Robert Allen's Cowboy Football Report Executive Editor Robert Allen offers a variety of thoughts and opinions leading up to Oklahoma State's game Saturday night against Missouri.

Strange Mutual Admiration Society
The Oklahoma State and Missouri football series has been a strange bird dating back to 1981 for me as the Cowboys won a 16-12 battle in the mud and the gunk of Faurot Field. Harry Roberts returned a kickoff the distance that day. Roberts was one of the speedier defensive ends in Cowboy history.

Other personal highlights for me include the first night game in Boone Pickens Stadium (then Lewis Field) history in 1986 when the Cowboys won the early December contest under Musco lighting,10-6, on ESPN.

In the last 20 meetings between the two teams, 10 of those games have been won by the road team, including an overtime win engineered by quarterback Tone' Jones in Columbia in 1995. Current Missouri coach Gary Pinkel got his first Big 12 win in a double overtime win in 2001.

Speaking of Pinkel, he and Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy seem to get along at Big 12 Conference coaches functions and have a healthy respect for each other's programs.

"Oklahoma State is a real good football team," said Pinkel at the Missouri press conference this week. "Mike Gundy is doing a real good job building that football team. They are good on both sides of the ball. It's a great, intense place to play, like all places in the Big 12. We're going to work hard, try to improve as a football team. I think any time you come out of a win or loss, you really approach it the same way; find out what you have to do to get better. And continuously play better each week."

Gundy said of the Tigers, "They're a very good football team. This will be a great challenge for us in all phases. Missouri moves the ball offensively, their system hasn't changed much. Their quarterback is making plays; obviously he's much bigger size-wise than Chase Daniel was. They are using the same system. They've got two receivers and those guys are making plays for them. They spread the ball out.

"Defensively, they tackle very well. There are some new guys up front compared to what they had last year. Some of their younger players, in our opinion, have developed and are good football players up front. Obviously, Sean Weatherspoon is a really, really good football player. He's one of the best we've seen in years. This will be a great challenge for us."

It even spreads to the players as they aren't loading up each others bulletin boards.

"They have players that can play that were behind those guys last year," said Cowboys defensive tackle Swanson Miller when asked if Missouri is as good as the Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin team of a year ago. "They're all just as skilled and they're just as able to do what they did last year."

"They're a good football team," said Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert of the Cowboys. "They're physical, and they're fast, and it should be a good game."

The Ghost of Dez
As Dez Bryant prepares to fight for his reinstatement from the NCAA, and really the fight is throwing himself on the mercy of the enforcement staff and the eligibility committee, the Missouri Tigers aren't banking on Dez being in street clothes. The Tigers talked about Dez, and from the head coach on down said they will still prepare as if number 1 will be out there catching passes.

"I think Dez Bryant, we will assume he will play," said Pinkel. "I have to say, I thought their players did real well against Texas A&M. They threw for 250 yards. But I think it's a good idea to prepare for the best players. Also, prepare for players who might play or are probable is smart. Obviously the system is important but if you have great players in certain positions you have to be aware of that."

"We've got to prepare like they're going to play him, because we don't know what's going on," said Missouri star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. "We're not really sure what's going on with [Dez] Bryant, so we'll see how that plays out, but from a defensive standpoint we've just got to prepare like their best players are going to be playing. If not, we'll just go out there and play our game the same way."

"He's not just a number," said Missouri cornerback Kevin Rutland. "When a guy is that explosive and has that kind of talent, you can't say you're not worried about him. We key in on him, so you definitely have to up your game when he's playing, but if he doesn't play we won't slack in our preparation. We'll still go out there and practice just as hard. You can't just worry about one player and think that he'll be the only one to get you, because he won't be."

Gundy would tell the Tigers not to bother because he seems convinced that Dez will not play this week, although he is hopeful Dez will be back at some time. Gundy does like his young batch of receivers that have answered the call in Bryant's absence.

"We've got a number of guys that can step up and make some plays," said Gundy. "They've made some catches at crucial times. They are a long way from arriving. They've got a long way ahead of them and a lot of work to do. We're very encouraged with their effort."

"Tracy Moore has been doing well," said young wide receiver Justin Blackmon. "Dameron Fooks, Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam; everyone's been stepping up and doing their part. That's what we needed to do."

The Concern of Gabbert's Gam
Okay, we're talking about the Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert's ankle. It's not like he's a WWII pin up girl. Gabbert was off to a great start on the season completing more than 60 percent of his passes with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

However, after his first half ankle sprain against Nebraska he started throwing the ball right at Husker defenders and after a couple of drops they started catching it. Gabbert had back to back interceptions in the game. The game started the week in Vegas off the board because of Gabbert and the uncertainty of whether he would play. Missouri has questionable depth at quarterback.

"It can be difficult," said Pinkel of the ankle injury for his quarterback. "Gabbert's right foot is his plant foot. If you're throwing a football and you're right handed, your right foot is what you drive off of. You push everything off that that foot. So you make some adjustments and weight transfers, and adjust your drop a little bit. Maybe not taking as big of steps and putting pressure on it as you come back. It was a pretty courageous effort on his part.

"How we make decisions there, the medical staff really makes most of the decisions first and they counsel and communicate with the player. Then we say okay they are ready to play, but are they functional? We have to do that with every player. That's our call with Coach [David] Yost, but first the medical staff with the player. I think it was very difficult conditions offensively that day anyways, so I think it was more difficult for him, not doubt about that with that ankle injury."

Gabbert downplayed the injury and also the repeated hits he took from Ndamukong Suh and the Husker defensive line.

"You take some shots. It's a football game," said the Tigers signal caller. "It's a physical sport, so I was sore but it was nothing out of the ordinary."

Defenses Catching Up
Gundy said in reviewing video each week, not only of the Cowboys games but also the cross over video of opponents going against other teams in the league, that he thinks defenses may actually be making inroads to slowing down spread offenses.

"Five years ago, we talked about zone blitzes, running defenses and three years ago we talked about offenses spreading people out and getting into space and they had the advantage," said Gundy. "I think now, defenses are back to catching up. We're turning full circle again. I think defenses are playing smarter with some of the inside stunts and twists and disguising of coverage. In my opinion, defenses are now starting to play a little catch-up. I don't necessarily relate that to Missouri or A&M, it's just all across the country."

What Does an 8:15 Start Mean?
Not much really. The players will get to sleep just a little later and the team will have an extra walk through or two.

"All we can do is back everything up one hour," said Gundy who will count on director of football operations Mack Butler and assistant director Dale Patterson to map out the day. "That's all you can do. That discussion comes up all the time. The easiest thing to do is carry on like we would every other week, but back everything up on hour on Saturday."

"I don't know how I'm going to do it because we haven't played at 8:15 yet," said Cowboys safety Victor Johnson. "I guess I'm just going to listen to all my music. I'm going to have to download some more. I'll be really ready though just because I'm going to be so anxious to play the game."

Welcome Alumni and Welcome Recruits!
Yes welcome to all alumni but be on the look out for a pair of football official visitors. We know that offensive and defensive lineman Antonio Ford of Pahokee, Fla., will be making his official visit and will arrive sometime midday on Saturday. There is a good chance that defensive tackle prospect Richard Ash will be making the trip to Stillwater as well.

As always, a number of local players and prospects will be invited and the Cowboys will be hoping they see the face of Southmoore tight end-defensive end Austin Haywood in the crowd. Haywood is a late discovery and a major player that may be the best prospect physically in the state. With the de-commitment of Columbia, Mo. defensive end Chase Rome, Haywood would be a potentially bump up as a replacement in the class.

GoPokes Top Stories