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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2006
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Spread offense presents problems
Tide practicing to slow Cowboys' balanced attack

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

SHREVEPORT, La. — When comparing Oklahoma State's offense to another team the Tide had played during the season, Alabama linebacker Juwan Simpson couldn't think of a comparison.

Then, when pressed with the question, Simpson pensively said LSU.

"They're a very spread-out offense," Simpson said. "They execute real well and their offensive line does a great job."

Alabama (6-6) will face Oklahoma State (6-6) in the Independence Bowl on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

With a defense ranked 92nd in the country, the Cowboys have needed their offense to carry them.

And offensively, Oklahoma State — despite Simpson's LSU reference — is different from any team that Alabama has faced. It spreads out everyone and either runs the option or passes the ball down the field.

If the Tide craved balance on the offensive end under former coach Mike Shula, then the Cowboys exemplify what Alabama strived for and more.

Oklahoma State averaged 208.1 yards rushing on the season, which ranked eighth nationally, and 200.92 yards passing, which ranked 57th.

Only one other team in the country averaged 200 or more yards in both rushing and passing — Boise State.

This made for Oklahoma State finishing 16th in the country in total offense.

"There's parts of their offense that we've seen during the course of the year," interim coach Joe Kines said. "We played a team that ran the option like them. We played a team that threw the ball like them."

The Cowboys' brand of option has a bit of quicker pace with more tempo than most teams. They do not huddle and use plenty of running backs.

Three players finished the year with more than 500 rushing yards. Dantrell Savage led the Cowboys with 708 yards, while Keith Toston had 573 and Mike Hamilton had 546.

Even their quarterback Bobby Reid rushed for 466 yards, but finished second on the team with 611 rushing yards gained. Sacks brought his net yardage down.

Reid also can throw the ball as shown by his 171.2 yards a game, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

"Most options are consistent across the country," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.

"You take advantage of the style quarterback that you have. We're fortunate in that our quarterback can do a lot of things. We can be a little more extraordinary with what we do."

So how does Alabama scheme for a team such as the Cowboys?

With so many different weapons that move at a quick pace, the Tide knows it faces a challenge.

At the same time, the team maintains that the best way to stop OSU is to remain disciplined.

Several Tide players said that if they play their assignments correctly, then they should have no problem stopping Oklahoma State's attack.

Kines agrees with the sentiment.

"We try to do the same thing to them coverage-wise. We try to get a little heat on the passer," Kines said.

"Most offenses are a combination of things. It's like putting the puzzle together and their puzzle unfolds and you see the picture of what they're trying to do."

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