September 8, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I'm on my way, I'm on my way, home sweet home…

There might not be a better theme for Oklahoma State this week than the Motley Crue song "Home Sweet Home." After a rough trip down to the Deep South, the Cowboys open up the home part of their 2007 schedule against Florida Atlantic. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and the game will not be televised.

After last week's 35-14 loss to open the season, the Pokes come home to host the Owls in the construction zone known as Boone Pickens Stadium. Last season, OSU played the entire year with a giant hole just beyond the west end zone. This season, the west end zone hole is now filled and steel and concrete are connecting the north and south sections of the stadium together. While that construction is ongoing, the construction project Mike Gundy has in front of him is in progress as well. The goal for this season is to post another winning record and earn another bowl bid. To get there, defending the home turf against the Owls this weekend is vital.

FAU (1-0) is coming off its first season-opening win since 2003, over Sun Belt Conference foe Middle Tennessee State. Last weekend, the Owls held off the Blue Raiders, 27-14. And considering how MTSU played in a shootout loss against No. 8 Louisville Thursday night, that win might be bigger for FAU than previously thought.

"They're playing better football," Gundy said. "They've settled in defensively, they're more base. They're still running a pro-style offense, trying to run the football. They have two running backs that did a nice job rushing the football (against Middle Tennessee State) and they have two tight ends that are good receivers, and then they have a dangerous punt returner that is a good player."

Last weekend, Charles Pierre and B.J. Manley combined for 159 yards on the ground for the Owls. If there's a focal point for their offense, the ground game is it. Quarterback Rusty Smith only had 195 yards passing against the Raiders.

FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger - who started the program from scratch almost a decade ago and has been leading teams since 2001 - believes his team is finally starting to get more depth on the roster and is close to being able to seriously compete against BCS-level schools like the Cowboys. He didn't predict a huge upset for this weekend, however, just pointed out he believes his program is heading in the right direction.

Defensive coordinator Tim Beckman agrees, adding that he sees a very athletic team coming to play in Stillwater.

"You're talking about a team that beat a bowl team last week," Beckman said. "They're a good team that's got some speed, two pretty good running backs, two good tight ends and a couple of good wide receivers, so they're very skilled and athletic."

So after the letdown last weekend against a team that the Cowboys had been looking forward to playing all offseason, how do you rebound against a team with the star power of a D-list celebrity?

"The important thing for us as a staff is to get our team together, get our attitude cleaned up and smiles on our faces and get ready to move on," Gundy said. "That's the good things about life in college football, you get 12 of them. We just wasted one in a big-time atmosphere, but we've got to get ready for this week."

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