August 30, 2008

Cowboys take on Wazzu this afternoon

Wait no more, wait no more - it's time for football.

Today at 2:30 p.m. central time, Oklahoma State kicks off its 2008 campaign against Washington State at Qwest Field in Seattle. While the game doesn't carry the "hugeness" factor the opener at Georgia last year did, it's still a pretty big deal. And when the Cowboys take the field, they'll be going up against an opponent with a lot of mystery surrounding it.

After a dismal 5-7 finish last year, the Cougars made a change and hired Paul Wulff. That means a new coaching staff and system. While the WSU coaches and players try to work out the kinks on their side, the Pokes go up against a foe hard to game-plan against because, well, no one is sure exactly what they'll do.

"Yeah we don't know much," Zac Robinson said. "We're kind of just taking a shot in the dark, just guessing on what they're going to do. But hopefully as the game goes on we'll get comfortable with what they're doing."

Wulff's old system at Eastern Washington was a fast-paced spread attack, so expect Wazzu to have something similar to that in the game today. Combined with an offense breaking in a new system and an OSU defense which sees that kind of setup on a daily basis, will that give the Cowboys an edge on this side of the ball?

"I think our offense has put us in a good situation going up against them day in and day out," Andre Sexton said. "But we really don't know what they're going to do exactly and we won't know until a couple series into the game. We can only continue to prepare with what their coaches did before they got there. That's what we've been doing, trying to get adjusted. And then watching Washington State film to see what their personnel is like. But we've just been continually watching film working on a variety of plays but we really don't know what to expect yet."

The players had a little mystery surrounding the game removed on Friday. The team had a walk-through at Qwest Field. Some with the party reported that the stadium will be a factor, because of how the place can funnel and trap sound. And while the Cowboys have an established staff, more stability and likely more talent, you can't underestimate the noise factor from an involved crowd.

"We've been told it's the loudest stadium in the NFL," head coach Mike Gundy said. "And they're going to have 55,000 fans there. I was unaware of that. But they say there's one particular end zone, because of the way it's a partially-closed structure, is the loudest area in the NFL. Now you guys could probably research that and get more information, but that's what I was told a couple of weeks ago. But it's going to be a true road test for us. If they have 50,000 fans there and we're in a stadium that's pretty loud it'll be a definite road test for us."

There will also be some on-field tests, such as receiver Brandon Gibson. He'll test the overhauled defense - especially in the backfield.

"Outstanding athlete, always is open," defensive coordinator Tim Beckman said. "When you're named the Pac-10 offensive player of the year - USC's in that conference I believe - so that's stating quite a bit for that young man. And I've heard that he's a great competitor. He reminds me of the kids that played at Ohio State while I was there."

As for OSU, this game is the start of a season where the status of the program will be tested. After two straight 7-6 campaigns, the expectation for more is there. A win in Seattle would get the Cowboys off to the right start and propel them to a potential 4-0 record heading into Big 12 play. That could lead to them making a statement this season. Is the program up to the task?

"I think we're more mature, more deep and I think we're faster on defense, which obviously gives you a chance and makes you feel better," Gundy said. "I think we have some stability in offense and what we're trying to accomplish. I think that Zac has established himself as a leader and I think the players see that. And those things make you feel like we're a better team now. I don't know, maybe we're not. We'll find out."

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