OSU vs. Texas Preview
Unfortunately, the word "Oklahoma" just keeps cropping up on the Longhorns' schedule. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
Saturday, the #6 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys strut into Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium (DKR)—and they will have nothing less than utter domination on their minds. The Cowboys intend to ride the Longhorns and put them up wet, tired and embarrassed. If you don't think Okie State has revenge on their minds, you're out of yours.
With the exception of last year, Texas has owned Oklahoma State, beating them every which way but loose, from here into tomorrow, like a drum—pick your worn out metaphor. Texas won even after staking OSU a 20 point lead. Yes, that kind of domination; until last year (when damn near everyone beat Texas), the Longhorns had beaten OSU 12 straight times. OSU was ranked most of those years.
So, if the Cowboys get off to a fast start in this game, they will not let up off the accelerator. They will simply smell blood and work themselves into a frenzy.
And that is why Texas can win this game.
Yes, they will have to play a nearly perfect game. No, they cannot turn over the ball five times. They can win, and here's why:
- Texas plays at home. DKR is the Longhorns friendly confines. The crowd will be raucous and intimidating. Here's a cool stat: In the Mack Brown era (13 years since 1997) Texas has never... never... lost a game the week after playing Oklahoma. Texas is 13-0.
- Oklahoma State wants this game badly... too badly. They have everything to lose and very little to gain. Ranked #6 and trailing Oklahoma and Alabama and LSU and Wisconsin... OSU needs to get used to #6. They won't rise in the polls even if they manage to beat lowly Texas. Yes, they want this game too badly which often leads to poor, over-aggressive play.
The aberration apparent in last week's OU game should serve up a message to the Longhorn coaching staff. They got away from what worked all season, and the young, unseasoned freshmen and sophomores on the field were intimidated and appeared to play scared.
"I told the team after Saturday's game that nobody is happy," said Head Coach Mack Brown in his pregame press conference. "We're not going to let one loss beat us twice like we did last year. We used to do that well around here, and last year we got down on ourselves and didn't play well. There should be a huge learning curve with this team after that game, and playing one great team with the speed and the passing game they've got should help us playing against Oklahoma State this weekend."
That game is now behind them, and the lessons should be clear.
Play your game: Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin invigorated this offense with trick plays, a play-by-play rotation of David Ash and Case McCoy at QB and a steady diet of powerful running from Malcolm Brown and Fozzy Whitaker. Against Oklahoma, Harsin turned into Greg Davis (Texas former offensive coordinator)—playing it safe, playing to stay close, conservative—how'd that work out for you?
Play to win: Texas must enter the game ready to dominate the line of scrimmage both on offense and defense. The offensive line played poorly last week, the defensive line did not, holding OU under 100 rushing yards. Now is the time to dominate. If the defensive front four can stop OSU's rushing game and concentrate on pressuring Weeden and defending against the pass, they should be in good shape.
Keep the OSU offense off the field: Oklahoma State plays a wide open game with an older quarterback, Brandon Weeden. Weeden is actually older than the Green Bay Packer's QB Aaron Rogers (he played professional baseball for years before returning to college), and he is getting national attention. He throws to Justin Blackmon, perhaps the best college receiver in the country. The Cowboys are No. 1 in the nation in scoring, averaging 51 points per game and 577 yards of offense. Those are scary numbers. This is the time for Texas to run the ball with authority, time for the Texas offensive line to have some pride and keep the Cowboy's offensive from touching the ball.
"We're not an offense right now that can score like we have [in the past] around here, just so easily and so quickly," said Brown. "So we need to make drives, and we had our good drives Saturday, but we either turned it over or didn't score in the red zone. So we've got to do a better job in those areas of trying to stay on the field."
Texas defense is more than capable of slowing down Oklahoma State if they eliminate foolish mistakes. The young Longhorns held Landry Jones, a Heisman buzz-worthy quarterback, to just six yards per pass attempt. That's a very good day. Unfortunately they also missed tackles, and got blown up on a couple of plays. That can't happen.
Texas needs to do a couple things very well Saturday in order to win, here's what I'm looking for:
- Win the turnover count: Five turnovers, as Texas lost last week, will not beat any team in college football. Texas must hold onto the ball or they will lose... big.
- Run the ball effectively: To do this, the Longhorns cannot let OSU get out to a fast start. I've said it before and I will continue to say it—if Malcolm Brown runs for 100 yards, Texas wins every time. Give the ball to Malcolm, let Fozzy do his "Wild Foz" lining up at quarterback. Have fun.
- Rotate the QB's as needed, not just based on alternating series: This made no sense to me last week. Running Ash and McCoy into the game confuses the defense, and allows Texas to disrupt the opponent's rhythm. Rotate the QB's like you do running backs. The team's early season success was based on it, don't stop now.
This football game tests Texas' mettle and becomes a harbinger of the second half of the season. OSU has the skill and desire to turn this into a rout. If that happens, the season begins a slide that could be difficult for a young team to break out of. Win, and the confidence becomes a runaway train, building momentum and pushing the team to a higher level of play and perhaps a special season.