INSIDE SLANT: Oklahoma State

Find out how Oklahoma State is planning to break its losing trend in Lubbock.

INSIDE SLANT

Getting grouped with Texas Tech within the South Division of the Big 12 was no bargain for Oklahoma State.

Neither is the new Big 12 schedule, which was configured as a round-robin once the league contracts to 10 members beginning with the 2011 season.

Since the inception of the league, the Cowboys have yet to win in Lubbock. Their last win there, in fact, was in 1944. But Oklahoma State is coming off a successful trip in its first road game of the season, rallying from a four-point halftime deficit to wallop Louisiana-Lafayette 54-28 to improve to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big 12.

"I like where our football team is at right now,'' OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "They have played together as a group. We have had a number of young players that have gotten better over the past five weeks, and I think they understand that commitment and focus and preparation are the most important aspects."

They better be if the Cowboys are to end their long slide in Lubbock. Opportunity exists. Texas Tech is 1-2 in the Big 12, opening with losses to Texas and Iowa State before outlasting Baylor on Oct. 9.

In addition, Oklahoma State runs the Texas Tech offense that was so successful for 10 seasons under former coach Mike Leach. Basically it's the concept Leach implemented, which Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen once supervised while working in the same capacity at Tech.

Although the Red Raiders are now under the direction of first-year coach Tommy Tuberville, they continue to use much of the old package and also pose an aerial threat.

Oklahoma State continues to emerge as a young team, with quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon two of the hottest new playmakers in the Big 12. Now, they'll head to Texas Tech with some valuable road experience, which Weeden said was valuable, "not just (for) me, but from a team standpoint. We have so many young guys.''

NOTES, QUOTES

— Consider it a strength for Oklahoma State, and now a blessing, that WR Justin Blackmon leads the nation in receptions (9.4), receiving yards (149.6), touchdown receptions (11) and scoring (66 points). Three other OSU receivers could miss the Oct. 16 game at Texas Tech. WR Michael Harrison is definitely out after requiring surgery for a finger injury. WR Josh Cooper (head) and WR Hubert Anyiam (ankle) are also dealing with injuries.

— The coach many wanted to interview prior to the Texas Tech game, offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, missed Oklahoma State's customary Monday press conference because he was running a high fever, according to head coach Mike Gundy. Holgorsen previously coached at Texas Tech under Mike Leach.

— The attention placed on WR Justin Blackmon in coverage not only should help free other receivers, but also provides openings for RB Kendall Hunter, who matched a career-high with 28 carries and gained 126 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette. "If people are going to double Blackmon," said Holgorsen, "then (Hunter) is going to get it as much as possible."

SERIES HISTORY: Texas Tech leads 21-13-3 (last meeting, 2009, Oklahoma State, 24-17)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE

As prolific as Oklahoma State has been rolling to yardage that ranks QB Brandon Weeden, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Justin Blackmon among the nation's leaders in passing, rushing and receiving, the Cowboys have a tendency to start slow. They trailed at halftime in three games, yet sport a 5-0 record as one of 13 unbeatens left in the Bowl Subdivision. Although the Cowboys can strike quickly, Hunter's legs give them the potential to milk the clock and rest an inexperienced defense. They held the ball for 10:45 of the third period in an Oct. 8 win at Louisiana-Lafayette after controlling the ball for just 8:56 in the first half.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE

With PK Dan Bailey swinging his leg at an accuracy rate of 100 percent (11 field goals and 32 extra points), it's possible that Oklahoma State possesses the nation's best kicking tandem. P Quinn Sharp is invaluable for the defense, ranking ninth nationally with a 45.8-yard average, while his unit also ranks ninth in net punting at 40.9 yards. The young defense continues to bend while adapting to the level of competition, but it has demonstrated a knack for prying and picking the football. Oklahoma State ranks 10th nationally with a turnover margin of plus-one on average. LB Orie Lemon, a fifth-year senior is the unit's leader, averaging nine tackles.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just have to take what the defense gives us. Obviously, we want to throw the ball around a little bit, but also if they only put four or five guys in the box, we have to run the football." -- Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, Oct. 16 -- Oklahoma State has won just twice in Lubbock, in 1942 and 1944, out of 37 games played against Texas Tech. There is a link to that era. The Cowboys are wearing decals on their helmets to honor OSU's first All-American, Bob Fenimore, who starred on the 1944 team when he led the nation in total offense and went on to become the top selection in the NFL Draft. Another current link finds Dana Holgorsen in his first season as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator after once serving in the same position at Texas Tech under Mike Leach. The Red Raiders still use most of the same spread tendencies under first-year coach Tommy Tuberville.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The defenses are extremely similar, young and capable of giving up big plays. The Cowboys rank 88th nationally and the Red Raiders rank 89th. Both offenses are explosive. QB Taylor Potts of Texas Tech is a veteran who keys a passing attack ranked second nationally. QB Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State is a first-year starter, but at 27, he provides maturity in a passing offensive that ranks fourth nationally. Two potential advantages exist for Oklahoma State. One is in the ground game, where RB Kendall Hunter ranks among the nation's best. Another is on special teams behind PK Dan Bailey and P Quinn Sharp. The Texas Tech specialty units have been victimized in each of the last two games by touchdown returns off onside kicks.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

 

QB Brandon Weeden Against Louisiana-Lafayette, Weeden engineered a comeback while eventually throwing five touchdown passes for the second time this season. Weeden has three 300-yard passing performances and leads the nation in point responsibility with a 21.6 average.

CB Andrew McGee Among the opportunistic Oklahoma State defenders, McGee may rank as the most dangerous after snagging an interception in each of the last three games. Over the last three games, the Cowboys have eight interceptions after failing to grab a pick in the first two games.

RB Kendall Hunter — Considering he ranks seventh in career rushing at Oklahoma State, it's interesting to note some of the backs ahead of him on that chart. Included are Thurman Thomas (No. 1), an NFL Hall of Famer; Terry Miller (No. 2), a Heisman Trophy runner-up; and Barry Sanders (No. 4), a Heisman Trophy winner who is also in the NFL Hall of Fame.

ROSTER REPORT

— WR Michael Harrison will miss the Texas Tech game after undergoing surgery for an injury to his ring finger, which he suffered in the win at Louisiana-Lafayette.

— WR Josh Cooper (head) and WR Hubert Anyiam (ankle) will receive further evaluation during the week before their playing status is determined.

— DT Shane Jarka aggravated a knee injury that required surgery earlier in the month, and he could also miss the Texas Tech game.

— LB Justin Gent did not play at Louisiana-Lafayette while recovering from a concussion. No determination had been made regarding his status during preparations early in the week for the Texas Tech game.


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