The Norman Transcript

December 2, 2011

Five keys for OSU to break losing streak


The Norman Transcript

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State is listed as a 3-point favorite.

Forget it.

History gives No. 10 Oklahoma an advantage heading into Saturday’s game at Boone Pickens Stadium. The winner claims the Big 12 Championship.

The No. 3 Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 in the Big 12) have never won a Big 12 Championship, never beaten OU with Mike Gundy as head coach and sport just 17 victories in 105 tries. Their last victory was a 38-28 win in 2002.

If that’s not enough, Oklahoma’s defense allows 20.8 points per game (first Big 12) and 373 yards per game (second Big 12).

The Cowboys also are coming of their first loss, a 37-31 double overtime loss to Iowa State on Nov. 18. The loss all but eliminated their hopes for a national title.

All is not lost.

Gundy said his players have put the Iowa State loss behind them. They have practiced well and are excited to play Saturday on national TV.

“There’s a lot of excitement in this state for the game. Obviously, we don’t have professional football here and it’s a fun week for everybody, but our players and our coaches have to stay focused on the task at hand,” Gundy said.

How can Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma, win the Big 12 title and a berth in a BCS bowl game?

OSU fans may find hope in these keys:

n Balance: Oklahoma’s defense is aggressive — attack, attack, attack. The Sooners pressure quarterbacks and force mistakes. The Cowboys must counter with a balanced attack. They have to mount enough of a running game to make the OU defense think run first, rush the passer second.

“They don’t want you to run it. They don’t want you to throw it,” OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “The real challenge is to try to keep that from happening. If you can, you have a shot.”

In OU’s losses, Texas Tech and Baylor were able to run enough to make OU’s defense focus on stopping the run first.

n Time: The time of possession clock needs to be even or favor Oklahoma State after Saturday’s game. Texas Tech and Baylor held the ball for about 35 minutes in wins over OU. It would keep OU’s offense on the sidelines and keep OSU’s defense fresh.

OU’s aggressive defense will make it difficult for OSU to march downfield on 15-play or more drives, Monken said. OSU’s offense cannot have many three-play-and-punt series and win Saturday. If they can’t drive 80 yards for a touchdown, they must strike for a couple of first downs and pin OU deep into its own territory with Quinn Sharp punts.

n Turnovers: Oklahoma State blows opponents out if they win the turnover battle. When they lose it, the Pokes struggled to a win over Kansas State and lost to Iowa State. OSU had four turnovers against Kansas State and  five  against Iowa State. The turnovers in the Iowa State game kept OSU from developing any consistent offensive play. OSU running back Joseph Randle has four fumbles in the last two games. OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden tossed three interceptions against Iowa State. The Cowboys need to play aggressively but take care of the football, Gundy said.

n Big plays: The Cowboys’ offense will need to mix in big plays with ball control. The Red Raiders and Bears beat OU because they connected on five long touchdown passes — 25 yards or more. The Pokes’ offense has thrived on long touchdown passes and long touchdown runs this season. Even in the loss to Iowa State, Weeden connected with Justin Blackmon and Tracy Moore on TD passes of 27 and 30 yards. Randle is OSU’s leading rusher with 1,042 yards and 23 total touchdowns. He has broken touchdown runs of 62, 59  and 23 yards. Randle’s running back mate Jeremy Smith has 526 yards on 80 carries with  touchdown runs of 38, 30, and 74 yards. Freshman tailback Herschel Sims has an 81-yard TD run.

n Loud crowd: Oklahoma State’s attendance has grown during the Gundy era. The Pokes average 57,047 fans at every home game this season. Boone Pickens Stadium holds 60, 218. OSU should set a single-game attendance record Saturday. OSU crowds have become more enthusiastic and boisterous during the Gundy era as well. The players and coaches have noticed it. Crowd noise played a huge role when OSU preserved its victory over Kansas State with a final-minute, goal-line stand, OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said. The rowdy Iowa State fans certainly added fuel to the Cyclones’ momentum in their upset of OSU.