OSU Prepares For Trip To Texas A&M

STILLWATER – In a perfect world, the Oklahoma State Cowboys would be ranked in the nation's top five, with an undefeated 4-0 record, and not have to be concerned about the health of preseason All-American's Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter and Perrish Cox when they travel to Texas A&M for Saturday's Big 12 Conference opener. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy and the Cowboy coaching staff don't live in a perfect world and the status of Bryant, Hunter, Cox and a handful of other players was on everyone's mind during Monday's weekly news conference.

The Cowboys, 3-1 and ranked 16th in this week's Associated Press poll (and No. 13 in the USA Today Top 25), will travel to College Station to face the Aggies, 3-1, for Saturday's nationally televised game (Fox Sports Network) at Kyle Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. (Central time).

Gundy refused to comment on the status of the injured Cowboys on Monday. But depending upon which injured players were able to use last week's bye week to heal, and who practices this week, the OSU lineup may look similar to Sept. 26 against Grambling State when Bryant, Hunter, Cox and defensive end Jeremiah Price all watched from the sideline in street clothes.

The good news for the Cowboys is that several young players got the opportunity to play in the 56-6 victory over Grambling. Dameron Fooks caught four passes for 81 yards, including two touchdowns. Hubert Anyiam had three receptions for 46 yards, and freshman Tracy Moore had two catches for 35 yards, including a 28-yard TD. True freshman Jeremy Smith set a school record for a player participating in his first ever game with 160 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Defensively, several backups got to see the field for the first time this season, including Horace Hubbard, Kenny Alexander and Walker Smith.

Gundy would love to know exactly what to expect when the Cowboys take the Kyle Stadium field on Saturday but there are still plenty of questions following the rash of early-season injuries (including a shoulder injury to Jeremy Smith last week during practice that is expected to sideline him for the season).

"I don't think there's any question that any time you sustain a certain number of injuries that you may not know exactly where you are as a team, but I have a good feel for the players on this team," Gundy said.

"I have a good feel for the players that are playing the game. In the last game, the number of reps that Hubert Anyiam was able to get … I didn't have a good of a feel for him as I did Dez (Bryant). I don't think that's ever going to change. We have confidence in the players that are on the field, and the plays that we're giving them to execute on Saturday.

"I don't think it would be fair for me to stand up here and say that I have as much confidence in a first-year player as I do a veteran player because that's never going to feel that way, or be that way. But I think we give them plays that we feel they can execute and have success on Saturday, and ask them to play hard."

The 6-foot-1, 268-pound Price is expected to return to action for the first time since suffering a broken hand in the Houston game (Sept. 12) and middle linebacker Donald Booker continues to get more comfortable since taking over for Orie Lemon (season-ending ACL injury).

But the Cowboys will face a tough challenge from a Texas A&M offense that ranks second nationally in total offense (545 yards per game), fifth in passing offense (334 yards), and 15th in rushing offense (211 yards).

"They're as fastball, speedball, as you can get. In watching them on tape, they are trying to play very, very fast," Gundy says. "They want to play very fast. They want to keep the defense on the run, (and) limit substitutions. They're certainly wanting to play with a lot of pressure, and just continue at full speed."

But Gundy likes the improvement that he's seen from his defense, which ranks 58th in total defense (351 yards per game), 44th in rushing defense (118 yards) and 83rd in passing defense (233).

"I think anytime that you gain experience in the system you're going to play better. Being healthy helps a lot. I think rotating players in, and being able to rotate defensive linemen and safeties will contribute. We feel good about our system. We feel good about our players. We just have to continue to get better at it," the Oklahoma State head coach added.

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