Five Questions after Baylor

Several solutions for inquiries after Oklahoma State's 38-21 victory over Baylor such as why tight end Billy Bajema got so many catches Saturday.

1. Which Cowboy had the biggest influence on the win?


            The easy answer is Vernand Morency. Morency has rushed for 496-yards over the last two regular season games, but equally becoming as adept at being a playmaker is the guy that lines up right in front of Morency. Shawn Willis gets it done in a variety of ways. We've known he could catch the ball and rumble with it. We've also seen him make blocks in blowing up linebackers like Kansas State's Josh Buhl. Now he's displaying pretty good ball toting ability too.


            "I'm glad I could help out in the running game because we have a lot of tailbacks injured," said Willis. "We pretty much just have Vernand, and I'm glad I could make plays and take some of the pressure on him.".

            Against Baylor, Willis rushed for 47-yards on eight carries and two touchdowns. On those carries he showed leaping ability. Willis also has a real talent of moving a pile good distances. On one play he drove a pile of about eight or nine players for nine-yards. He also had a huge block in picking off a blitzing linebacker on Josh Fields' second quarter touchdown pass to Billy Bajema. If Willis doesn't pick off and de-cleat the blitzer, the pass likely doesn't get off.


            "We've been practicing pass protection all week, and that was the first guy we were supposed to check," said Willis of the block he made to give Fields the time to toss the touchdown. "Really just focusing in on that this week, and I'm glad we did."


            Willis is rapidly becoming one of the most valuable Cowboy players on the offensive side of the ball.


2. What is next for senior safety Elbert Craig?


            Unfortunately, it will be the surgeon's scalpel. Craig went down when a Baylor offensive lineman cut him behind the quarterback in the end zone on a blitz. Craig, who made a heroic comeback two and half weeks after tearing his ACL in his right knee in a practice drill, was back to play in six games from Texas Tech to Baylor. Craig said after he came back to the sidelines in the second half dressed in street clothes that the knee shifted on him. When asked if he would rehab in an attempt to be ready for the bowl game, he said he thought it was time to get the surgery. Craig's effort will go down as one of the toughest accomplishments and one of the greatest examples of desire in Cowboy football lore.


3. Why was the tight end back so active in the passing game against Baylor?


            The tight end has always been there, but Billy Bajema and Charlie Johnson will tell you they've had different duties. Many times the tight ends have been held in to block on pass plays to beef up protection against really talented defensive fronts. The tight end was in the mix in the Oklahoma game, but Bajema really struggled with catching the ball in that game. Against a team that is really aggressive with the blitz, short routes by the tight end can become a huge option.


            Bajema and Johnson caught a combined five passes for 55-yards, but those receptions resulted in three first downs and one touchdown. It was a lot of fun according to Bajema.


            "It felt real good to get back in the passing game and make a few plays," said the junior out of Westmoore High School. "It was open and Josh (Fields) made good throws. There are games where that's not a big part of the offense, but today it came up and at our position we've to make the plays when we get the chance."


4. What is the big guess or prediction on the bowl situation?


            The guess and prediction is Cotton Bowl all the way. The fact is Oklahoma State wants the Cotton Bowl and the Cotton Bowl wants Oklahoma State. The Cowboys still need Texas to beat Texas A&M and clinch a BCS bowl bid. Oklahoma beating Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game would be part of the plan too. The only hang up as we speak is that Kansas State is already griping at the Big 12 Conference that they feel as the North Division Champion they should get the nod for the Coton Bowl. No such guarantee exists as the Big 12 gives their bowl partners some flexibility in their choices.  Oklahoma State is finished at 9-3 and it is likely that K-State will be 10-4 after losing to OU in Kansas City. Both teams lost to Texas, both beat Baylor, both beat Kansas, but the Wildcats beat Nebraska after the Cowboys lost to the Huskers. The trump card is that O-State beat K-State. The only danger is that Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg has caved in on other issues. This is one he better not cave in on because Oklahoma State AD Dr. Harry Birdwell would jump all over him.


            As for the Cotton Bowl opponent from the SEC, the favorite is Ole Miss after their loss to LSU. It could still be LSU. The word is that the SEC doesn't favor sending one of their east teams to Dallas, but Georgia has been mentioned as a possible opponent.


5. Once the Cowboys get to the bowl who will be healthy enough to come back and play?


            Defensive end Antonio Smith told us in Waco that he would be back from his broken leg. Corey Hilliard should be back at right tackle after rehabbing his sprained knee. Less serious injuries that are slam dunk returnees are tailback Tatum Bell (ankle), cornerback Darrent Williams (hip pointer), defensive end Marque Fountain, wide receiver Chay Nease (shoulder), and fellow wide receiver D'Juan Woods (shoulder). Tailback Seymore Shaw (quad) and center Ben Buie (broken leg) will both miss the bowl game.

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