OU Pregame Analysis

If statistical trends mean anything in football, perhaps Texas Tech faithful should start taking their aspirin tablets right now. Keeping a few nitroglycerin pills next to the old Barcalounger during tomorrow's game against the Oklahoma Sooners might not be such a bad idea, either.

The Raiders have become noteworthy (or notorious) for miraculous, heart-pounding comebacks of late, rebounding from deficits of 21 and 25 points to beat TCU and Kansas, respectively. Such a feat of derring-do may be necessary against Oklahoma as well, given that the Sooners have owned their competition in second quarters this year by a margin of 55-3. The second quarter, by the way, also happens to have been Tech's weakest this year, as opponents have outscored the Raiders 44-34 in that stanza. Were Fred Sanford a Red Raider fan, he might be shouting to Elizabeth "This is the big one!"

Raider quarterback Sonny Cumbie is fully cognizant of the hazards of living by the comeback, and he, for one, wants no more of it.

"You get down on a team like OU and what was 20 points becomes 30 or 40. The comebacks have been great and exciting and it has been a fun ride, but we want to start out faster than we have been. Digging ourselves in a 20-point hole against OU is going to be tough."

Without question, a quick and error-free start by the senior tail-gunner from Snyder will be necessary if the Raiders are to avoid that 20-point hole. His ability to put up big numbers and lead the offense to good point production is certainly not open to question. On the year he has completed 142 of 238 passes (60% completion rate) for a NCAA best 1716 yards with eight interceptions and 11 touchdowns. It is the interceptions, particularly early in the game, that Cumbie must avoid.

Fortunately, it is just possible that OU's pass defense, believe it or not, may be the cure for what has slightly ailed the Tech passing attack. The Sooners have not picked off a single pass in three games and their pass defense is a pedestrian #63 in the country. This not what Big XII football fans have come to expect from a unit boasting recent alumni such as Roy Williams and Derrick Strait.

Sooner strong safety, Brandon Shelby, however, appears upbeat about Oklahoma's chances against Texas Tech aerial circus.

"We have to keep pressure. A lot of times he [Cumbie] will throw the ball under pressure, which will allow our safeties and secondary to make plays. We can't let him sit back there and read all day, because when you give any quarterback all day he is bound to find some one open."

The Sooners have had some success pressuring quarterbacks, registering seven sacks on the season. Leading the charge in that department is 6' 3" 300-pound defensive tackle, Remi Ayodele, a junior from Grand Prairie. Texas Tech has given up seven sacks in four games.

The Red Raider passing attack, however, is not the only story in the match-up of the Tech offense against the Oklahoma defense. The Raider ground game has also shown signs of coming to life as of late, with junior running back Taurean Henderson rambling for a career best 169 yards on only 17 carries against Kansas last week. Sooner defensive tackle, Carl Pendleton is well aware of this development.

"He [Henderson] is very explosive. All he needs is a crease and he's gone. You can't get caught in pass mode because he'll hurt you. Last week Kansas got caught in the pass mode and couldn't recover late in the game. You always have to be aware of the running threat."

The Sooners appear well equipped to handle the threat. Oklahoma is #15 in the country in run defense allowing 84 yards per game and a measly 2.8 yards per attempt. OU's leading run-stuffers are safety Brodney Pool, who has 23 tackles, one tackle for a loss, 2 pass breakups, and one blocked kick on the season, and linebacker Lance Mitchell with 22 tackles, 4 for a loss, a sack, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry, a fumble recovery, and a forced fumble.

The challenge facing the Tech defense is, if anything, more formidable. The OU attack, which is engineered by Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Jason White, is currently the 4th ranked unit in the country, hammering out 502 yards a game and allowing only two sacks on the season. White has completed 52 of 72 passes for 708 yards and six touchdowns with only one interception. Receiver Mark Clayton is his favorite target. The senior from Arlington has 18 catches for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Compounding the headache for the Tech defense, freshman running back Adrian Peterson has been nothing short of spectacular. He has 424 yards on 65 carries (6.2 yards a pop) and five touchdowns in a backup role.

All in all the troika of White, Clayton, and Peterson is likely the best set of skill players the Raiders will face this season. Tech's leading tackler, linebacker Mike Smith, is ready for the challenge.

"This is a big week for our defense. It's our time to show the nation what kind of defense we have and how much better we are this season."

Smith's primary helpmates and key figures in Tech's chances of slowing down Oklahoma are strong safety Vincent Meeks, who has 29 tackles and four pass breakups, and defensive end Adell Duckett, who has logged 13 tackles, four and a half tackles for a loss, a sack, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles on the season.

The game, which kicks off at 11:40 central time, will be nationally televised by the Fox Network.

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