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December 31, 2007

The Battle for Insight

TEMPE, Ariz. - After weeks of preparation, the wait for another game is almost over for Oklahoma State.

After turning in a 6-6 record for the second time in as many seasons, the Cowboys will square off against Indiana (7-5) in the Insight Bowl with hopes of winning its second straight bowl title in as many seasons. The game is set for a 5 p.m. Central Time start and will be televised nationally by the NFL Network from Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State campus.

At least on paper, this game shapes up to be a contest with a lot of offense and not much defense. If an old west shootout turns out being the result, it could be an exciting afternoon for everyone involved.

And once again, it's a game where the OSU defense better come ready to play, as its opponent has some weapons. The Cowboys should be able to score enough, but can they stop IU from scoring enough to bring home another bowl victory?

"Each week, we prepared well for (opponents)," linebacker Jeremy Nethon said. "There's been times where we haven't done everything right and we've had times where we practice for this offense. It is a very good offense. I feel that we prepared very well for them."

The two biggest obstacles for the Cowboy defense will be quarterback Kellen Lewis and wide receiver James Hardy.

"(Lewis) is a great athlete," Nethon said. "Talent-wise, he can play with the best of us in the Big 12. His playing style is just different. He is real fast. He is just a good athlete. Watching him on film, we've been trying to prepare for him."

Head coach Mike Gundy isn't forgetting about Hardy, a 6-7 wideout who will be a matchup problem for OSU.

"We rotated some of our young wide receivers that are red-shirting this year (to mimic him in practice)," Gundy said. "We really don't have anybody that can line up like he can, obviously being as tall as he is. We have a lot of respect for him. They do a nice job of using him. At times, whenever you put too many players in there to stop the run, they're very well-coached on both sides of the ball and their quarterback does a nice job of making people miss, which at times forces you defensively to single him up whether in zone or man."

Realizing that IU has a couple of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball and also knowing this is the last game of the season, can fans in Orange Country expect OSU's offense to throw any and everything at the Hoosiers' defense?

"We certainly don't want to walk off the field in the fourth quarter and have a lot of bullets left in our upper pocket," Gundy said. "We want to fire them all."

"With the long layover, you definitely get some time to open it up a little bit," Robinson said. "You got to work on plays that maybe you didn't during the season, so you get to spice it up a little bit, I guess you'd say, on offense."

One way to spice up the offense would be to see Adarius Bowman have a big finale to his collegiate career. At Sunday's bowl press conference, Gundy said the wideout is excited to get out there for this game after missing the last two regular-season games due to injury.

"When you are in a situation he is, when you are a senior and you have an incident where you potentially you could have a serious injury, I think he's like most players," Gundy said. "There is always a little fear there. When he found out it was a two- to four-week injury and everything was going to be okay, I saw relief on his face. He worked hard in rehab. He'll play extremely hard in this game because it is his nature, because he is very competitive and he likes to play football. He wants to be in the middle of it. There are times on the sideline where we have to calm him down because he wants the ball. He wants to be a factor in the game."

Simply put, Robinson agrees with Gundy's assessment of Bowman.

"I've seen over the past few weeks, A.D. has been as hungry as ever. He has practiced well. He looks to be back to full speed. I think he is excited to get back out there and play with this team for the last time."

For the Hoosiers, they'll be looking to win a bowl game to honor their late coach, Terry Hoeppner, who succumbed to cancer over the summer.

"It's very difficult to go up against a team like that because they have an extra push that they're playing for," Nethon said. "With us, we've had our ups and downs, but for them to come together after a death and just play together the way that they have is something big. So we just have to take that into consideration when we play them and know that they're going to come out and with everything they've got."


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