Robert Allen's Cowboy Football Report

Hopefully,a few people in the stands noticed the special guests that joined the Oklahoma State coaches and players in singing the alma mater after Saturday night's win over Grambling. Dez Bryant had one of the youngsters in his arms. Calvin Long of Blanchard, Grant Naberhaus of Lawton, Cole Burke of Tulsa, Coby Henrichs of Piedmont, and Caycen Tackett of Cushing were there as Special Spectators.

It's an organization that provides tickets and special experiences to college athletic events for youngsters that have or are fighting serious illness. Oklahoma State and head coach Mike Gundy, his staff and players have participated for several years and Gundy will continue to do so whenever asked.

"I think anytime you have an opportunity to make the day better for anybody, and especially young people, children that are going through a difficult time. Some of these young people are going through cancer treatments and we're just lucky that it is important for them to be a part of our game day," Gundy said.

"Our players have compassion. I know I do, and I think anybody that has young people at home has compassion for any young person that is having a difficult time and doesn't have it as fortunate as some people do. For us to have an opportunity to make their day better, for us to put a smile on their face, you can't put a price on it. It is awesome.

"We're responsible as coaches, and our players are responsible in the situation they are in that we help other people out," continued Gundy. "There is not enough of that going on in society right now. It's really a neat deal to see those kids smile and to be a part of that. We will always do that, to do everything we can to help young people."

A special recognition goes out to Danielle Clary on the football staff who helped out. Also Kendria Cost of OSU Coaches vs. Cancer, Jenny Rodgers of Cavett Kids Foundation, and Michelle Matheson from Stillwater National Bank for helping to make the day special.

Gundy presented the game ball from the win over Grambling to 6-year-old Caycen Tackett.

GUNDY'S THOUGHTS
If there was ever a no-brainer in covering Oklahoma State football it is this – the open week on the schedule could not have come at a better time. Right coach?

"It really comes at a great time for us," said Gundy. "It has been a little unusual this year from the standpoint of how many guys we've had with bumps and bruises. It's a good time for our team to rest.

"We're debating right now whether to practice two or three times. We are pretty firm believers that this is still college football and you have to get the guys out there and work them and try to get the other guys healthy. Hopefully, we'll make the right decisions this week and keep our team prepared and work some of the younger guys and give some of the other players opportunities to get back to where we were when we started this thing."

Gundy has continued to compliment the defense, as he should. There have been fewer injuries on that side of the ball and the defense has been the heavy in several games this season such as the opening win over Georgia, the win over Rice, and you'd have to rate last week's win over Grambing as good for both sides of the ball.

One unit that has come under scrutiny this season after being considered a strong force the past couple of seasons is the offensive line. Left tackle Russell Okung, center Andrew Lewis, and right tackle Brady Bond all returned but the guard positions, really right guard, have had a revolving door the first few games.

"They played better in this last game but they still have a ways to go," said Gundy. "Our guard play has continued to improve each week. We are playing a freshman (Lane Taylor) who is showing signs of having a great future here. Then we are playing a veteran guy in Noah Franklin, who is playing better but he just hasn't had that many reps.

"They continue to get better and improve. That's one of the things we talked about, even though we have an open week, it is very important that those guys have quality practices so we can improve."

That showed with 321 yards rushing and 587 yards of total offense. The passing game wasn't bad either with 266 yards and 17-of-23 combined by Zac Robinson and Brandon Weeden. There were a season-high nine different receivers in the game that caught a pass including Dameron Fooks with four, Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam with three, and freshman Tracy Moore with a pair.

"It's always an advantage when multiple players catch the football and defensive coaches break down tape and are going to be very aware of who the playmakers are and where the ball is going," said Gundy. "If you can spread it around it is a big advantage for the offense."

Yes, a nice advantage for the offense that hopefully they can build upon.

BACKUP QUARTERBACKS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN
You remember the squeaky voiced Cindy Lauper squealing "girls just want to have fun?" Well, I can't see Oklahoma State backup quarterback Brandon Weeden in that role, but he certainly came out of his most extensive playing experience on Saturday as a Cowboy with a similar attitude to the singer/songwriter Lauper. "It was a blast," said Weeden. "I got to play last year a little bit, but this time I got to play quite a bit and throw the ball around a little bit. It gives our starters a break and was great to get guys like Jeremy Smith and myself and all the receivers a chance to make some plays.

"We put the reps in during the week, practice all the time, and don't always get to experience it on Saturday. The offensive line gets some criticism but they played really well when I was in there."

Weeden was really expecting to get a series or two in the fourth quarter after Alex Cate, who won the battle for number two in camp, got his playing time. However, Cate took off on a scramble on his first play in the game and got knocked into a different area code by the Grambling defense. He tried to get up but was obviously whoosy and went back down as the Cowboy medical staff came out to help.

"It was very, very unfortunate," said Weeden. "Alex and I are good buddies and I hate to see it happen. But unfortunately it is the nature of the beast in this game."

Weeden ended up playing the entire second half hitting 4-of-7 passing with one interception and two touchdowns, a 28-yard strike to Moore and a 19-yard pass to Fooks. His most impressive pass may have been an earlier pass to Fooks that was nullified by a penalty. On the sidelines Zac Robinson enjoyed being a spectator and seeing his friend play.

"That was our goal all week to try and get things done by haltime so we could get some guys in there that don't get to play as much, and fortunately we did enough in the first half so we could see guys like Brandon and Jeremy Smith make some plays and that was fun to see," said starting Robinson.

"He made some good plays for us the other day," evaluated Gundy on Weeden's play. "He made some mistakes and it was the first time he'd really been in there and had an opportunity to run the offense. He did some really good things but he hasn't arrived yet. But we were encouraged by his ability to throw the ball."

Weeden, who got married this summer and is 26 years old, played pro baseball in the Yankees, Dodgers, and Royals organizations, but admitted that he got a little nervous.

"Once you complete that first pass you get comfortable and focus on what you have to do," said Weeden. "You know it was nice to get out there and play with these guys that I practice with every day. It was nice to have fun. You know sometimes we get away from having fun and I think everybody went out on Saturday and had fun and we played real well."

See, backup quarterbacks just wanna have fun too.

HEALTH ISSUES
There are still plenty and I know fans want to know which of the missing wounded will be ready for the conference opener on Oct. 10 versus Texas A&M. Gundy was asked that question Monday by an A&M reporter on the Big 12 Conference call.

"We're not going to talk about injuries with anybody. We never would," answered Gundy. "Those guys won't do much this week. We want them to sit and we may let them run some toward the end of the week, but for the most part we want to try to get them as fresh as we can."

Gundy did clarify one position with regard to injury for this week. The backup quarterback spot will be manned by Brandon Weeden for now.

"Alex Cate took a shot to the head the other night and because of that Brandon (Weeden) will work at the two spot," said Gundy when asked.

Okay as for the missing wounded, there is no way to know for sure, but my guess is that wide receiver Dez Bryant (hamstring) and cornerback Perrish Cox (shoulder) will be back for the Aggies. Running back Kendall Hunter (foot) could be back, but could also miss A&M. That's a tough read for somebody on the outside. Meanwhile, defensive end Jeremiah Price has said he will be back starting with practice this week.

I TOLD YOU SO
There are two things I told you last week with conviction. One was that Houston was going to beat Texas Tech. Former Cowboy offensive guard Sam Mayes did not listen to me ... or should I say refused to listen. As a result Sam will be serving up pizza for me and my listeners in the form of a large Hideaway supreme on Wednesday.

The other thing I told you was that running back Jeremy Smith was breaking out of redshirt and get ready because this kid could be a star. He has standout written all over him. The head coach had noticed.

"He has shown signs for the last three weeks as being a player that has enough ability to compete at this level very early in his career," said Gundy. "He is very hungry and has a great work ethic. I think the most important thing is that he seems to be physical enough to compete at this level.

"He is mature and is very strong as a freshman. For that reason it gave us the opportunity to play him. We don't feel you can have enough backs once you move into conference play. In this league it is hard to keep backs healthy. We'd love to keep two healthy all year long but the chances of that happening aren't real good so we felt we needed to play him."

Smith had the most yards ever gained in a game by a freshman running back making his debut as he carried 15 times for 160 yards. He also had a five-yard touchdown run. Gundy was asked if he could compare his style to another player in the Tailback U galaxy of runners.

"A lot like Vernand Morency. He is similar to him at a young stage," answered Gundy. "Vernand came in here and had a lot of shake and was strong and I would say that he is very similar to the way Vernand used to run."

Not a bad comparison, but I'll bet Smith runs past Morency's totals in a hurry.

TV PREDICTIONS
We now know that the OSU at Texas A&M game will be on FSN at 11:30 am on Oct. 10. The question is how many of the Cowboys other seven games will be on the tube.

We know that the Colorado game on Thursday, Nov. 19, is on ESPN. We know that Bedlam on Nov. 28 will make its way onto either ABC or FSN.

Now for the rest here is how it shapes up.

Oct. 17 ( Homecoming, Missouri at OSU): OU-Texas is on ABC that morning. OSU could make an afternoon ABC or a FSN night-time appearance. This game will be on TV.

Oct. 24 (OSU at Baylor): At one time this looked destined for television, but with Texas at Missouri, Oklahoma at Kansas, and Texas Tech at Nebraska that same day, this game could go without.

Oct. 31 (Texas at OSU): The only other really good Big 12 offering is Kansas at Texas Tech. Mark this down as prime-time ABC.

Nov. 7 (OSU at Iowa State): OU at Nebraska is the flagship game of the day but if OSU is still winning this game has merit. Ames can be a tough place to play.

Nov. 14 (Texas Tech at OSU): This rates either afternoon ABC or Fox 6 p.m. exposure.

MY THOUGHTS
Don't give the Grambling game more credit than it deserves, but don't cheat it either. The 56-6 win made a lot of people feel better and they got the treat of watching the Grambling band do their thing. The Tigers football team was what they were supposed to be, an average, maybe a little above average, FCS team.

The Cowboys were able to rest the injured and still get a win. The win was the kind that allows everybody to play. For top backups that means adding experience and developing confidence, two facets that could come into play when a player is asked later to make a play against Texas or at Oklahoma.

The wide receivers, especially, had to get some real good out of the game. Now for the deep reserves that played, scout team guys, all that does is make their attitude soar, which in turn gets them to play even more enthused in practice. That is also very good.

Don't give the Grambling game more credit than deserved, but darn sure don't short change it either.

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