The coaching staff joined the Cowboy players in a day off on Saturday. Prior to Saturday, all full-time coaches except Les Miles, offensive coordinator Mike Gundy and defensive coordinator Bill Clay had gone on the road recruiting for two days. Even Miles left town on Friday for a speaking engagement. The off week routine is done for now and the question to be answered is did the Cowboys get done what they wanted to?
"We need to improve to prepare to play our best opponents," Miles said last Monday as the week opened. "Evaluate what we are doing, evaluate our opponents and prepare our personnel for the Big 12."
The short answer coming from several corners of the football office is, yes, it was a good week of practice. One major change from some previous seasons during the off week was a cut down in the physical nature of the workouts. The workouts were in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) all week. This team proved to Miles in the first three games that they had the physical part of it down, but this week the hitting on Tuesday and Wednesday in particular will be back as the Cowboys prepare for a Big 12 game.
Does Miles look at the start of Big 12 play off the open week as a new chapter, a new segment in the season?
"It's no more than to the open week to me," said Miles. "Naturally in the open week you can take a deep breath, take time to get healthy and rejuvenate your team. When you come to your games you have to win those games, it doesn't make a difference what point in the season it is. It becomes more difficult when you play your best opponents. You look at the season as much as anything from a distant way and you recognize where your tougher games are, but there is no magic as you start putting games in the Big 12 Conference back to back and the preparation is very much the same each week."
Iowa State has been physical themselves so far this season, showing great improvement on defense, particurlarly in a defensive struggle against Iowa, a game that got Miles' attention. The Cyclones have been very stingy against the run, but haven't faced anybody with as physical a running attack as Oklahoma State.
On offense, the Cyclones ran the ball big in an opening win over Northern Iowa, but have struggled in that area since. They have had big plays in the passing game and the secondary will prepare for a 6-foot-5 playmaking big wide receiver in Todd Blythe. Bret Meyer and Austin Flynn are both playing at quarterback and both bring different abilities to the table with Meyer being a better runner and Flynn a better thrower.
The big story with the Cowboys over the open week was the return to practice of freshman standout quarterback Bobby Reid. Reid went through drills for the first time last week since he was injured in the final spring scrimmage when it appeared he had an edge for the starting quarterback job over Donovan Woods. With Reid out due to the shoulder surgery, Woods has gone on to take control at quarterback and lead OSU to a 3-0 start. The passing game has been the only drawback as it has been slow to kick into gear, but showed improvement in the 59-7 win over SMU.
Reid wants to play, but admits he is still weeks off before he would either have the stamina or the comfort with the offense to take on game action. That leaves it to Woods and two-minute man Al Pena, who got his feet wet throwing the ball late in the first half against SMU in leading the offense to a touchdown. Miles is believing the improvement is there and will continue to be there with Donovan.
"I think Donovan is capable," said Miles of the passing offense. "I think his progress is good. We need to execute better in the passing game. He is a very capable passer. I don't think there is any problem there. I think with age and comfort in the offense he will even develop more quickly. You see him throwing and boy, the ball is tighter. It's a firmer throw. It's more comfort with the style of trajectory. It's throw the drive or put some air under the seven. Once you've been in the offense, it's a comfort level that you get from being in it."
Which leaves everybody an interesting question to ponder – will Woods, Reid or Pena be throwing the ball most in games when the Cowboys reach their second and final off week in the regular season? It's a long haul from here to there as the next off week will be the week before Thanksgiving. Between now and then it's Iowa State, at Colorado, A&M, at Missouri, OU, at Texas, and Baylor. Miles looks forward to that final off week, but told us last week he has a better schedule that would be ideal.
"I definitely do," said Miles asked about if he liked a second off week. "I think it is good for our kids. I think it allows them to get healthy. I think it is good for our coaches. If you could in a 12-game season break it up in a third, a third, and a third it would be ideal. Then you give those kids that are nicked a chance to get healthier. When they play healthy they have a better opportunity to stay healthy."
Off weeks are also nice when you're unbeaten. If the Cowboys could get to that next one in that kind of health record wise, then Miles will really be delighted.
Cowboys March Into Big 12 Action
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