Texas and Oklahoma State will meet for the 33rd time Saturday night; a series that the Longhorns lead 24-8. However, the Cowboys have won the last three contests, It hasn’t been easy for the Pokes, though. Two of those games were decided by a field goal.
If the Pokes want to keep their streak alive on Saturday though, their season is going to have to turn around in a hurry. All of a sudden Texas finds themselves atop the Big 12, while all Oklahoma State needs to fix is a terrible offensive line, questionable quarterback play, penalty-ridden sloppy play, and stale play calling. And that’s for starters.
Still, it’s a night game in Stillwater, and it’s homecoming. The Pokes have the talent — if they can get out of their own way — and as Boise State found out, the Cowboys are capable of putting together a solid game.
Texas Longhorns [6-1, 4-0]
Texas has won six-straight after dropping the season opener to Maryland, and the Horns sit alone atop of the Big 12 rankings.
The Longhorns have survived in their last three games, winning with an average margin of victory of 4.7 points. Included in their six wins, however, are multiple Top 25 wins and a victory over eighth-ranked Oklahoma in the annual Red River Showdown.
Texas is coming off a bye week after surviving against Baylor at home. Sam Ehlinger suffered a sprained right shoulder early in the game, and did not return. Backup Shane Buechele came into the game, and the longhorns had a big second quarter by putting up 20 points after only scoring three points in the first quarter.
The Longhorns held a ten point lead at halftime and had the momentum heading into the second half. However, the offense stalled behind Buechele, and was held scoreless in the final 30 minutes.
The Longhorn defense stepped up though, and held Baylor to just seven more points. Linebacker Gary Johnson had a big day with 11 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss.
Freshman running back Keaontay Ingram had his first career 100 yard game. It was the third game in a row that he had more rushing yards than the previous game.
The biggest concern for the Horns is getting Sam Ehlinger back, which it looks like will happen. Reports are that Ehlinger is expected to play, and that’s good news. The Longhorn offense has a spark with him under center and he’s a big reason why the Horns are undefeated in Big 12 play.
Oklahoma State [4-3, 1-3]
Oklahoma State opened the season winning their first three games, including a win over a Boise State team that was then-ranked 17th in the country. That helped the Pokes climb up to number 15 in the AP Poll, but they’ve since lost three out of their last four, with their lone win coming against Kansas.
In those three losses, things haven’t been pretty and unrest is growing in Stillwater. Oklahoma State has averaged 370.6 total yards of offense while allowing 502.3 yards to their opponents.
The Cowboys are coming off a bad loss to Kansas State. The Wildcats win over OSU was their first conference win of the season. Oklahoma State’s offense was stagnant at best, only getting 311 yards of total offense. They were up 6-3 at halftime before the defense gave up 28 points the second half and the offense could only get another six points.
It was another game that Justice Hill had just 13 touches on the game, and they lost the time of possession by 15 minutes. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius went a mediocre 17-35 for 184 yards and threw two interceptions. Cornelius is struggling behind an offensive line. Offensive in that they are hard to watch. Despite that though, Cornelius continues to have faith in the line, because he’s determined to hold onto the ball as long as it takes for the deep route to open up. Perhaps the Cowboy’s real MVP is their laundry detergent.
The offense’s struggles have the fan base calling for a quarterback change, as the Cowboys have a few options behind Cornelius, but coach Gundy, much like with in-game adjustments, seems reluctant to make the change. Quarterback change or not, the Cowboys need to find ways to get Hill the ball more.
Keys to the Game for The Longhorns
Establish the Running Game – Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger is coming off a sprained right shoulder he suffered a couple weeks ago versus Baylor. The news out of Austin is Ehlinger is healthy and expected to start. Feeding the surging Keaontay Ingram may be the solution to taking the pressure off Ehlinger. Ingram is averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season and the Cowboys are giving up 194 yards on the ground during conference play.
Crowd the Line of Scrimmage – Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius hasn’t been consistent in his accuracy this year only completing 59% of his passes. He also has eight interceptions on the year. Texas can put seven or eight defenders in the box and force Taylor to make quick decisions in the read option and the passing game. Don’t give the receivers time to get down field and force him to make throws in the intermediate passing game; that’s where he’s struggled.
Strike Early – With the Cowboys struggles as of late Texas can put any doubt of a possible upset by getting up early OSU. They can really put a dagger in them early with a big special teams play or defensive score.
Keys to the game for The Cowboys
Give Justice Hill Touches – Oklahoma State is last in the conference in time of possession per game (25:35). The can stay on the field by giving RB Justice Hill the ball. In his four 100-yard plus performances this year, the Cowboys are 3-1. In that loss during that span, Hill had 111 yards but only had 12 carries. He’s averaging a little over six yards a carry. Whether it’s in the running game or the passing game, Hill needs the ball in his hands.
Attack The Blitz – The blueprint to beat the Cowboys is clear, bring pressure and live in their backfield. Texas will be no different. Especially with their defense. Oklahoma State needs to counter the pressure with more screens, quick slants, and finding Hill in the flat.
Win the Turnover Battle – Winning the turnover battle will not be easy against Texas. They only have three turnovers on the year, all three being interceptions. The Cowboys must take care of the ball and not put their defense in bad situations. However, if they can force a turnover or two to grab some momentum they might pull off the upset.
Vegas has this game being within a field goal and ESPN’s FPI Index Predictor is showing this game to be near even. I’m not seeing it. The body language of the Oklahoma State football players looks like a team that has given up on the season. Although, playing a top 10 team at home usually brings out the best of underdogs. I don’t give OSU a chance, though. I believe Texas goes into Stillwater and wins convincingly as they get ready for the potential top 15 matchup against West Virginia next week.