Owls-Cowboys: Five Things To Watch

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"I don't care if you don't have any wins, you're going to play to win."

Coach Herm is always good for a little perspective.

STILLWATER - No matter what anyone infers, the Owls didn't come to Stillwater to grab a slice at The Hideaway. And while improvement is always paramount, the primary goal for the Owls is to beat No. 16 Oklahoma State. Are the odds stacked against their effort? Absolutely, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that fact. The Cowboys are bigger, stronger, faster, and after being shellacked at home by UH, the talk around these parts is that the Fightin' Pickenses need to sacrifice the Owls at the altar to reclaim their national reputation.

With Tyler Smith, Justin Hill and Willie Garley back home in Houston, the Owls' third game will present a wonderful opportunity for reserves to make their mark. Freshman tailback Charles Ross is poised to earn more PT with Smith out (turf toe), but he must show signs of developing a clue at protecting the quarterback, especially considering the fact Oklahoma State will come with the heat against John Thomas Shepherd/Nick Fanuzzi. Freshman linebacker Trey Briggs can take advantage of Hill's absence and the struggles of Tanner Shuck and Aaron Williams, both of whom have played their way into the doghouse. Max Anyiam gets Garley's reps, but it'd be nice if he held his weight in pass coverage and didn't drop sure interceptions. With Chris Jones dinged up, Anyiam will get another shot to shine.

1. Impeach the Prez. Ask David Bailiff his impression of Cowboys receiver/return specialist Dez Bryant and he calls him the best he's seen in all of his years of coaching. Know what that means? If Kyle Martens has the gall to actually punt to Bryant, don't be surprised if Bailiff sprints off the sideline and tackles Martens, a la Helen 'Mama' Boucher in The Waterboy.

2. Take Your Time, Do It Right. The film doesn't lie, and Bailiff has grown weary of his defensive backs and their penchant for sloppy play. There had better be no more peeking into the backfield and/or executing improper coverage in critical situations. The more Bailiff discusses the fundamental flaws of his defense, the more gravely his voice becomes. The time has come for the experienced defense to start playing like it, or changes may soon follow.

3. No Need To Panic. Owls offensive line coach Ronnie Vinklarek has been careful to keep a level head when dealing with his youthful offensive line. Last week wasn't the best performance for the unit, but instead of focusing on that fact, Vinklarek continued to reinforce the finer details of mastering blocking up front while stressing to his players to embrace improving. Everyone knows the Owls will have their hands full opening holes and protecting the quarterback against the Pokes' front, but fretting over the challenge is counterproductive.

4. Waiting On The Youngsters. Yes, Derek Clark and Vance McDonald had their horns tooted during spring drills and fall camp, and neither has done much of anything through two games this season. They are both freshmen so they deserve a little time to adjust to the bright lights, but that doesn't make the wait less anxious. The sooner Clark wakes up the better for Toren Dixon, who was shut down by the extra attention he received last weekend against Texas Tech. As for McDonald, don't be surprised if he is detached from the linemen more frequently.

5. Rotating Quarterbacks, Week 3. Are you tired of this? Join the club. Here's hoping one of the two candidates excels against the Cowboys and ends the competition once and for all. 

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? A little Sounds of Blackness for the anti-defeatist crowd?

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Love this "Five Things to Watch" pre-game feature, MK ... and am delighted you're continuing it in your new gig.

Keep up the great reporting/writing.

I'd just like to register to the world at large how appalling it is that the game can't be viewed by anyone not at the stadium. That's two weeks in a row. I'd even settle for UAB's poor quality video feed. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

On to the game. I thought that a moderately effective running game would open things up for the Owls last week. But it didn't work out that way. My guess is that's the result of poor execution in the passing game, but it's hard to get a sense of that without seeing it. I still think it's a good way to go for the Owls but they've got to make plays through the air to capitalize on yardage gained on the ground. It's time for the entire offensive unit to step up and make some plays because the defense can't be left out there all night trying to throw a shutout.

Good list, and an impressive use of youtube.

Would really love to see some progress with #'s 4 and 5 tonight.

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