After a roller-coaster season so far, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have a bye week to prepare for their mega showdown with the Texas Longhorns on September 29th. Utilizing a bye week efficiently is important, and there are many things this team can work on to prepare for the next game and the rest of the season.
While the Cowboys did manage to come out of the first quarter of the season with a winning record, no one can deny that the team has not gone through its fair share of disappointments. The loss at Arizona was one of the ugliest games the Cowboys have played in the Mike Gundy era, and the injury to starting quarterback Wes Lunt against Louisiana is anything but ideal.
However, the season is far from over, and this bye week will be integral in terms of how the Cowboys choose to approach the rest of the season. Texas will be the biggest test of the season for Oklahoma State by far, and how well the team prepares for it will play a huge factor in whether it wins.
Texas running back Malcolm Brown.
The one thing that any team must be able to do if it wants to defeat this Texas Longhorns team is stop the run. Mack Brown has gone back to an old-school style of offensive football in recent years, relying on a smash-mouth running game to move the ball down the field.
Last year in the Cowboys’ 38-26 win in Austin, the Longhorns rushed for 231 yards as a team. With the addition of even more talent at running back and an improved offensive line, this Texas team will be even better in the run game. The Cowboys must work diligently at beefing up their run defense this week. It will be tough, because it is not something they are used to having to prepare for on a weekly basis.
When playing a strong defensive opponent, you need every extra yard you can possibly get. Field position is important. A drive of 50 yards can be good or bad, depending on whether you started on your own 10, your own 35 or the opponents' 45-yard line. Those extra yards make all the difference in the world.
Last season, the Cowboys did not have to worry about it so much, as they had the explosiveness and experience to score no matter where they started. This season, while they are still explosive, they lack Brandon Weeden’s experience at quarterback.
They need decent punt and kick returns. Look for David Glidden on punts and Justin Gilbert on kickoff returns to make big plays in this game.
The biggest reason the Cowboys won last season in Austin was their own run game. While many laud the Texas offense for being so successful at running the ball, we must not forget that the Cowboys have their fair share of players who can carry the rock as well.
Last season, the Cowboys rushed for over 200 yards against Texas, and they will need a similar effort if they are to win this year as well.
So far in this young season, the Cowboys lead the Big 12 in rushing as a team, and Joseph Randle is a big part of that. The junior running back has rushed for 335 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Texas’ defensive front is no joke, so this Cowboy team must be ready to run-block better than they have all season. It is imperative.
Texas quarterback David Ash.
After being the butt of quite a few jokes over the past few years, it appears that Texas finally has found a solid quarterback in David Ash. The sophomore has completed 76.4 percent of his passes for 703 yards and seven touchdowns. Most importantly, he has yet to throw a single interception.
However, Ash really has yet to be tested.
He has played well against inferior competition, but the Cowboy defense must make him hurry and throw before he wants to. They need to be in his face constantly and force him to be on the move when he throws. No quarterback is the same under pressure as he is when he has all day to throw.
Ash looks better, but he is still young. Texas will test Oklahoma State’s young quarterbacks, so the Cowboys must do the same to Ash.
The 2012 season has not been a good one so far for the Cowboys to maintain their turnover-inducing reputation. They currently rank dead last as a team in turnover margin, having forced a measly three turnovers while committing seven of their own.
This trend needs to turn around, and the Texas game is the perfect time for that to happen.
Beating Texas will take the best effort we have seen all year from the Cowboys. They will need turnovers that give their offense a shorter field if they hope to score on Texas’ defense.
Texas has only committed one turnover so far this season, but the Cowboys must make it happen. A win is probably not possible otherwise.