Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson considers Friday’s AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic matchup a special opportunity for a first-year play-caller.
Not only will Henson be calling plays in a bowl game for the first time, but he’ll also be doing it against Oklahoma State, his alma mater and a two-time stop during his coaching career. Asked Tuesday if that background would provide insight in helping No. 8 Mizzou (11-2) knock off No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2) in Arlington, Henson left open a slight possibility.
During his last stint at OSU (2001-04), Henson sat next to current OSU coach Mike Gundy, then the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, when Gundy called plays for former coach Les Miles.
“I know what coach Gundy likes to do from a play-calling standpoint because I got to sit beside him for four years while he did it. He hasn’t been beside me yet,” Henson said. “I don’t think it gives either person an advantage. But I’ve talked a lot of football with coach Gundy. I know what he likes to do.”
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Henson, an OSU offensive lineman from 1993-97, became Mizzou’s play caller following last year’s 5-7 season. In his first year in that role, he has overseen a balanced offense that has scored 507 points while topping the 3,000-yard mark in rushing (3,074) and passing (3,334). Asked about devising a game plan to try and beat OSU for the first time in his career, Henson said: “I have special feelings about Oklahoma State. But at the end of the day, we’re certainly looking forward to going and doing our best to win this game Friday.”
Missouri receiver L’Damian Washington, who leads the Tigers in receiving yards (853) and yards per catch (18.1), said he’s improved but still not 100 percent from a nagging toe injury suffered Nov. 9 at Kentucky. But he plans to play in the Cotton Bowl, regardless.
“I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent but definitely 80 percent,” said Washington, who still wears a red non-contact jersey in practices. “I’m running a lot smoother. With the adrenaline pumping, whenever I run out of that tunnel Friday, I’m sure the foot will be the last worry on my mind.”
Washington has 11 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown in three games since the injury. His backup is Darius White, a Fort Worth Dunbar graduate who has been a role player this season (7 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD).
Ready for rebound
Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland said he is thankful the Cowboys had most of a month to deal with the disappointment of a season-ending loss to rival Oklahoma that denied OSU a share of the Big 12 title.
“Everybody was holding their heads down … probably about a week or so,” Roland said, reflecting on the 33-24 setback on Dec. 7. “But going to the Cotton Bowl and playing a good team gives us a chance to make up for it.”
The venue is meaningful to Roland (745 yards, 12 TDs), a junior from Dallas Lake Highlands who will be making his career debut at AT&T Stadium.
“I’ve been to this arena and watched the games but I’ve never played in it,” Roland said. “So I want to put on a show. I want to play real good.”
Among his hidden talents, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) claims singing. In fact, he likes to loosen the mood by singing in team meetings. And during bus trips. And on the sideline.
“I sing every day. Anything that crosses my mind. Anywhere,” said Sam, a first-team All-American and the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. “It’s something I do. It’s my little hobby.”
Asked about being a possible contestant on American Idol or The Voice, Sam said: “I think I’m that good. But football’s working out fine for me.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said the 28 members of the Cowboys’ senior class have been instrumental in helping the team post a 10-2 record and return to the Cotton Bowl after an 8-5 finish last season. The five losses last year marked the most by an OSU team since a 7-6 finish in 2007.
“Their leadership and the way they have handled themselves and what they are passing on to the younger group is very special,” Gundy said of his seniors. “I wasn’t sure I would be able to say that starting out. But this group has been terrific.”