October 20, 2006

Home sweet Homecoming

Not to take a line from a 67-year-old movie, but for the Oklahoma State football team, there's no place like home.

Especially after the past month.

OSU last stepped foot on the Boone Pickens Stadium turf on Sept. 16. On that night, the Cowboys posted a 48-8 win over Florida Atlantic. Since then, OSU has had a trip to Houston, a bye week and two jaunts to Kansas. The result? A 1-2 mark which, before the win against Kansas last week, was starting to look like a very tough road trip. But then came the 42-point explosion in the second half against the Jayhawks, which sent the Cowboys (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12) back to Stillwater on a very high note.

And, like most teams, the Cowboys play better at home. And it's also Homecoming. Which is a good thing, considering this week's opponent is No. 23 Texas A&M, a team which has had a handful of close games and managed to pull most of them out. The game is set to start at 6 p.m. and will not be televised.

"I think everybody is aware that when we have played our league games here in the past four or five years we have an advantage," said OSU head coach Mike Gundy. "It is a sea of orange and it is loud. There is always a comfort level when playing here. It is nice to get back home. I had forgotten until coach (Rob) Glass reminded me that we have had four of our first six on the road. You would like to play more at home early but it is the way it is. We deal with it and go on down the road."

The flip side to that is the Pokes get to play four of their last six at home, which could help them reach bowl eligibility after missing that threshold for the first time last season since 2001. This game against the Aggies (6-1, 2-1) could go a long way in securing that berth.

The play of Bobby Reid has gone a long way in making the OSU offense one of the more-potent units out there. In the win against KU last week, Reid set a school record for total yards in a game at 457 (411 passing). He also threw five touchdowns (one interception).

"I have never thrown for 300 yards in my life," Reid said. "It was really exciting."

His main target in that game - wide receiver Adarius Bowman - also had a big day in Lawrence, racking up 300 yards and four touchdowns. The wideout says the OSU QB is starting to feel more comfortable out on the field.

"I feel that he is breaking tackles that he normally would not have done last season," Bowman said. "He has grown up and turned into a leader. He is talking in the huddle, pointing out things to the coaches and receivers. He has gotten so much better day-by-day. I consider him a train because once he gets going he is hard to bring down."

The play of both is going to be vital against A&M this weekend, as the Aggies have a solid rushing defense. They rank 28th nationally in that area, allowing only 108 yards a game.

A&M also sports a nice one-two rushing combo in former OSU commit Mike Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane. Goodson has 326 yards (a 5.7 yards-per-carry average) and one score, while Lane has 476 yards and 14 TDs. His longest run of the season? Only 25 yards. So he's making an impact where it counts - the red zone.

"He is playing really well right now," said Gundy of Lane's performance this year. "That is good news for them but not for everybody else in the league. He is playing with some confidence right now, in my opinion. Coach (Dennis Franchione) and those guys are doing a good job of getting the ball to him. They are controlling the clock with him."

That means defensive line and linebacker play for the Pokes is important. It was released this week that freshman linebacker Chris Collins is out due to a knee injury. That makes the play on the line that much more important. To contain a good running attack, players such as Victor DeGrate will be looked on to execute well.

"I think the key for most successful teams is good senior leadership," Gundy said. Victor has been a good leader for us the last 18 months. He trains hard in the off season. He is always on time and he practices hard. The young players see that and it has paid off for him in the game. He is one of those guys who has a high level of endurance. He can go for a long time. He has a lot of success in the third and fourth quarter."

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