Miles: Time to Heal

Les Miles has always been one of those coaches that likes to build an off week or two into the schedule. Miles is almost adamant about having an off week between the end of nonconference play and the first Big 12 game. He prefers the second vacant Saturday come late in the season, and the situation the 23rd-ranked Cowboys are in right now is the reason why.

Oklahoma State cruised past Baylor with a late scoring explosion 49-21 on Saturday. As Miles spoke with the regular beat reporters late Sunday afternoon four of the first five questions dealt with the health of his team. Both sides of the ball and special teams all have key performers missing and Miles believes most of them will return for duty against Texas Tech on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the regular season finale. The extra week also will allow the Cowboys to thoroughly game plan for the most perplexing offense in the Big 12, Mike Leach's Red Raiders.

"I'm optimistic on the whole crew," said Miles when asked how many of the missing players from the Baylor game would be back for the game with Texas Tech. That includes injured tailback Vernand Morency.

"Pregame," said Miles when asked when he made the decision not to play the second-leading ball carrier in the Big 12. "It's an accumulation, that's all," added Miles of the medical reasons or injuries that kept Morency on the sidelines. He suited up and warmed up, but stayed on the bench huddled up during the game.

"I think he would have liked to have an opportunity at those carries considering how well he did against them (Baylor) last year. He agreed, absolutely (with not playing)."

Miles added that when Seymore Shaw came out early in the game for a play, and for a moment it looked like he might be sidelined, the opportunity for Morency to play could have occurred. However, Shaw wasn't hurt seriously, and went on to lead an attack that rushed for 305 yards. Shaw had 172 yards and a 15-yard touchdown on 30 carries.

"I want you to know that we are very fortunate to have quality tailbacks," said Miles. "I never look at Seymore Shaw when he goes out there as a backup. Those were quality, quality snaps (against Baylor)."

While Shaw did a good job subbing for Morency on offense, Miles also saw some good out of the variety of backups, some true freshmen who were forced to play on defense in the win over the Bears.

"I know there were a lot of new guys out there playing on key snaps," said Miles of the kiddie brigade on defense in the second half. "Those are all things you have to deal with week in and week out."

In the second half the Cowboys had redshirt freshman Andre Alexander and true freshman Martel Van Zant at the corners. Sophomore Grant Jones and backup junior Jamar Ransom at safeties, and on the line true freshman defensive tackle Walter Thomas and true freshman defensive end Maurice Cummings were getting snaps.

"I thought Grant Jones played pretty well," said Miles of Jones who had his first career interception and five tackles. "It was nice to see him play that way. I thought Mo Cummings played hard when he was in there."

The injury list on defense included defensive end Victor DeGrate (ankle), defensive end Jerry Don Bray (knee), cornerback Robert Jones (mild concussion), cornerback Darrent Williams (right arm) and strong safety Vernon Grant (stomach). Neither DeGrate nor Williams played at all, but Miles expects everyone back for Texas Tech, maybe even Darrent Williams.

 "His arm was not injured further in the Texas game," said Miles of the All-Big 12 caliber cornerback and punt returner. "Hopefully over the next two weeks the healing process will be more significant. It is not a definite, but a wait and see (situation)."

 The Cowboys will take Monday off and then practice hard on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They will have a conditioning workout early Friday morning and then have off until Sunday night's practice. The Thanksgiving week will be a regular work week leading up to the Saturday game that kicks off at 2:30 p.m. in Jones SBC Stadium. This upcoming week will also be devoted to studying Texas Tech extensively and especially on offense where Miles feels they've changed some.

"They have the ability to throw and run the football, and they are more balanced than they have been," said Miles. "(Sonny) Cumbie is as good as the last two quarterbacks they've had and they run the ball better. They operate within the philosophy of the spread, and force every defense I know to make adjustments including ours."

Miles agreed with one reporter that you don't want them to throw the ball over you. You want to put them in positions where they have to throw the ball in predictable long yardage situations. OSU has used six defensive backs against Tech quite often, but Miles didn't confirm or deny that they might use that ploy again.

"To stop that offense or any other high powered offense the more snaps you make the offense take, the greater the opportunity the defense has to stop them."

Running back Taurean Henderson has made it a more difficult proposition. Henderson is averaging 71 yards a game and 5.5 yards a carry. Cumbie, at quarterback, leads the nation in passing, averaging 390 yards a game. The beat up Cowboy defense is sixth in the Big 12 in pass defense allowing 219.9 yards a game and they have allowed 256 yards passing over the last three games. Having all your players back for the assault Texas Tech brings is simply a must. It's a good time for an off week.

GoPokes Top Stories