1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-1, 0-0)
Bad Guys: Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0, 0-0)
When to Watch: Saturday, September 22nd @ 6:00 p.m.
Where to Watch: Boone Pickens Stadium | Stillwater, Oklahoma
How to Watch: FS1 | FOX Sports Go
How to Listen: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
The Line: Oklahoma State -12.5 to -14.5 (OddsShark)
2. Uniform Tracker
3. The Big Storyline
The toughest thing that I think the offense is going to face is that the Oklahoma State defense running game is absolutely fantastic. That defensive line is very good and although the competition has been less than stellar, save and except for Boise State, the Pokes have allowed 2.97 yards rushing against SW Missouri State, 2.11 against S. Alabama and 1.10 against Boise State. The last figure should jump out at you. And thnk back when Texas Tech played Lamar and we thought that rushing defense was great and during that game, Texas Tech gave up 2.43 yards a carry, so Oklahoma State was twice as good against Boise. I don’t know how well that will play out in the Big 12 and this is a real opportunity for Texas Tech to do a little something because I don’t think that Alan Bowman can do this all by himself. Well, at least he shouldn’t.
And even something similar to what Texas Tech did against Houston, which in the end only ended up officially being 99 yards, was actually a lot more than that as Texas Tech took a knee at the end of the game backing up and taking away those rushing yards. I think if they running backs, whoever they are, can get in the 125 to 150 range, that will be enough for Bowman. That’s going to be a tall task and if the offensive line thought that Ed Oliver was a challenge, and he singularly was a challenge, well, the cumulative group on the defensive line for Oklahoma State is one of the better groups I think Texas Tech will face all year.
I mentioned to Travis in the weekly conversation, that the game last week was seemingly a game that we haven’t seen in a while. It was a game where the offense stalled initially, but eventually got on track in a big way. The team was down, but never out. The defense got multiple stops. The team got better as the game wore on. The offense was so good that they could take a knee and lose a handful of yards at the end of the game. That was pretty fun and I’m not here to proclaim that Texas Tech has absolutely turned the corner and we’re all good, but it was really fun and you probably remember those fun games from a decade ago.
Freshman Tracker: Alan Bowman (x3), KeSean Carter(x3), Erik Ezukanma (x2), Ta’Zhawn Henry (x3), Sarodorick Thompson (x2), and Jaylon Hutchings (x1).
4. Keys for Texas Tech
- I am not sure that Texas Tech has this player, at least it hasn’t proved itself out thus far this year, but if Texas Tech can find a way to get to Cornelius and put pressure on him, he’s not as good (most quarterbacks are not, so this isn’t intended to be a criticism per se) and it greatly stalls the offense. If Texas Tech blitzes, there is a decent chance that they’ll get to him, Oklahoma State is 122nd in Blitz Down Sack Rate, but the Pokes are somewhat of boom or bust, in that they’re also likely to have a really big play, 4th overall. It’s a real gamble and if you don’t get to Cornelius, then it’s probably not going to end well. I can’t imagine that David Gibbs will play that fast and loose, but there’s opportunity there, just can’t let those receivers get behind the defense.
- Limiting Justice Hill will be very difficult, but I think that’s a huge part of the success of the defense. We all somewhat walked away from the Houston game thinking that Texas Tech had contained the Houston running game. And the Cougars were okay at running the ball, but the Cowboys can be very explosive running the ball, it’s either mediocre or a huge play and huge plays can kill this team. Keep it all in front of you.
- The truth for Texas Tech is that Alan Bowman will need to be really good for Texas Tech to win, and that’s a ton of pressure for a true freshman. The offense is top 20 and that’s almost entirely a result of how well Bowman has played. And there are three things that Bowman and the offense has really excelled in over the course of the early season. The sack rate has been top-notch, ranking 6th overall and 1st on passing downs. Protect Bowman and this thing has a real chance. Bowman has also been exceptional, top 20 in passing marginal efficiency and passing completion rate. The latter definition is simple, Bowman is completing passes on passing downs 14th best in the nation and the marginal efficiency is a bit more difficult to explain, but it’s the expected success rate based on down and distance and yard line and Bowman, pretty much no matter the situation, has been very successful.
- It’s been fun as heck watching Antoine Wesley the past couple of weeks, but I think it’s time we see one of those huge games from T.J. Vasher. He’s got to be more of a presence, and maybe that shifts a bit after the success of Wesley. I’d expect Oklahoma State to be much more physical at the line of scrimmage, so we’ll need to be careful to watch how these guys get off the line of scrimmage. Wesley and Vasher aren’t big, but they’ve got to be strong off the blocks and although the inside receivers haven’t been truly significant pieces, I have a feeling that the over the middle routes will be more available as Oklahoma State likes to keep things in front of them too. Maybe to a fault, but I think there will be success to be had over the middle of the field.
5. What to Watch
Settle in, this is almost 17 minutes of highlights . . . the defense is playing in zone defense with the end and tackle flipping and the Boise State offensive line does a good job of switching, but the QB misses an open receiver. The defensive backs are very physical, that’s something to watch . . . Getting Cornelius throwing on the run may be something that Texas Tech needs to do . . . Boise State runs a 21 personnel grouping and OSU matches up pretty well, it will be interesting to see if Texas Tech has an advantage. BSU is usually a team that varies its looks as much as anyone . . . the BSU attempt into the end zone is a horribly executed play (don’t want to give OSU too much credit for the defense) and then the Broncos miss the field goal . . . this is the second deep throw that Cornelius misses on (badly) . . . the OSU secondary does well to keep things in front of them . . . the BSU touchdown was just a go-route . . . the OSU offense gets going with Cornelius getting time to make a real pretty deep throw to the wide receiver with single coverage, I’m guessing that Cornelius will be able to recognize that pretty well . . . on the running touchdown, OSU is in 11 personnel, which makes it tough to defend and a lot of that play is the running back just makes that play and the receivers are doing their job as well . . . the offensive line better man up, because they sniff out that running play really quickly and they are filling the gaps . . . the sack on the BSU quarterback is a really nice speed rush (he gets there so quickly), so Steele better be ready to move his feet and Bowman has to go quickly . . . on 3rd and 21, BSU runs a draw, womp, womp . . . blocked punt gives OSU a very short field . . . woot woot, diamond formation and Cornelius just takes it in . . . play action worked really well against OSU’s defense . . . that OSU defense is relentless and they only need to rush 4 . . . BSU can’t execute on a 4th and 6 . . . Cornelius can run the ball, for sure, he’s a bit gangly, but he can run . . . man, the Boise State offensive line is pretty rough and/or the OSU defensive line is really good and they will create mismatches on the defensive line and Bowman has to execute and recognize the right play-call . . . Cornelius has a good arm, and can squeeze it into tight coverage . . . OSU will take their shots down the field, so be ready for that . . . watch out for that Texas Tech play-action . . . that OSU safety on the BSU touchdown just doesn’t even really make an effort to get over to help . . . another missed throw deep and Cornelius had time to set up and make a good throw, but in the 3rd quarter, it’s mostly underneath stuff where they’re simply taking advantage of what Boise is giving them . . . I’m ready for Texas Tech to have a player like Brailford . . . holy smokes, blocked punt for a touchdown, the route is on . . . better be ready to go max protection . . . the seams are a tough cover for the Cowboys . . . OSU is essentially playing a prevent defense with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter . . . physically dominating play for OSU to get to 43, the TTU defensive line has to be ready for a physical game and be ready to rotate . . .
6. Coach’s Corner
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy spoke to the media and Gundy has really grown on me, in a good way. At some point, he was maybe a bit annoying, but over time, he’s been less of that. He can still be grating at times as an opposing fan, but a lot more good than bad as far as I’m concerned. Gundy starts his press conference with a recap of the win against Boise State and a quick look at Texas Tech:
“The postgame press conference was pretty accurate in what we saw after watching the tape. It was a very good effort in all three phases. I was pleased with the special teams’ development and the offense’s ability to take care of the football and get some big plays. And obviously the defense was able to make some big plays and had a consistent pass rush and the ability to stop the run. It was a great win for us. The players enjoyed it and we got back to work with practice last night, a day off today and we’re looking forward to conference play. Texas Tech looks to be the same Tech that they’ve been for forever. They’ve got a young quarterback who is throwing it around and has come along. He’s a really good player. This league will be disappointed to see him for the next three or four years, or however long it’ll be. He seems to understand their system and looks like he gets it. They’re moving the ball and scoring lots of points. We’ll need a great week of practice and hopefully we can be as successful this Saturday as we were a couple days ago.”
Gundy talks about his offensive line:
On the offensive line:
“They were better in the second half. We weren’t very good in the first half. They made a couple adjustments, scheme-wise, and our guys covered up and did a better job in the second half and that was evident. In the runs, we were popping our backs through and getting eight to 10 to 12 yards, and if they made the guy miss, we were getting 20, 30 and 50 yards. That will give you an illustration of what I was talking about, by covering guys up and getting a little bit of movement for some really good running backs. Hopefully that will improve next week. We are going have to get a lot better at run-blocking. We’ve got a group that we are using now. I think we are going to stay consistent with what we are doing and hopefully that will help us out.”
On the defense and new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles:
On the Jim Knowles’ ability to innovate as a defensive coordinator:
“We will know a lot more in a month. We are getting into a stretch here where we are going to see different styles of offense, and each week is a challenge. The team last week is considerably different than what we are facing this week. As we progress through, we are going to get a pretty good taste of different style of offenses. After six or seven, we see where we are at and where it all fits in. Those guys on defense have to come together as a group and come up with a plan based on the style of the attack we are playing each week.”
On improved tackling:
“It was better. We took care of the ball. We put the ball on the ground four or five times. We didn’t have any dumb penalties. We played clean and we tackled better. [Boise State] is really good at the controlled West Coast passing game. If you get them down right there, it’s OK. If you don’t, then those five to six-yard gains turn into 12 and 14-yard gains and it can be a really long day. So I thought we tackled better. That’s a work in progress with the new rules and how you have to tackle from the waist down. It’s not as easy as what it seems.”
And Gundy discusses his quarterback, Taylor Cornelius:
On Taylor Cornelius:
“He’s very mature. He’s older. He’s been around for a long time and has a great demeanor for a quarterback. He’s confident in himself and unselfish. At this point, he’s shown us that he’s tough and can take a hit, which is an important part of playing quarterback at this level. Doesn’t get rattled a lot. We like what we see. A month ago I said he was on the tee box or the driving range, and we didn’t know what he would do on the tee box on No. 1, but he’s done pretty well on the first two or three holes. He’s getting into a different part of the course now, and hopefully he’ll continue to play well. I think he’s developing into being a pretty good college quarterback.”
On Cornelius’ age:
“He’s up there, which is why I was joking about his discount at Denny’s and giving him a hard time. I shared that with him afterward. (Taylor Cornelius) doesn’t talk a lot. He’s like a lot of players that we’ve had here that have been very successful. He doesn’t talk a lot, which is good, because we do have a lot of players that talk a lot. I made sure that he was OK with me joking about him. He’s a good boy and he’s mature in a lot of ways, and that helps our team.”
Light a Fire: the pass rush needs some help here, maybe it’s Tony Jones, who leads the team with 3 sacks, but there’s got to be pressure come from someone and with only 5 sacks thus far this year, this may be a tall task. I’d love to see a breakout game from Eli Howard, but that fast-twitch rusher seems to play better for this defense and right now, Jones is really the only guy that does that.
Eraser Wanted: I think Broderick Washington and Preston Gordon will need to be superb this game. In a Slack chat, LaBarre mentioned that Damarcas Fields has been really good and almost taken away half of the field, that would be really nice too and I could definitely see that.
Needs Repair: We’ll probably continue to discuss the safety position until Jah’Shawn Johnson returns, but that’s a group that’s really struggling. It’s a tough position to play and I think that Vaughnte Dorsey played well more times than not last week, he can be an all or nothing sort of player and that can be the reason for the big plays.
Under the Microscope: The freshman signal caller is absolutely getting the love this week and he’s going to be the guy that gets dissected and probably the most attention this week. That Oklahoma State defensive line is going to want to baptize Bowman in the life of the Big 12.
Tacos vs. Burritos Matchup of the Week: Has to be Terence Steele at right tackle going up against Jordan Brailford. Brailford already has 5 sacks on the season, and Brailford is very fast off the edge and he weighs 250 pounds. Steele is going to have to be absolutely fantastic this game.