One Side Needs To Help The Other

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Cowboys have struggled all season to get on the same page. Special teams have had breakdowns, like the blocked extra point Saturday and the fumbled kickoff on the pooch kickoff that bounced off the top of helmet of Shawn Willis. However, the special units have been the most consistent. If the offense and defense had only been that consistent all season the Cowboys would be better than 3-3 and would feel much better about themselves than they do today.

The first three games the defense played the heavy role while the offense played two quarterbacks, worked a new offense and then settled on redshirt freshman Bobby Reid. The last two games the offense has shown signs of life, but have turned the ball over and the defense has lost two of its linebackers and its edge. In College Station, at a rowdy Kyle Field on Saturday against a similarly beat up Texas A&M team the offense and defense both contributed generously to a butt kicking. The Aggies held a party and the Cowboys brought all the favors and left with little to feel good about.

It started in the first quarter as A&M drove 65 yards after the opening kickoff. But the defense did hold in the red zone and the Aggies kicked a field goal for a 3-0 lead. Then on the Cowboys first play on offense they tried for a deep ball, backup quarterback Al Pena, subbing for injured Bobby Reid who didn't even make the trip, held the ball too long. On the blitz, defensive back Devin Gregg knocked the ball loose from Pena and defensive end Chris Harrington recovered. Nine plays later freshman power back Jovorskie Lane bulled in from six yards out to make it 10-0.

The next series featured the Cowboys' first 1st down, but then there were 27 yards lost on a pair of sacks. After the punt A&M quarterback Reggie McNeil hit Chad Schroeder on a big time pass and catch down to the 1-yard line and Lane finished the drive from there to make it 17-0.

Then came the pooch kickoff that hit Willis in the head and A&M recovered leading to a career best 45-yard field goal by Aggie kicker Todd Pegram. Texas A&M led 20-0, and moments later the first quarter ended with OSU having run 8 plays to the Aggies 24. A&M had 139 yards of offense to the Cowboys -11.

"We had too many turnovers and then we weren't fundamentally sound on defending the option. We gave up way too many yards on the option," said OSU head coach Mike Gundy seemingly focused on the defense and McNeal's 126 yards of total offense in the first 15 minutes. "They cracked it some and gave us a different look, we couldn't get adjusted and we couldn't get guys up the field to be pitch responsible and quarterback responsible on the option. The worst thing we could have done, for whatever reason, is let him (Reggie McNeal) get on a roll, and he's a good player and when he gets hot and gets in a rhythm it can be a long day for you. That's exactly what happened. McNeal got going and then we turned the ball over way too many times on offense."

The Cowboys bounced back in the second quarter - driving 51 yards keyed by a 31-yard pass from Pena to D'Juan Woods setting up a 32-yard Bruce Redden field goal. After another Aggie touchdown the Cowboys scored two touchdowns of their own, a five-yard pass from Pena to fullback John Johnson and a two-yard Julius Crosslin scoring run. The 17 points represented the highest scoring quarter this season by the Cowboys and they had fought back.

However, after getting the ball first in the second half, the Cowboys drove down the field only to throw the first of four second half interceptions, this one in the end zone to a well covered D'Juan Woods. A&M, in a preview of the entire second half, drove the ball 98 yards after the interception finishing with a seven-yard pass from McNeal to Chris Alexander. Lane had a 39-yard run and McNeal had an 18-yard keeper on the drive. A quick fast forward skipping a lot of misery for the guys in orange and you have the final of 62-23.

"It's part of a growth period we're going through with this football team," Gundy said calmly. "We should have played better. I said this to the media, that we got outcoached, we got outplayed, and they had better schemes than we did. We didn't do a good job of preparing them, and at the start we let the atmosphere and being on the road effect us and we turned the ball over and gave up some big plays, then we fought back and realized it was OK and then we couldn't recover. We couldn't stop McNeal and we turned the ball over repeatedly when we had chances to get back into it. We didn't give ourselves a chance.

"We have to get back to the drawing board," Gundy continued. "There are a lot of young players on this team, and that's not an excuse. They have to play better than that. Those guys have to continue to practice and work on their fundamentals and tackle, block, throw and catch, run, work hard, and continue to get better each week. This will be tough for them. When you get your butt kicked like that it is a real gut check. You have to reach down and find something inside that will push you to get better for next week."

"I don't think they out schemed us," said defensive end Nate Peterson. "We just got whooped."

It's all a guess as to whether Bobby Reid will be back for Iowa State. If he isn't Al Pena isn't bad and should be better after learning a lot, while also performing well at times. He did move the offense and Mike Hamilton had his best game. The defense will get middle linebacker Lawrence Pinson back as he tried to warm up before the game and just couldn't go. It's fall break on Monday and Tuesday and the Cowboys can focus on football and the Cyclones, who after an overtime loss at Missouri are also reeling with three straight losses in Big 12 play.

"We'll try to do some of that, but one thing you have to be careful of when you have a young football team is during the middle to the latter part of the season is when they get swamped mentally and physically," said Gundy. "As a staff we'll have to be careful of getting them the work they need but not overworking them or we won't have anything left the last three or four games of the season.

There are some bumps and bruises but it goes beyond that when you are playing as many young freshmen, sophomores, and first year guys that we are. They become mentally fatigued and they have such a load in the classroom right now, so all those things we have to take into account with our practice time. To answer your question we should be able to get some videotape watched and be better prepared."

It's easy right now to blame the coaches, blame the players ... blame them all. However, for the Cowboys right now the problems are plenty and obvious. More time on solutions is the better answer and it's a race to see which side of the ball can help out the other first. This team has never developed confidence this season, except on field goals and kickoff returns. It's time for some confidence on offense or defense to develop. Iowa State is a much better opportunity than Texas and Texas Tech in the next two games. In fact, a little confidence is needed before the Horns and Raiders come to Boone Pickens Stadium.

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