1. Did Oklahoma State intend to run as much as they did against the Bruins?
Not quite. The Cowboys ran on 67 of their 75 offensive plays. They had planned to pass the ball somewhere between 10-15 times, but with 426 yards rushing as a team and an average of six yards per play there was no need to pass more. As they suspected going into the game, UCLA could not stop the run.
"We needed to be more phyical than they were in this game," said head coach Les Miles. "We needed to win, and our 11 guys needed to be more physical than them – wide receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen. Our running backs worked and ran very hard."
"We had confidence going in, but after we got out there we knew we could pound it on them," said tight end Billy Bajema. "That's what we took advantage of, and we did it all day."
After the game O-State offensive coordinator Mike Gundy asked, "surely, you can't win in the Big 12 playing this way?" Gundy told the reporter he didn't know. It was an interesting question. Gundy knows the Cowboys will have to throw more, but on this day against UCLA the run, and lots of it, was the recipe to success.
2. What is the defensive line situation for the Cowboys?
The defensive ends, especially Marque Fountain played well for Oklahoma State, but the defensive interior was weak. They got very little push at times and allowed Bruin running backs to get open holes and quick access to the secondary. The defensive line also did not register a sack. There wasn't a lot of pressure put on UCLA quarterback Drew Olsen.
Two of the best interior linemen were Xavier Lawson-Kennedy and true freshman Walter Thomas. XLK was criticized during August camp for his lackluster effort, but his two tackles were the most of any defensive inside technique players. He got push across the line of scrimmage, as did Thomas who had a tackle and forced fumble. The defensive line and the entire defense got an earful at halftime from coordinator Bill Clay and the other assistants after allowing 305 yards of offense to the Bruins in the first half. In the second half they only allowed 138 yards and gained two more turnovers in the form of interceptions.
"We really didn't adjust much," said secondary coach Doug Mallory. "We just told them we weren't tackling anybody, and in the second half I think we tackled much better."
Now the Cowboys have the threat of having to play Tulsa without starting defensive tackle Brad Girtman, who sprained his ankle.
It is thin unit, and defensive line coach Carey Bailey may be forced to get Efe Mowarin ready to play. It doesn't matter who is playing, the level of play will have to come up on the defensive line, tackles and ends, if this defense is going to be as good as advertised.
3. How do you evaluate the play of Donovan Woods in the win?
To be fair, it is tough to do. The goal was to not force Woods to have to do too much. Goal accomplished, but Woods was only 2-of-8 passing. His first completion was an acrobatic, athletic move that allowed him to complete the ball to fullback Shawn Willis for an 18-yard gain that kept a game-tying scoring drive alive.
Negatives included a bad option pitch, a penalty for delay of game, and several missed passes that weren't great throws.
Positives included that completion to Willis, a sizzling touchdown run that included a dive into the end zone, an audible that checked to the Morency run for the first touchdown of the day, and he drew the UCLA defense offsides on a fourth-and-four situation late in the game. Woods was smooth in operating the offense most of the day, and no turnovers was the biggest success for the offense. OK, the second biggest success after all the rushing yards.
"I knew our line was going to be able to open some holes," said Woods of the game plan. "I knew our backs would be able to get through them. It wasn't any question in our coach's minds or our team's minds. We continued to do that the whole game and we got the win."
"Donovan Woods played extremely well," said Miles. "He did the things we asked him to do, and he made the plays on ad lib that we needed to win. As a freshman he showed the character to pull the team together. I thought he did extremely well."
Woods will get better, and now he has a chance to do it at home against Tulsa, SMU and Iowa State.
4. How important was the Cowboys' first season opening win under Miles?
It was huge in a lot of ways. On the plane ride home, athletic director Harry Birdwell thought it might be worth another 2,000 season tickets purchased before the home opener in the newly renovated Boone Pickens Stadium. Speaking of the stadium, assistant athletic director Joe Muller thinks it will be worth a few more donors jumping on board the stadium project. Both those are major benefits from the nationally televised victory.
ABC Sports announcer Keith Jackson seemed to think it would propel the Cowboys into the Top 25 polls this week.
Les Miles wants it to propel his team to a really strong start. Now it comes down to taking care of business. If the Cowboys win the next three games at home, then the UCLA win stays huge. An upset in the next three games gives a big chunk of the reward Saturday back.
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