OU-Beating Cowboys Look For Sequel In Austin

Just for grins, let&#146;s push the &#145;play&#146; button on our collective consciousness and return to the waning moments of an Owen Field football game in Norman, Oklahoma last November 24 in which the outcome could not have been more improbable. All a fourth-ranked Sooner squad had to do to cement its second straight Big 12 Championship game appearance is win at home against the <I>other</I> state school whose lone league triumph all season was at Baylor.

If you hit the rewind button on your mental remote control, you’ll see freshman Oklahoma State QB Josh Fields entering the game on the fourth offensive series and, fueled by a Cowboy defense that intercepted three passes and held the Sooners to zero yards rushing on 27 attempts, who then no doubt realized with 7:31 remaining that all he had to do to spring the year’s biggest upset was something the offense had not done all day: score a touchdown.

The ghosts of seasons past surely surfaced, for the Cowboys had emerged victorious but 15 times in 99 attempts. But facing a third-and-7 from the OU 45, Fields hurls the ball to WR/PR T. Davis-Bryant who makes the grab in front of Sooner SS Roy Williams before galloping 31 yards. Then, with less than 100 ticks on the game clock, Fields hits WR Rashaun Woods for the game-winning touchdown.

Final Score: Oklahoma State 16, Oklahoma 13.

Remember, that was just for grins. Now it’s time to wipe the smiles off our faces because that same quarterback, those same two receivers, and eight starters from that same defense are playing their first road game against another highly ranked opponent at 11:30 a.m., Saturday, at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. In short, this is a 2-2 Cowboy team that knows what it’s like to win a big one. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net and will be available to approximately 53 million households nationwide.

"Oklahoma State is better than any team we’ve played at this point, in my estimation," Texas head coach Mack Brown said. "(Cowboy coach) Les (Miles) has done a great job. He did a great job in beating Oklahoma last year. They’ve done a good job in recruiting. They got some better players last year because they finished good."

Added Brown, "OSU will have our guys full attention because they have one of best receivers not just in this conference but also in this country."

These days, Woods could run for mayor of Stillwater. Instead, he’s run circles around non-conference competition. With 532 yards on 32 grabs, (16.8 yards-per-catch average) the Biletnikoff Award candidate is ranked fourth nationally in reception’s per game (eight). The junior also has five touchdowns on the young season, and leads the league in average receiving yards per game (134), good for No. 6 in the country.

"I think he’s a great receiver," WR Sloan Thomas said. "He made the big play against OU. From what I hear, he’s a great person on and off the field."

Woods’ 141 career receptions is second only to WR Hart Lee Dykes (203), while an average game against Texas Saturday will move him into second place behind Dykes for OSU career receiving yards. With little more than two seasons under his belt, Woods brings 1,888 career receiving yards to Austin. Against Texas last year, Woods had 81 yards on eight catches and one touchdown.

"Woods is really good," Brown said. "He’s fun to watch, and he’s as good as anybody. He’s a special player. It’s going to be fun to watch our guys match up with him."

(Waiting in the wings is Woods’ younger brother D’Juan. The freshman’s 47-yard reception in a 52-16 win over SMU was the first of his collegiate career.)

Still, speedster WR John Lewis (6-0, 195) leads all OSU receivers with a 16.9 yards-per-catch average. He is on the mend following a hamstring injury suffered during the preseason.

Sparked by his heroics against Oklahoma, Fields first collegiate start was in the 39-36 season opening loss against Louisiana Tech. During the last five games (including Oklahoma), Fields has passed for 1,180 yards, an average of 236 yards per game. He passed for a career high 291 yards against UCLA (he also threw three interceptions), representing the 10th best single-game passing effort in OSU history.

Sophomore RB Seymore Shaw (6-0, 220) is OSU’s leading rusher with 264 yards on 37 carries (7.1 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. Freshman RB Vernand Morency (5-11, 215) comes to OSU after four years as an outfielder in the Colorado Rockies organization. He boasts a team-leading 29 carries and has totaled 256 yards on the ground. His 108 yards rushing on 13 carries against Louisiana Tech marked the first time a Cowboy rusher eclipsed the century mark in 10 games. Of note: the two have combined for seven touchdowns through four games. Last year, OSU had just six rushing touchdowns throughout the 4-7 season.

"They’re really, really balanced offensively," Brown said. "They’ll be more like North Carolina for us because they will be two-dimensional."

OSU is averaging 39.2 points-per-game (No. 14 in NCAA; No. 5 in Big 12). The Cowboys are averaging 420.5 yards-per-game (279.2 passing; 141.2 rushing).

Meanwhile, the Cowboy defense that grew up quick against Oklahoma last season includes eight seniors while 10 of 11 projected starters have previous starts on their resumes. Still, several of the prime time defensive studs have been banged up this season.

As a whole, OSU is surrendering 365.8 yards-per-game (No. 66 in NCAA), including 120.8 on the ground (No. 40 NCAA) and 245.0 through the air (No. 93 in NCAA).

Senior WS Chris Massey (6-0, 220) has tallied a team-leading 25 tackles, a sign that there is some room-to-roam for running backs between the line of scrimmage and the secondary. Massey led the nation in kick returns last season, and is ranked No. 29 in that category (No. 4 Big 12) this year with an average of 24.9 yards per return.

Senior DT Kevin Williams has 34 career starts and is a strong NFL prospect while Junior DE Greg Richmond (6-2, 240) is the Cowboys' best pass rusher, according to Brown. Much like Texas, OSU has been banged up at defensive end. Both Richmond and left DE Khreem Smith (6-4, 240) sat out the previous game against SMU due to injuries.

Junior kicker Luke Phillips has connected on all 47 career PAT’s and is on the Lou Groza Award watch list.


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