September 27, 2009

Taming the Tigers: OSU runs over GSU, 56-6

STILLWATER- If you've missed the Oklahoma State offense from 2007 and 2008, it finally re-appeared against Grambling.

Between the Cowboy offense getting back in the swing of things - they've struggled pretty much all season - and the Tiger band rocking the record crowd of 56,901 at Boone Pickens Stadium at halftime, it was a pretty entertaining evening, as OSU cruised to a 56-6 win.

In a game that was largely assumed as a Cowboy win coming in - GSU is a Div. I-AA school - the Cowboys (3-1) made quick work of the Tigers. The Cowboys put up 587 yards of total offense (266 passing, 321 rushing), finally stirring up the echoes of the recent offenses that wowed the nation the past two seasons. And the unit proved to be no match for a Grambling defense that put up a solid effort but just couldn't stop everything thrown at them.

In the first half, Zac Robinson and Co. came out and put the game away before halftime. Keith Toston ran in two touchdowns in the first quarter and had a third in the second quarter, while Robinson ran one in and tossed one to Dameron Fooks before heading into the locker room with a 35-3 lead.

The Tigers (2-2) had no answer on offense. They only put up 260 yards of offense - with 98 of those and only four first downs coming in the first half.

When a team the caliber of OSU squares off in a contest such as this, one of the things fans and media types look for is which of the backup skill position players step up and make their presences known. The Pokes saw some players step up that hadn't had the chance yet this year.

Several Cowboys that don't normally see the field turned in solid performances on Saturday night - Brandon Weeden, Josh Cooper and Fooks all had some very nice moments - but the biggest night amongst the understudies was Jeremy Smith who put himself in the record books with his 160-yard, one touchdown performance. He became only the third OSU tailback to rush for more than 100 yards in his collegiate debut. The other two? Terry Miller's 128 yards against Wichita State in 1974 and Vernand Morency's 108 yards against Louisiana Tech in 2002.

While Smith might have lost his redshirt against the Tigers, he also might have staked his claim to become the next great OSU tailback.

"We felt like we needed another back for the rest of the season," head coach Mike Gundy said. "We practiced him and used him in special teams and decided to play him. I thought he played pretty good. We just felt from this point on going through league play we're going to need another back. We thought, as coaches, that he is mature and he seems to be pretty physical. He has good shake and we like they way he approaches practice."

While Smith's 15-carry, 160-yard (10.7 yards per carry) performance is likely the highlight of the night for the Pokes, another positive was the solid play at wide receiver. Fooks led the way with 81 yards and two scores on only four catches, showing great athleticism each time he caught the ball. Cooper mimicked Wes Welker, catching three passes for 57 yards, including a dandy reception down the middle of the field. Hubert Anyiam (46 yards on three catches) and Tracy Moore (35 yards and a score on two grabs) turned in solid nights as well.

All of that was without the shadow of Dez Bryant on the field, who sat the game out recovering from injury.

"I thought the guys that hadn't had a chance to play much stepped up and made some plays," Gundy said. "We're looking for younger players and guys that don't have that much experience to step up and make some plays for us."

Someone who isn't exactly young but turned in a solid performance is Weeden, who entered the game after Alex Cate got jacked up in the third quarter. While he didn't throw a lot (4-of-7 for 77 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), he managed to make, strong, accurate and timely throws and read through progressions very well. He also showed some nice scramble ability when receivers weren't open.

"I thought he played OK," Gundy said. "I think there were some times he got confused a little bit. Overall, I thought he handled himself pretty well."

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