OSU-Tech: Five Questions

Robert Allen answers the questions Cowboy fans are asking following Oklahoma State's loss to Texas Tech in the regular season finale.

1. Why didn't the offense throw more on early downs, and late in the game?
This is a little bit of a mystery, but the Cowboys game plan going into the game was to run the football. Obviously, as the game wore on the Red Raiders did a better job of stopping the run. But according to head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Mike Gundy they did it without changing their scheme.
"They had seven in the box and were running deep quarters in the secondary," said Gundy. "We should have been able to run the heck out of the ball, but we had trouble blocking them."
"I'm still amazed that we couldn't run the ball better," said Miles a couple of hours after the game had ended.
Texas Tech, with seven defenders in the box and playing primarily cover three and cover four in the secondary, really invited the Cowboys to run the football, and they couldn't do it. They did bring strong safety Josh Rangel down a few times and run blitzed him in an inside gap, but Miles is correct in that the Cowboys should have been able to run the football.
Still, when the run isn't working, you have to give the defense something to think about and Donovan Woods' nine passes weren't much of a concern to Texas Tech. When the Cowboys did pass, Texas Tech was able to apply pretty good pressure with just a four-man rush. The tight end looked like the best answer as they made some big plays when given the opportunity.
It's an enigma, wrapped inside a riddle, and the end result is the Cowboys couldn't run, they didn't throw, and they didn't score an offensive touchdown for the first time this season.

2. What kept the running game from producing like expected?
It comes down to the offensive line. After the first drive Texas Tech did a good job of beating blocks. Their defensive front seven had 29 tackles in the game, a good number for the defensive line and linebackers combined. Oklahoma State probably could have tried the outside more, but didn't. The belief was they should have been able to run the football.
"We were overzealous," said offensive guard Sam Mayes. "I came out looking for them to do all kinds of things, and all they did was play straight football and beat our butts."

        3. Why didn't the Cowboys keep going back to the jet sweep play with Prentiss Elliott?
It worked well, but that is a play that is only going to burn an opponent so many times. Tech started spying on Elliott, and eventually caught him for a large loss on a reverse handoff, although he did a heckuva of keeping the loss to a minimum. One thing the Cowboys could have done was use Elliott more as a decoy because there is no doubt that he had Tech's attention.
Even on pass plays, Elliott ran two deep routes where he was the primary receiver, but he had plenty of company. It was obvious that the Red Raiders had seen enough big plays by Elliott on tape and were determined not to let him burn them in the secondary.

4. How did Tech open up their offense in the second half?
By going away from the expected, something the Cowboys probably should have considered. The Oklahoma State defense didn't shut down the Red Raiders passing attack, but they were coming up with enough plays to keep Texas Tech off the scoreboard.
The Red Raiders changed it up, usually facing a three-man line by the Cowboy defense, they inserted mini-back Johnny Mack in the game and the 5-foot-6 Mack found the gaps in the Cowboy defense and proved to be hard to tackle. Tech had to average close to five yards on first down run plays and forced the OSU defenders to come off their thoughts of stopping the pass, therefore opening the pass up a little. It was a handy change of pace that worked just enough to give the Red Raiders a lead that forced OSU to take chances that in turn gave Tech the opportunity to put the game away.

5. What are the bowl options now and how did this game impact recruiting?
As far as a bowl game, unless something crazy happens, it looks like it's Shreveport and the Independence Bowl. The SEC can't fill all their bowl slots and Alabama has suggested that their preference is to go to Nashville and the Music City Bowl. That means the Independence Bowl is going to have to look for an opponent. The early favorite is Toledo out of the Mid-America Conference.
As for recruiting, it depends on how you look at it. Oklahoma State can certainly advertise to recruits a good team that is not far away from being great. They need some help. Opposing schools will tell recruits that OSU lost to OU, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, proving they are not a force in the Big 12 South. That is a topic that the Oklahoma State coaches will have to address with recruits. The best way to handle that is by being straight forward with them, and by continuing to go back to the theme of being close and just needing some help.
There is not a single recruit who I can think of that I know who will be turned off of OSU as a result of this game.

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