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."
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]