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From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press

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From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press

Going into Week 2 at 1-0

By Roger Moore
Sports Editor

With the first weekend of college football complete ? almost ? a number of teams are scratching their heads while others are celebrating a 1-0 start.

Every coach, from Oklahoma State?s Mike Gundy to Colorado?s Gary Barnett, will remind everyone that the first game of the season is going to include many mistakes. The 60 minutes might not have been pretty, but if you were lucky enough to escape with a win in Week 1 then you are in a better spot than those programs who are 0-1.

Of the 11 Big 12 Conference squads that played over the weekend, nine picked up victories with No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 17 Texas A&M both losing, the Sooners at home to Texas Christian and the Aggies on a last-second field goal at Clemson.

Oklahoma State certainly wasn?t perfect in beating Division I-AA Montana State, but in the end it was a win to start the Gundy era in Stillwater.

The first-year coach said, ?Being a coach on the sidelines, you get a little more nervous and you want to go out there and make a play … I?ve always been that way. Our guys never looked concerned at all. I was concerned, but they weren?t.?

The Cowboy offense struggled with consistency in a 15-10 win. Donovan Woods? 11-yard touchdown run with 9:56 to play in the first quarter and a 23-yard TD pass from Woods to D?Juan Woods with 11:43 to play in the third were the only two scores of the day.

Woods took most of the snaps at quarterback and completed 10-of-20 for 117 yards. Bobby Reid completed 1-of-2 passes for 17 yards and was on the field in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The redshirt-freshman from Houston led OSU in rushing with 82 yards, including a big 28-yard run that helped run out the clock. He also caught two passes for 16 yards.

A young OSU secondary watched MSU?s Travis Lulay complete 22-of-34 passes for 205 yards, but the visitors rushed for just 49 yards on 28 attempts.

Week 2 comes in a hurry as the Pokes travel to Miami, Fla., to face the Howard Schnellenberger-led Florida Atlantic Owls in a Thursday night ESPN2 contest. In a 30-19 loss at Kansas on Saturday, FAU, in their first year of Division I-A, led 13-12 with 3:02 to play in the third quarter after the second of two 66-yard touchdown passes by quarterback Danny Embrick.

The Jayhawks scored 18 unanswered points down the stretch, however, to pull away.

?I don?t feel it as a physical mismatch, but at some point our young offensive and defensive line becomes tired,? said Embrick, who completed 20-of-28 for 299 yards and three TDs against KU. ?About a week ago I realized that our team was going to come together on offense.?

FAU?s non-conference schedule also includes a trip to Minnesota (Sept. 17) and Louisville (Oct. 1).

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From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press

From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press:

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FAU Owls ready for an ambush

By Roger Moore
Sports Editor

Some are calling it a trap game.

The Big 12?s Oklahoma State, coming off a tough 15-10 win over Division I-AA Montana State, hits the road with a young and inexperienced team to take on Florida Atlantic. The Owls, coached by veteran Howard Schnellenberger, are making their Division I television debut.

The Cowboys had trouble with MSU quarterback Travis Lulay in Week 1. FAU?s Danny Embrick completed 20-of-28 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-19 loss at Kansas last week. The senior was named the Sun Belt Conference?s Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

Since the start of the 2000 season, Oklahoma State football is 11-15 on the road and 4-4 in road openers. Last season?s win at UCLA broke a three-year losing streak in road openers.

Cowboy coach Mike Gundy knows exactly what kind of situation his young players will be in on Thursday night when the two teams hit Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Fla.

?(Embrick) is a good quarterback,? said Gundy, whose team kicks off at 6:02 on ESPN2. ?He?s a transfer from West Virginia. This kid is 6-1, 215 (pounds) and can run. He?s savvy. He plays like (former Cowboy QB) Josh Fields.

?(Against Kansas) he made some plays under pressure where he stepped up in the pocket, planted his foot, and threw darts. This game is going to be a dogfight.?

Embrick is a senior from Jupiter, Fla., who was a Florida All-State quarterback in high school. He leads a team built around speed.

Senior Thomas Parker caught three passes for 89 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown against Kansas. Freshman Frantz Simeon grabbed four passes for 31 yards. Sophomore running back Dilvory Edgecomb caught three passes for 71 yards, including a throw-back screen that turned into a 66-yard touchdown.

O-State senior linebacker Lawrence Pinson grew up in Florida before two years in Minnesota and a year at Jenks. He knows exactly what the Cowboys have to be ready for.

?There?s no question (FAU) is a fast team,? said Pinson, who had nine tackles in the opener. ?We have to be ready for that, but it comes down to assignment football. You have to get to your spots and make plays at the point of contact.

?They are going to be fired up and ready to play a Big 12 team. They aren?t going to be favored to win a game against a bigger conference, but anytime you?ve got a roster filled with Florida kids they are going to be dangerous.?

Pinson was part of a Cowboy defense that saw Lulay pass for 205 yards and avoid numerous pressure situations.

?I think seeing somebody like (Lulay) is good for our young secondary,? Pinson said. ?When you see guys like that it allows you to get better.?

The Owls struggled to run the football in Week 1 ? Edgecomb led the team with 17 yards on nine carries.

Running home

Redshirt-freshman running back Mike Hamilton (Melbourne), sophomore guard David Koenig (Cape Coral) and senior safety Jamie Thompson (Sparr) will all play in their home state this Thursday.

In the season opener, Hamilton rushed for 54 yards on 13 carries and was part of a 244-yard team effort. However, OSU?s two quarterbacks ? Donovan Woods and Bobby Reid ? led the team in rushing and Gundy and staff are looking for a better performance from the running backs this week.

?Julius (Crosslin) is not going to be Tatum Bell or Vernand Morency … ever,? said Gundy. ?He?s 250-pounds and a 400-pound bencher. He showed us (against MSU) what kind of back he is going to be. He?s the guy that is going to be tough to bring down, a guy to pound on people.

?Hamilton has the ability to develop into a player like Tatum. It took Tatum a couple of years to understand that he could play when he was tired. We have to get better play out of our running backs in order to be successful as an offense.?

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From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press

Does anyone up there know his name is Danny EMBICK?
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From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press

There's people r4ight here who had to learn his name. Including me.. :-[

It was at the UCF game. I sat next to his family. His dad had on a T shirt that clearly said EMBICK but I called him EMBRICK and he promptly corrected me. The rest of the game was a running joke about his name. If he makes a mistake it will be EMBRICK. All good plays would be EMBICK.
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From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press

More from the Stillwater, Okla., News Press:

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Loud and clear

By Wade McWhorter
Stillwater NewsPress

No doubt everyone in the room heard Jamie Thompson.

During Oklahoma State?s weekly press luncheon on Monday, Thompson, the Cowboys? senior strong safety, was gleefully giving his own twist to a rap line from the late Notorious B.I.G.

?I?m going going back back to Florida Florida!? Thompson proclaimed in rhythmic fashion, voicing his eagerness of returning to his home state for OSU?s game against Florida Atlantic Thursday night in Miami.

It seems Thompson has a propensity for being not only seen but heard, a trait not limited to Monday lunch hours.

?I hear Jamie coming from safety, and I?m at nose guard ? that?s how loud he talks and that?s with 60,000 people out there screaming,? said OSU defensive lineman Xavier Lawson-Kennedy. ?You definitely hear him, and it?s non-stop.?

Added OSU linebacker Lawrence Pinson, ?If I don?t hear anybody else on the field, I hear Jamie every time.?

Whether it?s barking out instructions or encouragement or even a little trash talking, Thompson?s always present vocality gets him noticed.

But if Thompson never said a word, his actions on the field would speak volumes.

The 6-foot, 190 pounder is widely considered one of the hardest working players on the OSU roster, so it?s no mistake that he?s developed into one of the Cowboys? best players.

A year ago, Thompson led OSU with 85 tackles. He added three sacks, collected two interceptions and also forced three fumbles, which earned him second-team All-Big 12 Conference honors.

If OSU?s season opener was any indication, Thompson is primed for even more success in 2005. In last Saturday?s win over Montana State, Thompson led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, recorded a team-high two sacks and also forced a fumble.

?It?s like a job,? Thompson said. ?Either you do or you don?t, and I feel like I?m a person that can do. I feel I?m a leader, and I?m gonna lead by example.

?I expect big things from myself, but I?ve still got to get better. I?ve got to focus on technique. I?m gonna be around the ball because that?s what I like, but it?s about playing my keys. I didn?t do as well as a I wanted to, but I?m working at it and hopefully I can make more plays.?

Thompson is hoping those playmaking skills are on full display Thursday night. For him it?s a chance to play in his home state in front of dozens of friends and family who will make the 31?2 hour drive from his hometown of Sparr to get a taste of OSU football.

?Most people in Florida don?t know about Oklahoma State so it?s a great opportunity for those people to understand Oklahoma State football and history, and they get to see me play for the school that I love,? Thompson said. ?And it?s time for me to down there and get back my Florida swagger.?

While that swagger might strike fear in opposing offenses, Thompson is a welcome sight as a proven playmaker in an OSU secondary that includes five true freshmen.

?I am the leader back there, the old guy,? Thompson said. ?I?m 22 and the average of those other guys may be 18. I?ve got to be that voice for them and direct them on the right path.?

That leadership, said OSU head coach Mike Gundy, is why Thompson is a team captain and a God-send to the defense.

?Jamie has a lot of pressure on him because he not only has to prepare himself, but he has to get those young guys lined up,? Gundy said. ?He talks all the time. It?s a comforting notion for our young players to hear him. He?s almost like a fatherly figure that everyone is going to be okay.?

Thompson says his ?motormouth? on the gridiron is simply his way of captaining his defensive teammates.

?I?m trying to get them amped, let ?em know it?s time to go,? Thompson said. ?And when we line up, I try to direct people to which way I think the ball is coming. I like to point a lot and be the communicator.?

That ability as a field general is something Gundy admires in his star safety.

?Jamie is one of those players that you don?t have to ask about how his effort was because he always gives great effort,? Gundy said. ?He always studies because football is important to him. And he?s one of those guys that you know when he graduates and goes out there in the real world, he?s gonna be successful in whatever he does because he has the mental makeup to prepare himself and work hard.?

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From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press

Yet more from the Stillwater, Okla., News Press:

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Don?t judge Pokes on first outing

By Jacob Longan
Stillwater NewsPress

A lot can be learned about a football team in one game.

But the conclusions some are drawing from Oklahoma State?s season-opening 15-10 win over I-AA Montana State are a little silly.

No, the Cowboys did not look like a great team. Sure, the final score is embarrassing.

But it was the first game under almost an entirely new staff with a young team still learning a new system.

Some, including those who are considered ?experts,? are already forecasting doom and gloom, yet still claim to see how OSU can immediately improve ? make Bobby Reid the starting quarterback.

I respectfully disagree with that assessment. Now, that?s not to say Reid can?t help the team win. That?s not even to say immediately making him the starter and moving current QB Donovan Woods to receiver, running back, linebacker or safety won?t turn the Cowboys into a national champion.

But I am saying this ? there?s no way you could glean that kind of information from that game.

Reid looked great running the ball ? not only did he lead the team with 82 rushing yards, but he also averaged a team-best 13.7 yards per carry.

But he threw the ball a total of two times, completing one for 17 yards.

Meanwhile, Woods was his usual steady self ? he missed a few open receivers, but he also completed 10-of-20 for 117 yards and a score. And don?t forget that he ran in the Cowboys? other touchdown and was second on the team in rushing yards (61) and average per carry (6.8).

Woods and Reid were locked in a battle for the starting job the whole offseason, and by all accounts, Woods won a close contest. It seems his experience ? remember that he guided the Cowboys to seven wins as a redshirt freshman last year ? was the deciding factor.

Reid impressed many with his performance last Saturday. He certainly showed he is an athlete ? there is little doubt he is the better pure athlete of the two quarterbacks. He is probably the best athlete on the team. But it remains to be seen if he is the best quarterback.

The Cowboy coaches have watched these guys closely and, no doubt, have a much greater idea of what they can do than anyone else.

There must be a reason they felt starting Woods and giving him the vast majority of the snaps under center was the right decision in the season opener. With the little the rest of us have seen of Reid so far, I?ll trust their judgment about who deserves that spot.

But I do have a few uneducated predictions of my own.

First, if Reid is even close to Woods in passing ability, I would expect him to take over the starting role by midseason. That might result in Woods moving to wide receiver ? a position that is in his blood. With some work there, I wouldn?t be surprised to see him quickly become the team?s second best pass-catcher, behind only his older brother, D?Juan.

I also predict OSU?s bowl streak will come to an end this season.

The good news for the club is they should only get better as the year progresses.

The bad news is they have a long, long way to go to be competitive enough in the Big 12 to eke out three wins against league foes ? and that?s assuming they win Thursday at Florida Atlantic, which is certainly not a forgone conclusion.

Finally, I predict the Cowboys defense, which played relatively well even with an inexperienced secondary Saturday, will finish better statistically than it did at any time during the Les Miles/Bill Clay era.

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From the Stillwater, Okla., News Press

Retrospective from Stillwater, Okla.:

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Published on 2005-09-11

Growing pains for 2-0 Oklahoma State

By Roger Moore
Stillwater NewsPress

Last Thursday, two programs showed they have a ways to go ? in the near and distant future.

For Florida Atlantic, last Thursday?s ESPN2 televised game against Oklahoma State was to be a watershed moment. An evening where Howard Schnellenberger showed that the Owls were ready for Division I football.

But from the 8 to 10,000 in the Dolphins Stadium stands ? the announced attendance was over 16,000 ? it was obvious that FAU football has a ways to go before it can be considered a major player in Division I.

Going 20-6 over the last two seasons looks good on paper, but considering the competition upgrade in 2005, six losses could easily happen this season.

?We have to go through the battlefields of Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Louisville to get where we need to go,? said the always quoteable Schnellenberger after Thursday?s 23-3 Oklahoma State win. ?We?ll get there faster than if we took the high-paved road.?

For Mike Gundy?s Cowboys, that ?high-paved road? includes wins over Montana State and FAU with Arkansas State coming to Stillwater next weekend. A win over ASU and the Pokes will be 3-0 for a second-straight season.

It hasn?t been a thing of beauty, but the first-year coach knows it?s a work in progress.

?Special teams, defense and limiting your turnovers is what helps you win games early in the season,? Gundy said. ?That is what we?ve done the first two games.?

Against the I-AA Bobcats in Week 1, OSU created one turnover, held MSU to 254 yards of offense and had a solid special teams outing.

Against FAU, the Pokes received four turnovers, had 18 tackles for loss and allowed just 220 yards of offense. Special teams play included three Bruce Redden field goals (30, 44 and 28 yards), but a pair of penalties brought back two nice Daniel McLemore returns.

?We?ve got some guys in open space who need to learn how to leverage block and not clip,? said special teams coach Joe DeForest. ?That?s my fault as a coach. We had some big returns called back because of some small mistakes.?

Offensive mistakes kept the Cowboys from blowing out FAU. Twice OSU was inside the FAU 10-yard line and settled for field goals. The Pokes were flagged eight times, fumbled three times (losing one) and went 4-of-15 on third downs. Through two games, OSU is 7-of-27 on third down conversions.

All things considered, players and coaches know a new system ? offense and defense ? takes time.

?There?s no question we aren?t playing like we know we can,? said safety Jamie Thompson. ?We can be better on both sides of the ball. The defense has had two pretty good games, but we still made mistakes that need to be corrected before we get to Big 12s.?

Early returns

Defensive line and secondary were two question marks entering the season for O-State. Against FAU, the Cowboys registered five sacks ? three by linemen ? after recording four against MSU. OSU had 18 sacks the entire 2004 season.

?That?s a key for any defense,? said Thompson. ?You have to get to the quarterback, and with this defense we are bringing different people at different times. It?s a lot more aggressive.?

With a pass rush comes relief for a young group of defensive backs. OSU has yet to pick off a pass, but MSU?s Travis Lulay and FAU?s Danny Embick have combined to complete 29-of-50 attempts for 296 yards and no touchdowns. Embick?s 24-yard first-quarter completion on Thursday was his longest of the game.

?We are going to go through some growing pains,? said DeForest. ?When a corner gets beat, especially early in a game, how he responds is key. I think (Calvin Mickens) went back out there and he realized what he had to do.

?Your secondary is only as good as your front four.?

Added Thompson, ?(The line) can take a lot of pressure off us back there. When a quarterback can?t sit back there in the pocket it makes a big difference on what he does with the football.?

By the numbers

? In 2004, OSU had 48 tackles for loss. Through two games of 2005, OSU has 28. Junior Victor DeGrate leads the way with five. Three players ? Thompson, Lawrence Pinson and Nathan Peterson ? have three.

? Of OSU?s 38 first downs this season, 24 have been by rushing the football.

? The Cowboys have been flagged 16 times in two games. Their opponents have been penalized 14 times.

? OSU receivers have accounted for nine of the team?s 22 receptions. D?Juan Woods has four grabs for 68 yards. Quarterback Bobby Reid and running back Mike Hamilton lead the team with five catches each.

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