Cowboys Need To Heal During Well-Timed Open Week

Sunday, October 21st 2007, 7:13 pm
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ An exhilarating win against Kansas State took its toll on Oklahoma State's defense.

The Cowboys (5-3, 3-1 Big 12) lost starting linebackers Patrick Lavine and Jeremy Nethon to injuries in the second half, further depleting a unit that's already been without starter Chris Collins for the past four weeks.

The good news for Oklahoma State is that an open week will provide some extra time to heal before No. 17 Texas comes to town on Nov. 3.

``I have not seen anybody yet. I don't know how severe those are,'' coach Mike Gundy said Sunday. ``Those guys won't come around here today with the open week.''

Lavine walked gingerly off the field after he was shaken up on a play on Kansas State's opening possession of the second half. Nethon had to be helped off by two trainers when he was hurt on the Wildcats' first drive of the fourth quarter.

Seldom-used backups Marcus Brown and Justin Gent filled in after the injuries, and the Cowboys relied more on nickel packages with an extra defensive back.

Gundy said it's too early to tell what the Cowboys have to do to shore up the position over the next two weeks. Defensive end Rodrick Johnson has experience at linebacker, although fellow defensive end Marque Fountain has also been slowed by an injury to limit depth at that position.

``We have to find out how many guys are hurt first, but if we lose two or three guys, then obviously we've got to find somebody to play there,'' Gundy said. ``We'll just have to wait and see what the injury status is.''

The Cowboys plan to return to the practice field Monday and then have sessions Wednesday and Thursday before taking a long weekend. Coaches will also fit in some recruiting time.

``We need to get healthy on defense, and obviously ... an open week couldn't come at a better time for our team,'' Gundy said. ``We need a little rest, and we need to have some good practices and then we need to give them some days off and get them back on the field.''

Momentum should be on the Cowboys' side as they head into the open week. They've won four of their last five games to move within striking distance of bowl eligibility, and the only loss in that span came by one point at Texas A&M.

The victory against Kansas State was Oklahoma State's third against a ranked opponent in as many years at Boone Pickens Stadium.

``It's definitely good to get a win going into the bye week. We'll definitely be fired up and ready to play Texas in a couple weeks,'' quarterback Zac Robinson said.

While Gundy couldn't be too enthusiastic about his defense allowing 529 yards _ including a career-best 404 yards passing by Josh Freeman _ he was pleased with the unit's ability to create turnovers considering that the lineup included ``down-the-line guys that don't get many reps.''

It was also the second time this season that the Cowboys came through in a close game at home, helping distance memories of five losses by a combined 26 points last season that were revived in the loss at A&M.

``That's what Mr. (Boone) Pickens always says. He doesn't say much, except in a game like this he'll say, `Your team's learning to find a way to win in the end, and when you do that eventually it's going to pay off because they get used to it,''' Gundy said, referencing the program's top donor.

Gundy was also pleased with the Cowboys' special teams, including a kickoff return for a touchdown by Perrish Cox and a strong performance from Dan Bailey as a replacement on kickoffs. Gundy said punter Matt Fodge had been getting fatigued, and Bailey proved to be a capable substitute.

That was particularly satisfying against a Kansas State squad that burned the Cowboys for two special teams scores last year and had another two touchdowns in upsetting Texas earlier this season.

``We get to celebrate this one a couple days more because it's an open week,'' Gundy said. ``But you better be ready to play the next week.''