October 17, 2009

Sports Night: OSU takes on Mizzou late

Live, from Stillwater, it's Saturday Night!

Might as well throw that out there given the late kickoff, right?

In a game that's set for an 8:15 p.m. start and might not end until SNL is about over (or did that happen years ago?), Oklahoma State and Missouri will tangle in front of a national audience on ESPN2 in a Big 12 matchup important for both teams in the divisional races.

After dropping a home game to Nebraska last weekend, Missouri (4-1 overall, 0-1 Big 12) hits the road looking for the upset, as the No. 16 Cowboys (4-1, 1-0) try not to trip up before a huge game against Texas on Halloween.

If the Pokes are to stay on track, they'll have to do it - likely, anyway - without key cogs Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter. Bryant is sidelined by a blurry NCAA issue, while Hunter is still recovering from injury. There is speculation that Hunter might see the field tonight, but nothing is definite. As for Bryant, well, the NCAA goes so slow it might as well go in reverse, so there's no telling when his status will clear up.

It'll be up to Zac Robinson and key reserves Keith Toston and Beau Johnson to drive the offense. Last weekend against Texas A&M, the two tailbacks acted as thunder and lightning in powering OSU down the field.

"Beau and Keith did a great job for us," said head coach Mike Gundy. "I don't mention those guys a lot because they are veteran players and we expect that from them. They really stepped up and got some tough yards for us. As we talked about after the game, the yards after contact were really good. They picked up the blitz very well. We were concerned going into that game with the blitz and the way Von Miller had put pressure on other teams and created opportunities for sacks. Those guys did a nice job of picking up the blitz."

Tonight's challenge is a Mizzou team that wasn't expected to be a major factor in the Big 12, but seems to not be as down as expected, even with the trip-up against the Cornhuskers.

"This will be a great challenge for us in all phases," Gundy said. "Missouri moves the ball offensively, their system hasn't changed much. Their quarterback is making plays; obviously he's much bigger size-wise than Chase Daniel was. They are using the same system. They've got two receivers and those guys are making plays for them. They spread the ball out.

"Defensively, they tackle very well. There are some new guys up front compared to what they had last year. Some of their younger players, in our opinion, have developed and are good football players up front. Obviously, Sean Weatherspoon is a really, really good football player. He's one of the best we've seen in years. This will be a great challenge for us."

Included in that challenge is the late kickoff. While OSU has had its share of 6 p.m. kicks in the past, 8:15 p.m. might as well be midnight in the minds of many. An 11:30 finish is definitely not out of the question.

What will the Cowboys do all day? Watch other games? Play Risk? Nap? Explore parts of the West End Zone not discovered yet?

"I don't know how I'm going to do it because we haven't played at 8:15 yet," Victor Johnson said. "I guess I'm just going to listen to all my music. I'm going to have to download some more. I'll be really ready though just because I'm going to be so anxious to play the game."

Someone else who will likely be anxious is Toston. Coming into the season as a key understudy, Toston has been thrust on stage after Hunter went down. He'll likely have a major role again tonight. To his credit, he prepared for the situation all along.

"I just trained like I was going to be the starter," Toston said. "That's pretty much for everyone that's on this team. We all train hoping that one day we get the starting position or hoping that we get a chance. This year, it just ends up being me because Kendall went down. I try to not let my teammates down and make it so there is no drop-off when I step in the game."

On the defensive side, the Cowboys look to keep up momentum which started against the Aggies.

"I think carrying that over to this game will be of great impact," Swanson Miller said. "We emphasize turnovers and bringing pressure, mainly starting at the defensive line. We carried that over from practice into the A&M game. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what it's going to be for the rest of the season. The main thing is being able to get pressure on the quarterback."

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