October 8, 2010

Friday Night Lights: OSU again a focus

After a nice win over Texas A&M to open up conference play on the right foot, Oklahoma State hits the road for the first time in 2010 tonight to close out its non-conference schedule.

The Cowboys, fresh off the 38-35 win over the Aggies on ESPN last Thursday, again appear on TV - this time ESPN 2 - for a nationally-televised game against Louisiana-Lafayette (2-2 overall, 2-1 Sun Belt). The game is scheduled for an 8:05 p.m. Central Time kickoff.

After the big victory over A&M, the No. 22 Cowboys (4-0, 1-0) must guard against a letdown on the road against an opponent that is hard to get excited about.

"We're working hard to keep our players focused after an emotional win," said head coach Mike Gundy.

We'll all find out tonight just how focused the team is after the win last week. OSU is a solid favorite to win this game, but anything can happen. Especially when a team has a bunch of young players scattered across the starting lineup - young players who haven't played on the road yet.

"I think you're always concerned about that," Gundy said of the road environment they'll see tonight. "Hopefully the players who have traveled and played on the road will help them through that. As a coaching staff we have to do a good job of getting them prepared and find a way to make them understand that once we get out there and kick off it's the same. I think we're going to be fine. I think they understand the importance of it."

Cajun Stadium (31,000) isn't Death Valley or the Swamp or the Autzen Zoo or any of those other well-known houses of madness and intimidation. But the place does have the reputation of being a nasty place for opponents, as the fans that do show up often are very abusive verbally. According to an article written by Ryan McGee of ESPN The Magazine, a confidential survey of Sun Belt Conference players voted ULL's field tunnel the most-feared in the league.

Said one player: "I hate going out that tunnel. They have some horrible, horrible fans. It's a good thing for them, though."

It might be their biggest advantage. Freak out the young guns of the Cowboys as they take the field. Force them into a cheap turnover and score. Get some momentum, then duke it out the rest of the way.

"It's a festive environment," said Joe DeForest of the ULL game day environment. "It's just the culture there; the way of life. There's great food, people and fun. I went there to play baseball so I know what to expect. The student section is pretty rowdy. They party all day and they sit right behind our bench and talk about your family and they are not very good things that they say."

"I think we're ready to step outside of Oklahoma and finally get to play a team that's not on our home field," said wide receiver Tracy Moore.

OSU will be looking to continue its high-flying offensive ways, while also trying to improve its defense, which has struggled at times this season.

"We still have a long ways to go in all three phases," Gundy said. "We improved in some areas and then in other areas we didn't improve as much we needed to in order to continue to perform throughout the season. We want to be better in this game than we were in the last game and improve. We want the young guys to continue to mature and grow. We're getting good play from our veteran guys with Ugo Chinasa winning Big 12 Player of the Week and we're getting good play from Kendall Hunter. We still have a ways to go. We need every day that we can to practice and we need to stay healthy and continue to play at a high level."

For the second straight week, the Cowboys will play a weeknight game on an ESPN network. When game weeks include all sorts of routine and rhythm, is a second week of a non-Saturday game weird to the team?

"Last week was probably a little more weird than this week," Brandon Weeden said. "We got a couple days off this weekend to get our legs back and practiced (Sunday). It's a Friday night game on national television again. It's a good time for us to go out and showcase what we can do. We're excited about it. It's my first start on the road, along with a lot of other guys, so we're looking forward to it."

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