Oklahoma St. tries to rebound against Wyoming

Friday, September 5th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Roderrick Jackson has faced his fair share of talented receivers the past two seasons.

Last year, the Wyoming cornerback lined up against All-American Reggie Williams of Washington and Tennessee's Kelley Washington, now with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals. That's not even counting the others who give the Mountain West Conference its pass-happy reputation.

On Saturday, Jackson draws the unenviable task of shadowing Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods. Making things tougher, Woods will be trying to rebound from one of the worst games of his career last week.

``That's life,'' Jackson said. ``I did pretty well against those other guys, so we'll see.''

Oklahoma State will make sure of it.

In this showdown of Cowboys, it's the ones from Stillwater who are trying to regroup following a deflating loss at Nebraska. The defeat dropped Oklahoma State out of the AP Top 25 and left the team curious about what slowed down its all-star trio of Woods, quarterback Josh Fields and running back Tatum Bell.

Woods caught just five passes for 47 yards and a touchdown, with only two catches for 9 yards coming in the second half. It was his lowest production in 15 games. Bell ran for 83 yards, but had a third-quarter fumble that was scooped up and returned for the game-turning score.

Fields, meanwhile, was pummeled throughout the game so violently that coach Les Miles began checking with team trainers ``on a pretty regular basis.''

While Oklahoma State continues to search for the answers to its many problems in the season opener, one thing is certain: Woods needs to get more passes thrown his way.

``There are a lot of guys in this country who would kill for a touchdown and five catches,'' Oklahoma State coach Les Miles said. ``But we expect more, and he expects more out of himself. ... For us to have great success he has to touch the ball more.''

Woods most certainly will, especially against a team that surrendered an average of 36 points and 491 yards a game last year.

And if Wyoming didn't have enough challenges for its defense, first-year coach Joe Glenn also has to figure out how to coax a little improvement from his struggling offense.

In last week's matchup against Division I-AA Montana State, Wyoming picked up only 236 yards and surrendered six quarterback sacks in a sloppy 21-10 win.

Nonetheless, the victory was a serious boost to the confidence of a team that had won just five games in the last three years under Vic Koenning. Many of the players credit the team's early success to the arrival of Glenn, who went 39-6 in three seasons at Montana, including a Division I-AA title in 2001.

``We'd used to go into games just hoping not to lose,'' said Wyoming quarterback Casey Bramlet, who threw for 203 yards and a touchdown last week. ``We're approaching games with a lot more confidence and a lot more excitement.''

Las Vegas was less impressed with last week's effort _ Wyoming enters Saturday's game as 20-point underdogs.

There's not many folks outside of Laramie, Wyo., who think these Cowboys can beat the Big 12 Cowboys, something Glenn has used as fodder to motivate his team.

``We're headed down to Stillwater to find out who the real Cowboys are,'' Glenn said with a laugh. ``We have been referred to in one publication as one of the four cupcakes (Oklahoma State) has got coming up. That's one of the ones I really like.''

For a chance at an unlikely win, though, Jackson will have to come up with one of the best performances of his career.

He'll be at a serious size disadvantage _ he gives up 3 inches and 35 pounds to Woods _ but like most of his teammates, he's hoping his spunk will make up whatever difference there might be in overall talent.

``I can see the hunger in this team,'' the 5-foot-11, 164-pound Jackson said. ``I will never get down on myself for any reason, whether the circumstances seem to be bad or not.''

The circumstances are this: Oklahoma State is going to be looking for Woods, no matter who's covering him.

Jackson can only hope he's not on the wrong side of this Cowboys shootout.