Miles Sees Progress in Foursome

In looking back on the 38-21 win over Tulsa several new names surfaced as players who gave the Cowboys that "winning" effort that head coach Les Miles is looking for. Three of those came on the defensive line that was instrumental in taking over the game midway through the first quarter and kept control until the issue was decided and Tulsa went on two forget-me-not scoring drives to close out the contest.

The fourth new name to get mentioned may be coming on to be the kind of receiving threat the Cowboys had hoped for throughout preseason camp that will take some attention away from the perceived top receiving threat D'Juan Woods. All four will be looked upon to carry their games to an even higher level as the season progresses.

The defensive line was looked at as a primary culprit in week one when UCLA found big avenues to run through in the Rose Bowl. However, against Tulsa, after the first drive the Hurricane was picking up no more than three yards on first down, and TU tailback Uril Parrish was taking a physical pounding.

"We had a number of guys that played well on defense," said Miles is his Sunday briefing with the media. "The defensive line was much more aggressive and controlled the line of scrimmage. Our speed in the secondary was instrumental in running down plays that got past the front."

Miles discussed three players on the line – defensive tackles Efe Mowarin and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy along with tweener defensive lineman Darnell Smith. With Brad Girtman sitting the game out with a sprained ankle suffered in the opening win over UCLA and then Clay Coe out early against Tulsa with a hip pointer, the trio of Mowarin, Lawson-Kennedy and Smith were forced to play more snaps. But instead of having a cringing effect on the Cowboy coaches, the trio provided encouragement for the rest of the season.

Mowarin had showed up well in the UCLA game, but upped the ante against Tulsa. Mowarin was a force finishing with three tackles, two unassisted. The most critical came on a first down play as Tulsa started a drive at the Cowboy 45-yard-line. Mowarin demolished his blocker and took Parrish down for no gain. The play started a three-and-out series for Tulsa and after the punt exchange OSU went on to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Lawson-Kennedy said after the game that he may have played the best he's played since coming to O-State. He only had one tackle, but did a good job of clogging the middle and even threatened some on pass rush. By far his biggest play was forcing the game's only turnover as he pursued on a reverse in the third quarter and popped the ball loose from TU receiver Ashlan Davis. Robert Jones recovered and the Cowboy added a field goal for a 17-7 lead.

"Efe Mowarin and XLK both played better inside," said Miles. "Darnell Smith came in and played a number of quality snaps. You have to have those guys (like Smith) because they give rest to the defensive tackles and defensive ends. Smith is able to use an advantage of speed playing inside and strength outside."

Smith is like Antonio Smith was for the Cowboys last season as the 6-0, 260-pounder can line up at both tackle and end. He finished the game with two tackles, both unassisted, and a quarterback hurry. He proved against Tulsa that he will be handy for the defensive coaching staff all season. He is tremendously strong and his quickness is tough for center and guards to handle.

The fourth player is wide receiver Chijuan Mack. Mack electrified the Boone Pickens Stadium crowd with his first collegiate catch as Donovan Woods sent a missile his way down the middle of the field for a 46-yard touchdown that was also Woods' first touchdown toss. It was a play the duo sold on the practice field during the week.

"Perfect practice makes perfect play," said Miles of the home run scoring play.

Mack was also effective in other ways as he was the key blocker on Vernand Morency's early fourth quarter run that set up another Morency run for a score. Mack's block on the outside totally tied up a TU cornerback allowed Morency to cut back inside and go for 25 yards to the Tulsa 6-yard-line.

"He continues improving on a weekly basis," added Miles of Mack's progress.

Miles is not in a state of panic over the lack of production in the passing game. He says Donovan Woods is doing such a fine job in so many areas and hints that the passing game is a work in progress that is getting better all the time in practice and will show the needed improvement in a Saturday coming soon. In the meantime this team is developing a very physical reputation, and that is something Miles has no problem with.

"The running offense has a telling effect on any defense," explained Miles. "It has a tiring style and a physical style to defend especially as the game goes on into the latter stages."

Now the Cowboys turn their attention to SMU. Watching game tape of the Mustangs could produce opposite opinions. SMU opened up with a hard fought 27-14 loss to Texas Tech, but then were basted by TCU to the tune of 44-0 on Saturday. Last fall the Cowboys blasted the Ponies 52-6 with Rashaun Woods catching an NCAA-record seven touchdown passes. Despite all that, Miles says he has no problem getting fired up for SMU and doesn't expect his team will be any different.

"They (SMU) have certainly recruited well and are more talented," said the OSU head coach. "They got beat by a very good TCU team. We'll look forward to this challenge. What concerns me is that they provide challenges that are different for us on offense, defense and special teams. Unless you meet that challenge you can wind up like Missouri, Kansas State or a number of other teams from last Saturday."

The Cowboys kick off Saturday at 6 p.m. with SMU as the final nonconference opponent at Boone Pickens Stadium.

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