OSU still hurting after season-opening loss

Tuesday, September 2nd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Josh Fields had the gait of a punch-drunk fighter. Rashaun Woods had one of the worst days of his career. And Tatum Bell's game-turning fumble left him and the coaches disgusted.

This certainly wasn't what Oklahoma State's celebrated trio of offensive stars expected in their first game of the season.

The Cowboys' offense sputtered out of the gate against Nebraska on Saturday, committing five turnovers and failing to score on their last 11 possessions in a 17-7 loss. The defeat cost Oklahoma State its Top 25 ranking in the latest AP poll and humbled a unit that had spoken so boldly of being one of the nation's best.

``I'd have never dreamed it,'' coach Les Miles said Monday, shaking his head. ``There were so many ways to win the game.''

But even as he pondered the lost opportunities, Miles said he'd already warned the team about dwelling on the loss too much.

``It was good for us in that they saw a window of national reputation closed in a short time,'' he said. ``I think they'll come out ready to play and be prepared.''

Oklahoma State will attempt to bounce back in Saturday's home opener against Wyoming (1-0). By that time, Miles hopes the shock of the offense's disappointing start will have faded away.

Coming into the Nebraska game, Oklahoma State had been touting Fields, Woods and Bell as the school's best threesome since Barry Sanders, Hart Lee Dykes and Mike Gundy in the late '80s.

Instead, they looked more like Larry, Moe and Curly.

The Cowboys appeared as if they might live up to the preseason hype on the opening possession. Oklahoma State took a 7-3 lead midway through the first quarter after Woods caught a 4-yard TD pass from Fields, capping a nine-play, 52-yard drive.

From there, Oklahoma State did little else right on offense.

Fields was constantly under pressure by Nebraska, taking so much abuse that Miles worried about his health. The coach said he consulted with the trainers ``on a pretty regular basis.''

``It's a concern anytime he gets whacked like that,'' Miles said.

Fields finished with three interceptions, a fumble and completed 13 of 28 passes for 97 yards. It was the lowest output of his career.

Woods had only five catches for 47 yards, his lowest production in 15 games. He had two catches for 9 yards in the second half. Last year he torched the Huskers for 11 catches and 132 yards.

Bell _ who had a career-high 182 yards against the Cornhuskers last year _ ran for 87 yards on 23 carries. But he lost a fumble in the third quarter that was scooped up by Nebraska linebacker Barrett Rudd and returned 15 yards for a touchdown, giving the Cornhuskers a 10-7 lead.

Two days later, Miles still winced recalling that play.

``It's hard for me to see it again,'' he said, covering his face with his hands. ``I didn't want to see it too closely.''

Making things worse, Oklahoma State's strong defensive effort was wasted because of the offense's struggles _ Nebraska's only other touchdown followed another Cowboys' turnover deep in their own territory.

The Cowboys' seven points were their fewest in 22 games.

``We didn't have big plays _ it just seemed like we didn't have that spark,'' receiver Gabe Lindsay said. ``I'm hurt right now because we didn't produce more points.''

They'll surely have plenty of chances against a Wyoming team that last season finished 114th in the nation in total defense.

``We have to make sure it doesn't hurt us for the next game,'' linebacker Pagitte McGee said. ``We have to put Nebraska in the past.''