Over the last 12 months Oklahoma State wide receiver Rashaun Woods
has faced plenty of pressure. There was the head-to-head matchup
against UCLA's three-time All-Pac-10 cornerback, Ricky Manning,
last September; Woods caught seven passes for 143 yards, though
the Cowboys lost 38-24. There was Oklahoma's vaunted defense in
November; Woods hauled in 12 passes for 226 yards in a 38-28 win.
And there were the constant double teams of Southern Miss in the
Houston Bowl in December; Woods had nine receptions for 164 yards
in a 33-23 victory.
Only once in the last year has Woods had serious jitters. On Jan.
13, during halftime of the Cowboys' basketball game against
Oklahoma, he shakily grabbed a microphone and made an
announcement that echoed through the Big 12: In spite of being a
probable first-round NFL pick, Woods was returning to Stillwater
for his senior year. "I was as nervous that day as I've ever
been," says the 6'3", 195-pound wideout. "In the end I wanted to
come back and be a part of this season. It could be special."
Coming off a watershed year in which they beat Nebraska, Oklahoma
and Texas A&M, the Cowboys are gunning for their first Big 12
title. On offense they boast junior quarterback Josh Fields, who
threw for 3,145 yards and 31 touchdowns last season; senior
running back Tatum Bell, a home run threat on every play; and
Woods, who caught 107 passes for 1,695 yards and led the nation
with 17 TD receptions. "We have a lot of big-play potential,"
says coach Les Miles. "If we keep working hard, we have a chance
to win some of the most significant games in OSU history."
Though the Cowboys' defense ranked 100th in the nation against
the pass, their offense will keep them in every game. Opposing
defensive coordinators must pick one of two poisons: Double-cover
Woods, which creates matchup problems elsewhere, or try to stop
him using just their best cornerback, knowing that no one yet has
been able to shut him down. Says Miles, "He'll outmuscle small
corners at the line, he's a terrific route runner, and he's got
the height and strength to go up and get 50-50 balls."
Says Woods, "Our goal is to win at least 10 games, if not go
undefeated. I didn't come back to fall short." --L.A.
COLOR PHOTO: PAUL RUTHERFORD/AP PRIME TIME Woods shattered Big 12 marks for catches and receiving yards--and had his best games against the toughest foes.
2002 RECORD 8-5 (T3 in Big 12 South)
FINAL AP RANK NR
RETURNING STARTERS 16
KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)
WR Rashaun Woods (Sr.)
Enters season with 3,047 career receiving yards
QB Josh Fields (Jr.)
First Cowboy to pass for 3,000 yards in a season
RB Tatum Bell (Sr.)
1,096-yard gainer challenged by Seymore Shaw
DE Greg Richmond (Sr.)
Tied for team lead with seven sacks
CB Darrent Williams (Jr.)
Led Cowboys with 13 pass breakups, three INTs
Consecutive victories by the Cowboys over Oklahoma. They go for
three straight--something they've never done--on Nov. 1.
Former walk-on Matt Hardison saw limited action in 2002 as a
backup tight end. But after gaining 50 pounds over the winter
Hardison, a senior, switched to left tackle and dominated as a
run blocker in the spring. His emergence means the running game
should once again be productive.
AUG. 30 at Nebraska
SEPT. 6 WYOMING
13 SW MISSOURI ST.
20 at SMU
OCT. 4 LA.-LAFAYETTE
11 KANSAS STATE
18 TEXAS TECH
25 at Texas A&M
NOV. 1 at Oklahoma
22 at Baylor