October 6, 2007

The REAL Red River Shootout

Even though college football seasons are only 12 games, there can be plenty of twists and turns along the way.

Oklahoma State fully realizes that after the last three weeks. What looked like a dead season after the loss against Troy received massive rejuvenation after the shootout win over Texas Tech a week later.

After a filler game against Sam Houston State, the Cowboys (3-2 overall, 1-0 Big 12) now have a shot to keep their season heading on the winning track against Texas A&M (4-1, 1-0) tonight at 6:30 in College Station. The game will have the attention of a Fox Sports Net national broadcast.

After nosedives by Oklahoma and Texas last weekend, Kyle Field will be the host for a battle to decide early Big 12 South supremacy.

"It's significant," Aggie head coach Dennis Franchione said. "You look and Saturday night somebody's going to be 2-0. They all count one at this point in time. There are some teams that are 0-1 right now."

Cowboy leader Mike Gundy realizes what's on the line tonight and says his squad will need to start solidly against A&M.

"Obviously we like to have a good start in every game especially when you play on the road," Gundy said. "You like to get off to a good start, settle the crowd down a little bit, run the football effectively, and as I said earlier it is important that you are sound in the option game on defense."

The Pokes will have to be able to contain the Aggie rushing attack, which ranks 5th nationally at 267 yards per game. Their attack is smash-mouth and no-frills. This is in stark contrast to OSU's past three opponents, which ran spread offenses, a system the Cowboy defense has struggled against. So, as far as offenses go, this might just be the poison they'd rather face. That's not to say it'll be any easier, as A&M will send out players such as Jorvorskie Lane to try and cram the ball down the OSU defensive line's throat.

"When you play any good offensive player, you have to do a good job tackling and wrapping him up," Gundy said. "Now, he is different than some of the other guys because he is so big and physical and if you are not careful you can bounce off of him. You have to be in the right spot to defend that style of attack and you also have to be able to tackle and get him down. It sounds simple but the key is to get him down. You have to hit him and wrap him up and get him down."

Oh, by the way, the Aggies also have two other pretty decent rushers in running back Michael Goodson (335 yards) and quarterback Stephen McGee (412). When combined with Lane's 320 yards and eight touchdowns, you can quickly realize that A&M has three major running options to go up against the Pokes.

"They have a whole bunch of threats back there with the shotgun offense that they run with Goodson and his speed," safety Andre Sexton said. "They use him in so many different ways. We just have to know where he is on the field. That's the strong point of their offense, so we've got to find ways to attack them and get after them early and try to keep the ball out of their hands as much as possible."

The Aggies will have to account for the running game as well, but in the form of Zac Robinson and tailbacks Dantrell Savage and Kendall Hunter. Combined, the trio has 912 yards rushing and seven scores.

Aside from running the ball, Robinson will be needed to pass effectively as well. The Aggies' pass defense is ranked 67th nationally while their rush defense is 45th, so mixing in some timely (and smart) passes will be important for the Cowboys if they are to get out of Texas with a win.

So how do the coaches expect him to play this weekend, after mixed passing results (two scores, two picks) last weekend?

"He will be pretty composed," Gundy said. "I think he will play well down there. As coaches, we have to put him into position to have success. He has had 175 more reps in live game situations and there is no substitute for actual game play and being out there, the plays and the crowd, and everything in general. He is 175 plays better than he was two weeks ago."

The ultimate test for the Pokes might come from between their own ears. OSU has played poorly on the road lately, so the players in orange need to avoid the mental sack just as much as the on-field variety.

"We should be a little more relaxed instead of those earlier games when everybody was still a little nervous," Sexton said. "Now we should be focused on what we have to take care of and go down there and take care of business."

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