Cowboy Football: Lots Of Special Teams Work

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys went through a two-hour practice inside Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday afternoon starting at 1:30 p.m. and finishing up at around 3:30 p.m.

During part of that practice, while the sun stayed behind the overcast sky keeping things somewhat cool, just inside Gallagher-Iba Arena the Cowgirls were displaying hot shooting in downing Mercer to go 8-2 on the season. Several Cowboy players ran down to catch the final minutes of the game following practice.

The practice itself was more of the same, a lot of work by the Cowboys on their game plan against Ole Miss, and looks provided by the scout teams on both sides of the ball.

The Oklahoma State quarterbacks goofed around a little by switching green practice jerseys. Zac Robinson was wearing Brandon Weeden's number 4, and Weeden was sporting Brayden Stringer's number 17. It was all in fun as the practices in Stillwater will continue on Monday after an off day on Sunday.

There was also a lengthy special teams period at the beginning of practice. Special teams should be a critical factor in the 74th annual Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys feature a past All-American kick returner in Perrish Cox that most recently took a punt to the house against Colorado.

While the Cowboys have excelled in special teams much of the season there have been some breakdowns with a watering down of personnel and that happened in the last game at Oklahoma.

Mississippi is a good special teams squad as they have an excellent kicker in former Putnam City North standout Joshua Shene, punter Tyler Campbell is averaging 43.6 yards per punt, Jesse Grandy is a dynamic kick returner with a 25.7 average, and Marshay Green is steady on punt returns. The cover units are solid and the Rebels have blocked three field goals in the last four games.

"They are a very good team in special teams," said Cowboys associate head coach and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest. "They do things sound and then will take some shots in the kicking game. We are going to be healthier and that will help. We are also getting plenty of work in too. I'd like to see us make a few plays in special teams that tilt the game our way."

The defense has been solid for the Cowboys and a lot of college fans and experts like the match up with the Cowboys stout run defense allowing just 87.7 yards a game and the Ole Miss run game with Dexter McCluster averaging, as a team, 182.8 yards a game. The defense takes pride in that but they also realize that Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead, just a junior, is an NFL prospect in a conference full of good quarterbacks.

"I think he compares very well with them (best quarterbacks in the SEC), and I'm sure he is ranked in the top five in the (NFL) Draft," said Cowboys senior star linebacker Andre Sexton.

"I know he started out at Texas and then transferred over there. He has all the capabilities of being one of those type quarterbacks and we have to get to him early. Really, what we have to do is stop their running back and the running game because they do such a great job of running it down your throats, between the tackles, and being physical," Sexton added.

Snead will line up some at wide receiver when the Rebels line up in a Houston Nutt staple, at Mississippi it is the Wild Rebel formation.

"Really, you just have to play your fundamentals and be fundamentally sound," added Sexton. "You know it really is just a different guy carrying the ball and you have to stay gap sound and rely on your fundamentals to stop it. You can't start worrying about other things like the personnel that they have in the backfield and the motion.

"You have to worry about doing your job and not try to do someone elses. Rice ran it and hurt us with it in the red zone, so it will be a focal point for us in the practices leading up to the game."

McCluster is usually the wild Rebel and he can throw as he has one touchdown pass on the season, so you have to respect it. That makes it really effective.

The Cowboys take Sunday off and will get back to practice on Monday afternoon. Monday and Tuesday are the last two Cotton Bowl practices in Stillwater before the team breaks for Christmas. They will gather in Dallas for bowl week practice and activities on Dec. 26.

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