This Saturday, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will face off against the Texas Longhorns to begin each team’s Big 12 conference schedule. It will not be an easy game for Cowboys to win, but there are five important things they can do to make a victory possible.
The Longhorns have looked good so far this season, coasting to a 3-0 record. Their defense and rushing game are good as usual, and now quarterback David Ash looks like he has progressed enough to make the Texas offense a balanced one. This is a big game for both teams. The winner will have a leg up on the conference title race, while the loser will have proven itself unable to compete for that same conference title.
The Cowboys need to win this game if they want to compete for a conference title, even in a rebuilding year, and there are specific tasks they must accomplish to do so.
During the 2011 college football season, the Cowboys were the best in the nation at winning the turnover battle. They forced quite a few, while limiting the ones they committed. The 2012 season has been a very different one so far, with the Cowboys struggling to force turnovers.
The turnover battle will be ultra-important in this game. Texas keeps the ball on the ground, which limits their own turnovers and helps them keep the ball and capitalize on those of their opponent. The Cowboys must win this battle, whether it is by forcing turnovers, limiting their own or both.
Another strength of the Cowboy defense over the past few years has been limiting big plays. Defensive coordinator Bill Young has made that a big priority throughout his tenure there, and it has shown. That strategy will be big against Texas this weekend.
While Texas has not been a big-play offense recently, that is exactly why you cannot allow them big plays. Last season in Austin, the Cowboys kept the Longhorns in front of them, giving up yards but keeping them from scoring as much as they could have. They must do that again this season.
One thing that Texas has that is better than any other team the Cowboys will face in the Big 12 is their defensive front. Jackson Jeffcoat and company have big-time ability as far as getting in the face of the opposing quarterback, and the Cowboys will have to protect their quarterback from that onslaught.
While we do not know who will start at quarterback, he must be protected regardless. While it would seem that J.W. Walsh would be better equipped to handle such pressure because of his running ability, the truth is that Wes Lunt would be better against it because of his ability to get the ball out quicker.
Do not forget: Oklahoma State did not start beating Texas until Mike Gundy moved away from the running quarterback toward more of a stationary, big-armed quarterback.
We all know that Texas is going to try to run the ball down the Cowboys’ throats. While that is a major concern, the passing game off of it is an even bigger one considering the development of David Ash as a passer.
Cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown will have to be on their toes, as there will likely be times when they have to play man coverage with little safety help. Another crucial part of this equation is getting pressure on Ash, who showed last season a tendency to make mistakes under pressure.
The biggest thing the Cowboys can do to is successfully run the ball. A big part of the Cowboys’ win in Austin last season was running the ball, as Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith combined for over 200 yards rushing. They will need to have a similar game this weekend.
Randle and Smith are the two surest bets on the team right now, and that is why they need to show up big. Plus, running the ball will help the Cowboys with other important aspects of the game like protecting their quarterback and keeping turnovers at a minimum. Running the ball, especially at the pace of the Cowboy offense, will wear down Texas’ defense and open up the passing game.