For seven games, Texas Tech’s defense couldn’t have worked much better than defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt and his staff mapped out.
Then the Red Raiders got popped for 277 rushing yards last week by Oklahoma, and now they have to gear up for the Big 12 offensive player of the week. In a 58-27 win Saturday at Iowa State, Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland carried 26 times for 219 yards and four touchdowns — the latter two figures both highs for any Big 12 running back this season.
“Obviously, he can run the ball,” Tech defensive lineman Kerry Hyder said Tuesday. “We’ve got to go back to technique and do what we’ve been doing the first seven weeks of the season. We’ve just got to get back to basics, and it’ll work out for us.”
No. 18 Oklahoma State challenges No. 15 Tech at 6 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium. The loser gets knocked to the fringe of the Big 12 title chase with its second conference loss.
Oklahoma State finished with 342 rushing yards against Iowa State.
“We’ve got to get them into a one-dimensional game,” Wallerstedt said, “and make sure first and foremost we stop the run game.”
Oklahoma loaded up and went at Tech with a power running game, using a pulling guard and 260-pound fullback Trey Millard to lead the Sooners’ cadre of speed backs. They had 208 yards on the ground in the second half, one of the keys to a 38-30 OU victory.
Tech coaches don’t expect to see as much of a power package from Oklahoma State.
“It’s a little different than that,” defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said. “Either way, in stopping the run game, it comes down to playing good technique, separating off blocks, holding your gap and making the tackle.”
Getting gashed by Oklahoma caused Tech to drop from No. 24 to No. 40 in the nation in rushing defense. The Red Raiders must stem that tide quickly, because their final five regular-season opponents — starting with OU — have the top five rushing offenses in the Big 12.
The Red Raiders still have to face five of the league’s top nine rushers: Kansas State’s Daniel Sams and John Hubert, Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood and Texas’ Johnathan Gray.
Wallerstedt said the run-defense breakdowns against Oklahoma stemmed both from not filling gaps and having front-seven personnel knocked off the ball.
“One of the things that showed up (last) week was tackling,” he said. “A little bit more with the missed tackles, pursuit angles, things that we really have been clean on. I think they had 220 yards after contact. So when we had guys in position to make hits, they were bouncing off tackles, not finishing on tackles and they were going for extra yards.”
Undoubtedly, the Sooners’ rushing total wouldn’t have escalated had the Red Raiders played the solid third-down defense they have most of the season. Oklahoma converted 7 of 14, five when quarterback Blake Bell completed passes in situations between third-and-6 and third-and-10.
That allowed the Sooners to keep the offense on the field and wear down Tech’s defensive front.
“Give OU credit,” Hyder said. “They did come out in the second half and were able to run the ball on us pretty well. Also, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times. We’re going to credit them, but we know what we did wrong. We misfit some gaps, and we’re trying to work on that this week.”
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