September 13, 2008

Game moved up to avoid worse weather

The toughest opponent for Oklahoma State today could very likely be the weather.

After last week's win over Houston, the contest against Missouri State didn't expect to produce much anticipation or excitement. After all, the Bears are a Div. I-AA squad which lost to Div. II Washburn last weekend.

But what the Bears couldn't muster in those areas, Hurricane Ike is.

Due to the uncertainty of severe weather hitting Oklahoma later tonight, OSU officials moved the game to Noon in order to avoid the brunt of potential rains Ike might bring the area. Today's forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain, with odds increasing later in the day. The 600-mile wide hurricane made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Texas earlier this morning with sustained winds over 110 miles an hour.

Other games in the region were affected. Baylor and Washington State played in Waco last night, with the Bears winning 45-17. Houston moved its game against Air Force to Dallas and will kick off at 10 a.m. at Southern Methodist's Ford Stadium. So the Pokes weren't alone in shifting things around in order to avoid this storm, although this game didn't lose its television slot because of it. The game will still be broadcast on Fox College Sports.

With the weather suddenly serving as a big backdrop to the game, the Pokes stay home for the second straight week to face the Bears. They struggled against Washburn last weekend, losing 35-27 in Springfield. Even so, they did rack up 433 yards of total offense.

"Offensively they look a lot like us," said head coach Mike Gundy of MSU. "They do read zone, one back power, some counter, draw and some controlled passing. Quarterback (Cody Kirby) is a returner and he's gotten better. They use two running backs and those guys are playing well. They had some turnovers last Thursday that cost them some points that I'm sure they'd like to have back from that first game."

That's something the Cowboys will need to work on today as well. Against the Cougars last weekend, OSU committed three turnovers - all in the first half. Those mistakes kept things interesting in the first 30 minutes of the game and it wasn't until a third quarter explosion did the pressure finally come off the Cowboys.

"In the second half we made some adjustments on offense and some big plays and we kind of got on a roll," Gundy said. He added that the defense kept the team in the game until the offense got things going but that they had issues putting pressure on UH's Case Keenum.

Those are just a couple of things the Pokes can work out on the field today. The team says they don't look past any opponent, but OSU should be able to name a score in this contest. As such, focusing on mechanics and techniques shouldn't be a problem. Assuming all goes well, getting time to backups will be important. For example, Alex Cate and Brandon Weeden should see some time on the field as the game carries on.

Another position where players could see more time is at wide receiver. This is a position the team needs to continue to grow as the season progresses. Aside from Dez Bryant and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, no other receivers were involved in the UH game on the stat sheet, although their work and effort showed up in other areas.

"We have plays designed to spread it out to everybody on our offense," Gundy said. "But if you check our track record over the last three of four years, we've got receivers that play a role. Some of them have been great blockers and we'll go to them in crucial situations and they'll make plays. Then there are other guys that specialize in catching passes down the field. I think as a coach it's important to get the ball in the hands of the guys that can really make a difference in the game.

"Other guys make a difference in their role. DeMarcus Conner had 12 knock-downs. That's unbelievable for a wide receiver to have 12 knock-downs in one game. I continue to talk about this because I'm a little concerned about all the press that Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter get. We had 89 knock-downs in the game. So yes we will spread the ball around some but only if the defense allows us to."

While there's no clue how the weather will affect the game itself or even the fan turnout, Gundy said last week's images of a packed West End Zone were big for him and the team.

"I looked over to that section on that side and I don't know what the number of students was but it looked like it has doubled since we'd been here before," he said. "I was really proud of the Oklahoma State people. The stadium looks terrific and the Oklahoma State people are very proud. I know as a coaching staff, myself as a graduate, and the players are very thankful for the turnout. It was loud and a lot of fun for the players so it did make a difference."

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