1. What was wrong with Vernand Morency?
Morency received what amounted to a day off from Les Miles and the coaching staff. Going into the Baylor game he already had 227 carries on the season for 1,346 yards. That comes out to 25 carries a game. Miles elected to give the junior tailback much of the week off in practice. The punishment had added up to a lot of aches and pains, including his knees and shoulders.
Rumors of a serious knee injury were just that – rumors. Morency has no serious injuries and he suited up, warmed up and was available for duty if necessary. However, a healthy Seymore Shaw and Greg Jones were more than eager, along with fullback Shawn Willis, to pitch in and get the job done. The offensive line did a tremendous job and the Cowboy running game proved to be in good hands.
Shaw got most of the carries as he carried the ball 30 times for 172 yards and a 15-yard touchdown. It was a strong effort, surpassing his previous career-high of 107 yards in 2003 against Southwest Missouri State. Shaw is healthier now than he was at the start of the season, and it shows. He carried tacklers on many plays, and had an estimated 110 yards gained after first contact.
"Seymore has been hanging in there and looking to run the football," said OSU head coach Les Miles. "When we turn to him he has always been ready for us. Seymore is a rough and rugged guy."
Greg Jones finished with five carries for 25 yards. It was fitting that Jones got a chance to carry the ball on Senior Day. He has been a tough practice player who has sometimes been the only healthy tailback in spring practice.
Willis had his longest career carry in the second half when he broke loose with a 17-yard gain and he followed it with a five-yard touchdown run. He had two touchdowns on the day and finished with 39 yards on seven carries.
"They have good backs," said Baylor head coach Guy Morriss. "Their fullback is something else and he was pounding us pretty hard. They just mashed us up front. That is all there is to it."
The 305 yards rushing and an average of 5.6 yards per play was a more than solid effort. It was the most yards Baylor had allowed on the ground since the Bears' seaason-opening loss to UAB.
2. How do you evaluate the defensive performance against Baylor?
It would be real easy to say disappointing based on Baylor's 298 yards in the second half, but you have to look at the entire game. The Cowboys allowed Baylor just 100 yards of total offense in the first half and avoided giving up a score when they stopped Baylor on fourth down-and-inches at the Cowboy 7-ayrd line late in the second quarter. It was a solid first half of defensive work.
In the second half, Baylor started having some success and the Bears moved the ball pretty well, but still only were able to score the three touchdowns. The Bears struck the Cowboys were they were weakest on the edge. With Darrent Williams already out, Daniel McLemore sitting on the sidelines with some minor ailments, and Robert Jones out with a mild concussion suffered early in the second half, the Cowboys had true freshman Martel Van Zant at one cornerback and redshirt freshman Andrew Alexander at the other corner. The Bears went to the air and had some success. They beat Van Zant on a 39-yard streak route to set up one score, and then Trent Shelton made an amazing play to beat Alexander on a 55-yard touchdown pass.
The Cowboys blitzed Baylor backup quarterback Terrance Parks with some success, but by the end of the game missing players off the front line included Jerry Don Bray (infected knee). Victor DeGrate missed the game entirely with a sprained ankle. Regular backup defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy was forced into duty playing defensive end.
Considering the injuries and the young players forced into duty, the 49-21 win and the defensive effort was solid.
3. How did the change of quarterbacks by Baylor affect OSU?
It had an impact as the Cowboys spent most of the week preparing for the spread attack Baylor has used with Shawn Bell at quarterback. It was the attack that the Bears used in upsetting Texas A&M in overtime. When Bell broke his left hand in the first half and Baylor had to go with Terrance Parks, a 6-4, 244-pound run/pass quarterback, they were prepared.
"We had planned to put him (Parks) in on the third series with a package that we had ready," said Baylor head coach Guy Morriss. "When Shawn wetn down we had to use him, and I thought he did a pretty good job."
With Parks at quarterback the Baylor offense went back to having the quarterback under center and back to more of a running attack featuring Parks on options, zone reads and quarterback sweeps. He also has a pretty good arm, and when the Cowboys were forced to use freshmen on the corners, Parks was able to take advantage of that by hitting Baylor's tall wide receivers.
4. Why were the deep passes open anytime Oklahoma State needed them?
Baylor has struggled against the pass this season. They aren't overly talented in the secondary. The Bears are also fairly easy to read as they only use about four coverages and they use two of those most of the time, including cover one with one safety back. The first touchdown the Cowboys ran a double post and forced the safety to make a decision to one receiver. The result was the Woods-to-Woods 53-yard touchdown connection getting the game off to a good start for the Cowboys. The passing numbers were modest as Donovan Woods hit 8-of-15 for 164 yards and two scores. However, three pass plays accounted for 124 of those yards.
"They played us so tight," said OSU head coach Les Miles. "They played the safeties so low that it was part of our game plan early and late, if given the opportunity."
They could have had more passing yards, but the running game was working so well.
5. What is the bowl situation for the Cowboys after Saturday's win?
Miles spent time after his news conference with the three bowl representatives that were at the game – The EV1 Houston Bowl, the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and the Master Card Alamo Bowl. The SBC Cotton Bowl had their eyes on the game as well. Getting the seventh win sets it up that the Cowboys should fall no farther than the Alamo Bowl.
Texas' comeback win over Kansas keeps the Longhorns alive for the BCS, but it will be interesting to see how the close call in Lawrence will play out in the polls and the BCS poll. It could hurt the Horns, and if they don't make the grade with the BCS then Texas will take the Cotton Bowl.
Texas A&M helped themselves with the overtime win over Texas Tech, but a season-ending loss to Texas will push the Aggies overall record to 7-4. A&M would still finish ahead of the Cowboys in the conference standings with a 5-3 record and a win over OSU, but if the Cowboys beat Texas Tech then the one extra win should make OSU more attractive to either the Cotton or Holiday Bowls.
It comes down to this: If OSU wins at Texas Tech, the Cowboys will either be in Dallas or San Diego. If they lose to Texas Tech, the Alamo Bowl will make the Cowboys their choice.
OSU-Baylor: Five Questions
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