Cowboys try to bounce back against improved Kansas

Friday, November 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma State found out the hard way that it's not quite ready to challenge Top 10 programs like Oklahoma and Texas.

Kansas is a little more to the Cowboys' liking.

``We didn't really measure up to a good Texas team,'' Oklahoma State coach Les Miles said. ``We have to point to Kansas as an opportunity to win.''

On consecutive weeks, the Cowboys were on the wrong side of routs against Oklahoma and Texas, losing those games by a combined score of 107-25. Those crushing defeats bounced Oklahoma State (7-3, 3-3 Big 12) out of the Top 25 rankings, snapped its seven-game winning streak and ended hopes of the school's first league title since 1976.

Now the Cowboys hope to rebound against a Kansas (5-5, 2-4) team that's lost three straight games and will likely start uneven freshman quarterback Adam Barmann.

``I don't think we've lost the swagger about our team,'' Oklahoma State safety Elbert Craig said. ``We've been beaten the last two weeks by good teams. We'll be all right. We've got to bounce back.''

The Jayhawks, of course, have a skid of their own that they'd like to end.

Kansas hasn't been the same since starting quarterback Bill Whittemore injured his collarbone in the first quarter of a 42-6 loss at Kansas State.

Whittemore, who was second in the Big 12 in total offense (285.8 yards per game), appeared to be steering the Jayhawks toward their first bowl appearance since the 1995 Aloha Bowl. But once he went down against K-State, Kansas' fortunes appeared to go down with him.

Barmann has alternated between spectacular (four TDs in a 45-33 loss at A&M) and spotty (three interceptions in last week's 24-3 loss to Nebraska) as the Jayhawks now fall perilously close to not becoming bowl eligible in coach Mark Mangino's second season.

Still, Barmann has shown enough promise that Mangino is excited about the freshman's future.

``I am pleased with Adam Barmann's performance at quarterback,'' Mangino said. ``He made a few decisions he would like to have back, but all in all I thought he played pretty well.''

Mangino will need more out of his defense, though, if Kansas plans on snapping their losing streak.

Oklahoma State has struggled in its past two games _ against defenses both ranked among the nation's 20 best _ but still boasts one of the nation's most dynamic pass-catch combos in Josh Fields and Rashaun Woods.

Missing from that group is the Big 12's leading rusher, tailback Tatum Bell, who injured his ankle in a loss against Texas and probably won't play against Kansas. Still, Miles has capable backups in Vernand Morency and Seymore Shaw, both of whom have had 100-yard rushing days this season.

``They do a good job of mixing it up,'' Mangino said. ``They do a good job of running, passing and play action.''

But to rediscover the swagger of the team that was ranked No. 14 two weeks ago, Miles knows his slumping team must avoid panicking and simply try to recapture whatever it was that catapulted the team to a seven-game winning streak.

``It's not time to change drastically,'' Miles said. ``It's time to go get victories.''