win a State Championhip in Texas.
Also on hand were Cowboy commitments Justin Waller of Ponca City and Nathan Peterson of Tulsa Union. Peterson, considered by many the top prospect in Oklahoma as a defensive end is also planning to enroll in college in January and be out for spring football.
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