OSU-Missouri: Five Questions

Five questions following Oklahoma State's 38-31 loss to Missouri on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.

1. What happened to the OSU defense to allow Missouri 549 yards of offense?
Let's start with the fact that Missouri's national ranked offensively is no fluke. Brad Smith is the real deal at quarterback and the switch to the no-huddle, spread offense has worked better and quicker for the Tigers because of Smith's experience and vast physical talents. Follow that with injuries to two of the Cowboys veteran linebackers - as they lost both Pagitte McGee and Lawrence Pinson early in the game. Missouri's frequent use of various option plays caused defensive coordinator Vance Bedford to back off his free-wheeling blitzing pressure tactics and forced the defense to play more assignment football. The result of a high-powered offense, inexperience at key positions, and a forced change in tactics helped Missouri's success. The Tigers, in fact, hit their average in points with 38 and came out slightly ahead of their average in yards with 549.

"That is the whole thing that coach Gundy harps on, second teamers have to pay attention because they are just one play away from being a starter so they have to come in and make the play," linebacker Paul Duren said of the injuries to the linebackers. "You have to give Missouri credit. Brad Smith is a great quarterback and we have to move on and get ready for next week. Reggie McNeal at (Texas) A&M is another good quarterback and we have to get ready to do a better job on that offense next week."

"He's a great quarterback and I can't take anything away from him or the Missouri offense," cornerback Daniel McLemore said. "They came out ready to play. They gave it their all, and they came out with a victory over us."

2. Did the OSU offense make a change in philosophy during the game?
It sure looked like it when the Cowboys, who opened up with a strong running game, came back in the third quarter and started running almost exclusively the I-formation. The truth is that the I-formation is part of the offense and has been dating back to last spring when it was first installed. Despite all the discussion of total conversion to the no-huddle, spread offense, the offense still has some multiplicity to it. The plan is to do what it takes to win, and with Missouri not as strong up front defensively it was apparent that the Cowboys offensive line - and the trio of fullback Shawn Willis, tailback Michael Hamilton and designated scorer Julius Crosslin - had an advantage against the Mizzou defense. In the second half the Cowboys rushed for 80 yards. Not a huge amount, but enough that play-action passing became effective. The run yardage from Willis, four carries for 45 yards, was especially valuable in all three of the OSU scoring drives.

"I was proud of our offense and the way they fought back being down two scores. I'm not so far removed from this game as a player that I don't understand that it's hard to be down by two scores and come back like that," said Gundy. "We thought there were some advantages after the first quarter and a half or so as to what they were doing defensively that it was better for us on offense to be in that formation," Gundy said of the I-formation.

"Other than when he fumbled Mike Hamilton was running hard and Shawn Willis is a veteran guy that is a tough runner and we thought it would take some pressure off of our wide receivers that are young. The combination of all those things called for us to put a fullback in the game and use him," Gundy added.

"That's just about taking what the defense gives you," wide receiver D'Juan Woods said of the heavy use of I-formation and the run. "Certain defenses give you certain looks and that was just taking advantage of it. Good scouting by our coaches."

"We were comfortable and we eliminated mistakes," backup quarterback Al Pena said. "Now we just need to get ready for Texas A&M."

"They said they might call my number," fullback Shawn Willis said. "Whenever they call me - whether it's blocking, running or catching - I'm there and ready and willing to do whatever they want me to do. It's always good to get my hands on the ball and do what they want me to do. We wanted to come back and turn around the emotion on offense from last week and the first half. All we needed was a spark."

3. Before the injury how did Reid play? Did he improve over the CU game?
He was better. Reid had better control of the offense and of his emotions. The passes he was sailing last week against Colorado were finding their target. He still had problems at times hanging onto the football. His biggest problem was holding onto the ball too long on pass plays. He was sacked five times for 34 yards in losses and also lost a fumble on a play where he failed to get the ball out in a timely manner. It was a two-yard sack in the fourth quarter in which Reid was injured. Overall, it was better, but there is still much more work to do. Unfortunately, because of the foot injury that progress may be delayed for a week or two.

"He was starting to get in a routine and made some throws," Gundy said of Reid. "I talked to him throughout the game and I can see where he's at as a player, just by how he responds to the question from myself and coach Fedora. "I think he was turning the corner a little bit. In fact, I know he was turning the corner."

4. Why were the Cowboys so successful on kickoff returns?
Give special teams coordinator and associate head coach Joe DeForest the credit. He saw the burst or blast kickoff formation that Missouri used, the players group together and then break out at the kick. DeForest decided to attack it like you would a tight punt formation with a punt return by forming a wall similar to wall set on a punt. It worked well nearly everytime. The Cowboys had six kickoff returns for 212 yards. That included returns of 53, 34, 55, and 43 yards before Missouri finally resorted to pooch or squib kicking.

"Coach Defo practiced with us all week and designed the scheme and said let's get out there and do it and get good field position for the offense," Daniel McLemore said. "That's what Grant and I did, just follow our blockers and make something happen."

5. What are the prospects for the rest of the season?
Well, the Cowboys are pretty banged up and they still have plenty of problems to shore up. But despite media predictions dooming the Cowboys to playing the rest of the season with little chance to win, the results in the Big 12 show that most of the games left on the OSU schedule present winnable opportunities. Texas A&M beats Baylor in overtime and gets squashed at Colorado 41-20 in a game the wasn't that close. Iowa State loses to Nebraska in overtime and loses at home to Baylor. Texas is too stout, but Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma are all of lesser status. There are no guarantees either way in at least five of the final six games on the Cowboys schedule.

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