No. 15 Oklahoma State looking to rebound at Texas Tech
LUBBOCK, Texas — Oklahoma State went into the season considered one of the favorites to get into the revived Big 12 championship game, with the chance maybe for some extra bedlam against its Sooner State rival that has won the last two conference titles.
While that is still possible after the 15th-ranked Cowboys (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) dropped their league opener at home to TCU, they first have to try to get out of September without their first 0-2 conference mark since 2005.
And they face quite a challenge Saturday night at rising Texas Tech (3-0), which is playing its Big 12 opener.
“It’s all about the next game. It’s hard to win two to three (games) down the line if you don’t win the one on Saturday,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “We’re playing a team that’s 3-0, and is playing with a lot of confidence now, on the road at night. It will take everything we have to play well enough to play this Saturday, so I think that helps them focus.”
Texas Tech and Oklahoma State have the league’s top two passing offenses. Both have senior quarterbacks — one a potential Heisman Trophy front-runner and the other a first-time-starter — and big-play receivers. The Red Raiders (587 total yards per game) and Cowboys (580 ypg) rank 3-4 nationally in total offense, behind Big 12 foes Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Nic Shimonek, Tech’s fifth-year senior and first-time starter, has 11 touchdown passes with one interception while leading the Big 12 with 416 yards passing per game. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, who is going into his 33rd start, throws for 383 yards per game with 13 touchdowns and three picks. Rudolph has 35 touchdowns and five interceptions in his past 13 games.
Red Raiders receiver Keke Coutee is the Big 12 leader with 9.3 catches and 149 yards receiving per game. James Washington has 4.8 catches per game for Oklahoma State, but averages a league-high 27.4 yards per catch to rank second behind Coutee with 130 yards per game.
“Washington’s as good as anybody in the country,” Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
A few other things about Saturday night’s primetime game that is sold out:
TECH’S NEXT GAME TOO
This is a big chance to for the Red Raiders to make an early statement in the Big 12, especially coming off a losing record last season. They can improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2013, which was Kingsbury’s first season as coach. Like Gundy, Kingsbury is trying to keep the focus on this game.
“We’ll do our best to play hard and put on a good show,” Kingsbury said. “It should be an incredible atmosphere. We’re treating it like our next game. It’s not a Super Bowl or anything of that nature, but anytime you get to play out there at night in front of our fans, it’s a special occasion.”
While Texas Tech has typically always been good on offense, the Red Raiders appear to be progressing on the other side of the ball in their third season under defensive coordinator David Gibbs. The Red Raiders forced five turnovers in a win at Houston last week, giving them nine for the season.
“They’re tackling better. They’re running to the ball, and it looks like they understand their schemes and whatever Gibbs is trying to get accomplished,” Gundy said. “Just looking at those three games, they’re playing much better than they did from last year, from an outsider looking in.”
Oklahoma State has won the last eight games against the Red Raiders, though Texas Tech still holds a 21-20-3 lead in the series that dates to 1935. The Cowboys held on for a 45-44 win at home last season when the Red Raiders missed an extra point after scoring a touchdown with 1:37 to play.
Oklahoma State has outscored its opponents 66-6 in the first quarter of games. The Cowboys outscored its three non-conference opponents 59-0 in the first quarter, and led TCU 7-6 after 15 minutes last week before losing 44-31.