The last two times Texas Tech went to Oklahoma to play games comparable to what’s at stake this week, the Sooners gave performances that were off-the-charts good.
OU bashed a couple of Tech’s best teams 60-15 in 2002 and 65-21 in 2008, making each of those seasons a little less special for the Red Raiders than they could have been.
Both games fell later in the schedule, but Tech’s 7-0 start and No. 10 national ranking this year should give Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops ample motivation to ratchet up his team’s level of play for this week’s game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. If nothing else, the Sooners (6-1, 3-1 in the Big 12) can ill afford a loss, lest they fall two games off the pace in the conference race.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury joked that the team he quarterbacked in the 2002 game was beaten “112 to 7” by the Sooners. It wasn’t that bad, but OU couldn’t have done much better in that game, or the 2008 game, on defense.
“You know, just everything,” Stoops said when asked this week what worked in those games. “Coverage. Pressure. More than anything, eliminating the run game. I know people find that hard to believe, but it’s a big part of stopping them — being great with their run game and screens. The stuff that happens on the line of scrimmage and back is a big part of defending them.”
Tech was 8-4 going into the 2002 game, which was a de-facto Big 12 South Division championship game, and was blown out 46-0 by the third quarter. The Red Raiders were 10-0 and ranked No. 2 for the 2008 game, and OU led 42-7 by halftime.
Already this week, Stoops has tried one ploy that he broke out before the 2008 game, urging OU fans to bring more noise than they have been.
“It would be awesome if we could recreate that atmosphere and everybody jump in and do their best to try and affect the game, build some excitement and all,” Stoops said. “We’ve got to do our part. It’s a lot easier to be excited when you’re playing well, so we’ve got to hopefully give them some things to cheer about and jump in the game.”
OU’s routs were even more impressive considering Tech had senior quarterbacks who came in on a roll. In 2002, Kingsbury was coming off six touchdown passes in a victory over No. 3 Texas. In 2008, Graham Harrell and the Red Raiders had beaten No. 1 Texas and No. 9 Oklahoma State in their two previous games.
This year, the Red Raiders are unbeaten with two true freshmen quarterbacks. And though Baker Mayfield started the first five games, Davis Webb is likely to get the nod Saturday after back-to-back 400-yard passing performances in wins over Iowa State and West Virginia.
“The irony is that their quarterbacks are their least experienced players, but they play like veterans,” Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “It tells you a lot about their system and how they teach it. They lost one guy and another came in, and they continue to do the same thing.
“It’s a credit to their system and Kliff and the way they coach them and teach them. These guys can really spin it and their timing, and they get the ball out of their hands exceptionally well.”
OU’s secondary, led by cornerback Aaron Colvin, leads the nation in pass defense, yielding 149.7 yards a game. Tech ranks second in passing offense, averaging 416.4.
Tech has had its share of success in the series, ending OU’s 39-game home winning streak in 2011 and stringing together a three-game streak over the Sooners in Lubbock with wins in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
The current Sooners have shown some soft spots, particularly their rushing defense and their passing offense. The last two games, in a 36-20 loss to Texas and a 34-19 conquest of Kansas, OU allowed more than 120 yards rushing apiece to the Longhorns’ Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown and to the Jayhawks’ James Sims.
The Sooners have lost two key players in the front seven to season-ending injuries: defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (back) and linebacker Corey Nelson (pectoral).
Bob Stoops said he thinks the Sooners’ defensive front “has played pretty well, really.” A lot of the run-game yield, he said, has resulted from linebackers being out of position.
Meanwhile, OU is 97th in passing offense with quarterback Blake Bell.
“We had some opportunities, and we missed them,” Stoops said, referring to a shortage of big plays in the passing game. “We have got to be able to convert. We’ll keep going after them, and I think we will. We had some opportunies the other day (against Kansas), and we just weren’t able to complete them.”
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