Archive for Saturday, November 1, 2003

Bell, OSU to challenge OU’s defense

November 1, 2003


— It was difficult enough trying to slow Oklahoma State's prolific pass-catch combo of Josh Fields and Rashaun Woods the past two seasons.

Now, Oklahoma has to worry about Tatum Bell, too.

The emergence of Bell, the nation's second-leading rusher, gives the top-ranked Sooners (8-0 overall, 4-0 big 12) yet another reason to fret as they prepare for today's showdown against 14th-ranked Oklahoma State (7-1, 3-1).

"We know the task we have ahead," Sooners defensive tackle Tommie Harris said. "We want another shot at them."

That's because Oklahoma State has had its way with the Sooners' vaunted defense the past two years.

The Cowboys, led by Fields and Woods, has left its mark all over Oklahoma in consecutive victories.

In 2001, the OSU duo hooked up for eight receptions for 129 yards and the game-winning score in Oklahoma State's 16-13 victory.

They outdid themselves against the Sooners last year.

Fields and Woods connected for three touchdowns and a school-record 226 yards on 12 catches as the Cowboys romped 38-28.

"Everything seemed to work the way we wanted it to," Woods said.

Bell, then a relative unknown, tacked on 106 yards rushing as the Sooners' defense suffered through a humiliating afternoon.

"It was as bad as we could possibly play," Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman said. "We were on our heels the whole game.

"We couldn't do anything right."

The Sooners' task will be tougher this year.

Bell has become the focus of Oklahoma State's offense this season, even though Woods and Fields have been as effective as last season.

The senior tailback is averaging a league-leading 135.1 yards rushing, an impressive number considering he had just two carries in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette after being benched for an early fumble.

"Tatum Bell is a heck of a player," Harris said. "We know what type of guy he is if you let him loose."

Even if the Sooners stuff Bell, they still have to contend with Woods.

Woods leads the Big 12 in receiving yards (913) and touchdowns (11). And the 6-foot-2 senior seems to have a knack for exposing every single-coverage mistake the Sooners make.

"Anytime someone gets something like that against you and doesn't really earn it, it kills you," Lehman said. "It's miserable for all of us."

Oklahoma, boasting the nation's fifth-ranked defense, will likely mount a much better challenge this time.

The Sooners have 20 sacks in the past four games, have not allowed a touchdown longer than 27 yards this season and have their best defensive player -- Harris -- at full strength.

"I was out-of-whack. I was barely moving," said Harris, who battled through a nagging groin injury much of last season. "I couldn't tell you what happened in the backfield because I wasn't ever back there."

Harris plans to be back there this time.

"I haven't beat them in two years," said Harris, a junior. "Hopefully, after the game, we'll have their respect."

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