Oklahoma State Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
The Oklahoma State Cowboys need a bounce-back win after their disappointing performance against the Arizona Wildcats last week. While this week’s game against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns may seem like a cupcake, it really is not even close.
The Cajuns are not as good as Arizona is, but they do have plenty of athletes and speed. Stopping them will not be easy, especially considering how much difficulty the Cowboys defense had last week against Arizona. Louisiana-Lafayette plays fast, and it is much better than most realize.
This Cowboys team must be disciplined on both sides of the ball, limiting its mistakes and turnovers while causing miscues for the opponent. Last week’s penalties, dropped passes and lack of defensive discipline must be things of the past if Oklahoma State is going to win this football game.
Run the Ball
There were times in the Cowboys’ loss to Arizona in which it seemed that the offense got too reliant on the pass. Oklahoma State was down by double digits at the time, but there was still plenty of time left to run the ball. This Cowboys offense must not abandon the ground game again.
Wes Lunt proved himself against Arizona, but he is not Brandon Weeden. He is not capable of winning a game without a solid rushing attack like Weeden did against Stanford in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. He needs offensive coordinator Todd Monken to call run plays and as many of them as possible.
Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith have combined for 344 rushing yards and six touchdowns in their first two games. Those are very good numbers, but they really should be higher. This week, the Cowboys must use their ground attack heavily in order to pound the Cajuns into submission.
Play Legitimate Defense
The Cowboys defense was a complete joke against Arizona. It gave up 501 yards of total offense to a team it should not have. The Wildcats are good, but they are not good enough that they should be putting up those kinds of yards on a defense with this much talent and experience.
If the defense is not fixed by Saturday, something similar will happen again. Louisiana-Lafayette has playmakers and speed on the offensive side of the ball. Being unprepared or out of position is not an option if the Cowboys actually want to stop someone.
Run the ball.
Win the Turnover Battle
The 2011 Oklahoma State football team prided itself on creating turnovers on defense and avoiding turnovers on offense. Winning the turnover battle was one of the biggest reasons why that team was so good last season. So far, the 2012 Cowboys have done a poor job of continuing that trend.
The team’s turnover margin currently sits at minus-four, meaning that they have committed four more turnovers than they have forced. Against Arizona, Wes Lunt threw three interceptions and Joseph Randle fumbled the ball away once. Both are unacceptable.
Lunt does get a bit of a pass for being a true freshman, and for the fact that two of the three picks seemed to not really be his fault. However, Randle must do better. He is a leader of this team now and a rising star cannot make such mistakes.
The defense is also to blame. It has already been discussed how undisciplined it looked last Saturday, but the fact that it really was never able to cause any kind of chaos to the Arizona offense is extremely worrisome. The Cowboys' D has to cause turnovers for its style of play to work.
The Oklahoma State offense is predicated on playing fast and having receivers the quarterback can depend on. The latter was nonexistent against Arizona.
The Cowboys dropped seven passes, including two that would have been touchdowns. Wes Lunt completed 37-of-60 pass attempts for four touchdowns and those seven drops would have made his stat line look a whole lot better.
The Oklahoma State receiving corps has to make those catches for Lunt against Louisiana-Lafayette. Blake Jackson, Isaiah Anderson and Josh Stewart all dropped meaningful passes. That is 75 percent of the starting receivers, which should worry Cowboys fans.
Enough with the Penalties
The Cowboys committed 15 penalties as a team for a total of 167 yards. Not only is that a school record by quite a bit, but it is also absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary. Having that many penalties in a game is inexcusable. Personal fouls and holding calls seemed to be falling from the skies.
This team gave the game away with those penalties. A total of 167 yards is more than some teams gain in an entire game. If this team wants to win on Saturday, it must cut down its penalties significantly.
Ultimately, this will be the biggest key against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cowboys cannot win if they do not execute all of these keys, but they especially can’t if they beat themselves with pointless penalties.