August 31, 2007

Knowing your foe

ATLANTA - There's been a lot of talk about just how good Oklahoma State will be this season.

With an opener like Georgia, a lot more about the Cowboys will be known after this weekend.

The No. 13-ranked Bulldogs are a big test to start things off this season for the Pokes. The high-octane offense will have to life up to the hype while the defense will have to overcome its reputation for being more holey than the Pope.

While many here on OStateIllustrated know plenty about the Pokes, their personnel and what needs to happen for them to have a good season, what about the Bulldogs? What do those in orange know about their first opponent on the schedule?

Quarterback Bobby Reid has a pretty good idea.

"Since the first day I've been watching them, it's the same thing I've been seeing," Reid said. "They have guys who fly to the ball, guys who make plays in open spaces, they're making plays when it counts. They stall a drive and find ways to win in big situations. That's something we've been focusing on this last week of practice."

Here's a quick stat rundown on the Bulldogs coming into 2007: They went 9-4 last season and beat Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A "don't call me Peach" Bowl. Its offense averaged less than 200 passing yards a game and scored 25.2 points a game, its lowest mark in nearly a decade. They have seven returning starters on offense, but only three on the defensive side of the ball.

Mike Gundy doesn't quite buy that small returning starter number on defense for the Bulldogs. He said that UGA has many players who were basically starters and played a lot last year. He added that a player comparable in that position for the Cowboys would be Paschal Smith.

"The guys that they're playing - like Kelin Johnson and Bryan Evans in the secondary - those guys are starters, basically," Gundy said. "Kade Weston inside is a returning starter if you look at the total numbers of plays he's played. Brandon Miller and Johnson, they're backers and would they would consider first-time starters, but those guys have played.

"What I'm saying is," Gundy continued, "the concern I have as a coach is when you put guys in games who haven't played on this level. If they've played 80, 100, 150 snaps, they might not be a returning starter, but they've played quite a bit. Jeray Chatham has not been a starter for us, but I'm not concerned about him because he played quite a bit last year. Jonathan Lewis, Shane Jarka, Quencey Patrick, Tonga Tea - they've never played. Those guys you get concerned about them understanding the game very fast because they're playing a quality opponent in the first game."

Returning starters or not, Reid says he has picked up on some things that the Bulldogs like to do on defense.

"I think it is important to see what they're going to do to us in certain situations," he said. "From what I've been watching on film, they like to blitz whenever they like to, not just on third down and not just on first. So that's something I need to get a feel for and coach Fedora so we can call the right play and get us in the right position."

Gundy believes he already knows what the Dawgs will do against OSU on Saturday.

"They're going to line up and try to run the ball right at us," he said. "Try to keep the ball away from our offense would be my guess. So our guys that are in there I think will make plays, but they're going to get knocked around a little bit. When it's the first time you've played at this level, when you get knocked around - much less playing against a quality opponent like Georgia - they have to fight back. And I think we have plenty on defense to put them in a position to have success."

When it comes to dealing with what the Bulldogs will throw at OSU between the hedges, Reid believes patience will be an important factor for them to overcome the tough environment.

"We know we're going to be out there in a tough environment," he said. "It's going to be us 70 or 80 guys against about 100,000 or whatever is going to be out there. Coaches have patient and players have to be patient and when it's time for us to strike, we're going to strike."

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