Pena Gets His Chance

STILLWATER – The one thing that every coach asks a backup quarterback to do is not to look like a backup. It's a tough chore – take a small percentage of the reps in practice and then if the starting quarterback goes down you have to come in and play as if you had all the practice during the week. It's no easy accomplishment.

Most of the time the expectations of the fans are greater as they often believe the answer to offensive stagnation is a change at quarterback. That's why second team quarterbacks are often called the most popular player on the team.

There was some talk around the water fountain and the coffee pot this past week that Al Pena should have come in and spelled a struggling Bobby Reid last week in the 34-0 loss to Colorado. Instead, head coach Mike Gundy, along with offensive coordinator Larry Fedora, felt it was important to get Reid every snap they possibly could. Reid was playing better against Missouri, but there was no choice but to insert Pena when Reid limped off the field with a foot injury that eventually led to him being carted upstairs to be X-rayed.

In came Pena, and the sophomore out of Leander, Texas, by way of a short stay at Georgia Tech, looked like he'd been out there a lot more than he had (which includes just 11 previous pass attempts that came a year ago in a combination of a two-minute drive against SMU, a few passes against Iowa State, and some mop up duty against Texas Tech).

Pena's first pass was a 42-yard well placed connection with freshman wide receiver Ricky Price. Later, after missing a wide open D'Juan Woods in the right corner of the end zone, on fourth down Pena threw up a fade to Woods in the left corner of the end zone that both players said is something they have done in practice many times.

"That wasn't new to Al Pena. We throw those routes every day in practice," said Woods. "Don't be surprised because Al has great ability."

Pena said, "We work on that fade route everyday in practice and I get to throw it to D'Juan every day and felt just like practice. Just go out there calm and hit the fade."

Head coach Mike Gundy said he was happy with the way Pena responded to his call to duty. A player that received few reps in August, while Reid and Donovan Woods battled for and shared the quarterback job, the reps increased for Pena once Reid was named the starter and Woods moved to safety. But Pena still doesn't get a lot of work.

"Al doesn't get a lot of reps and he has to pay attention to pick up on what he needs to know to be ready," said Gundy. "He came out and played well. It was obvious that he has ability and he was calm and that will get a lot done right there."

Pena's day didn't finish on a high note, Oklahoma State had a chance for a last minute drive for the tie or, according to Gundy, the win because he planned to go for two. Instead, Pena was chased out of the pocket and trying to throw the ball out of bounds was picked off by Missouri corner David Overstreet.

"I was trying to throw out of bounds," Pena said of the pick. "I was kind of fading away from the rush and trying to throw it as hard as I could. I looked up and saw it was a pick. I thought it was going to go out of bounds. I should have throw it harder."

Now it appears that the fans cheering for Pena will get a chance to see how he can do, and the Cowboys will have their third starting quarterback of the season. Reid is doubtful for the game next Saturday at Texas A&M and could possibly miss two games. Al Pena has his chance and like a good backup he says he is ready.

"I was comfortable," said Pena. "Backup quarterbacks tend to struggle because they don't pay attention in practice. You just have to get those mental reps because you aren't going to get the physical reps and I felt prepared and was ready to go out and perform."

"I was real proud of him and I thought he did great," said fellow backup quarterback Jamie Beeghley. "Anytime you are thrown into the fire like that it's really a good opportunity for you. I hope Bobby gets back quickly, but Al is very capable of coming in there when we need him. He's proven that."

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