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Notebook: Cowboys and Hurricanes prepare for a highly-contested matchup

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NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Baylor

Dec 12, 2020; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer (5) is sacked by Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive end Trace Ford (94) during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Miami and Oklahoma State are day away from squaring off in the Cheez-It Bowl. This will be only the second meeting all-time between the two programs, Miami won the only previous meeting.

Coaches and players from both schools met with the media for the final time before the matchup here is what they had to say:

Miami coach Manny Diaz on key to defensive success in the Cheez-It bowl

OSU’s offense hasn’t been as explosive this season as people expected, but it has shown glimpses of success. When the Cowboys offense clicked, it has started with the run game. Miami coach Manny Diaz knows that.

OSU has had four running backs run for more than 100 yards in a game this season.

“It always starts with controlling the run. Just simple, basic football,” Diaz said. “It's a lot easier trying to hand the ball off than it is to drop back and throw it; a lot more things can go wrong when you go to throw the ball than run it. And then you have a team like Oklahoma State, even despite Hubbard being out, I've very been impressed with the other backs and at times have not seen a dramatic difference, and that's no offense against Hubbard.

“I think he's an excellent player. But they have other guys that can make big plays happen, as well, and so they want to control the game with their running game and they have an outstanding game and they want to pound the football and run it and control the game.”

Mike Gundy and Manny Diaz talk to the media ahead of the Cheez-It Bowl.

Mike Gundy on the offensive line ahead of the bowl game

Dating all the way back to June, the Cowboys offensive line has been taking hit after hit with injuries, opt-out and transfers. The last few games, however, have shown some consistency in health and the production. The offensive line has opened up some gaping holes in the run game and given Sanders time in the pocket.

With Miami missing two starting defensive ends, the matchup is made a little easier for the young line and may even tilt in its favor.

“Well, they are doing good,” coach Mike Gundy said. “We've been fortunate that we haven't had to make changes on game day. And so the young guys are getting a little better. We're not a finished product, obviously with the youth and inexperience we have up there. But they are better than they were a month ago, that's for sure. It's good to have them out there practicing, good to keep them together.And that should help during the game.”

Gundy on what he sees from Miami on film

Miami ranks pretty high on the list of challenges the Cowboys have faced this season, and Gundy can see it on the film.

Miami’s offense ranks 36th in total offense in the country averaging about 432 yards per game. Their defense ranks 65th in the nation in total defense, giving up about 407 yards per game.

Miami quarterback D’Eriq King is on the top of the list of challenges that face the defense of OSU with his size and strength.

“Well, very fast team, like what we talked about earlier in the week,” Gundy said. “They are skilled at all positions. They have tremendous team speed at every position. Quarterback is a really, really good player. He makes them go. Sometimes he'll pull down, take off and make a throw or make a run and change the game for him. This will be a great challenge for us, but our guys have practiced hard, and they are excited about playing the game.”

Jim Knowles on OSU defenses third-down success

In a head-turning year, OSU’s defense carried the team to the finish line, and it started with getting off the field on third downs. Opposing teams converted third downs only 26.3% of the time, which ranks second in the NCAA.

The third-down success and stifling ability of the defense is something defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has tried to instill into his defense since arriving in Stillwater.

“It's something we've been selling since I got here and now you get into Year III and guys understand the system, right,” Knowles said. “We've been talking about it, if it's third-and-5and they get 5 yards, it's no different than if they get 15 yards. We don't want to give up an explosive play, but we do want to defend the line and our guys have bought into that and they have experience.

“So they know where they fit in the defense, and I think that has a lot to do with third down stops is understanding where you fit in the defense so that you have 11 guys working together.”

Kasey Dunn, Jim Knowles, Tylan Wallace, Tyler Lacy, Rhett Lashlee, Blake Baker and Bubba Bolden talk to the media ahead of the Cheez-It Bowl.

Tylan Wallace on Dillon Stoner’s importance to the program

On Tuesday, Tylan Wallace won’t be the only Cowboy receiver playing in his final game for the school. Dillon Stoner will also put on the Oklahoma State uniform one final time in Orlando.

Stoner has caught passes for the last five years at OSU, racking up 2,335 yards and 16 touchdowns on 186 receptions.

It’s not often a player stays at a school for five seasons, but Stoner did, and his teammates realize the legacy he leaves behind.

“You know, I think it's rare when you come across guys like Stoner,” Wallace said. “I mean, he's one of the hardest-working guys on the team, one of the most humble guys on the team. He goes out there and he gives it everything he's got, no matter what, whether he's getting the ball or not.

“It's just really rare to find guys like that on a football team. And to even, not just me, but the whole program, he means a lot especially for how long he's been here. It just shows the kind of person he is, the dedication he has for the game and love he has for the teammates. That's just a little bit to sum up what me and the rest of the guys on the team think about him.”