November 8, 2008

West Texas Tussle: OSU in another tough game

So far in "big games" in 2008, Oklahoma State has a .500 record.

One win over then-No. 2 Missouri, one close loss to then-No. 1 Texas.

Which way will the Cowboys go tonight? We'll all find out this evening, as the No. 8 Pokes face off against No. 2 Texas Tech at 7 p.m. in Lubbock. The game is set for an ABC broadcast and it will be seen nationwide, except for the west coast.

The Cowboys (8-1 overall, 4-1 Big 12) square off against a Red Raider squad fresh off an upset of the Longhorns last weekend. A last-second score helped boost the Raiders to a 38-33 win. Now they're near the top of the BCS rankings. They're in a situation to the one Missouri was in when the Pokes went to Columbia and earned an upset win over the Tigers.

For the Cowboys to be successful tonight, they'll have to win in a place they haven't won at since 64 years. But this team has proven to be better on the road that past OSU teams. Is the victory over Mizzou and close call against UT good signs for the Pokes against Tech?

"I hope so," said head coach Mike Gundy. "I think our team is more mature. You never know what's going to happen in games like this. Nobody does. But do I feel better about our approach and where we're at as a team right now and the maturity? Yes."

Maturity will be important for the Cowboys, as this is another big test. A win here would really boost OSU's season and keep alive hope for a Big 12 South title and a possible slot in a BCS bowl.

"It will be a great challenge for us on both sides of the ball," Gundy said. "Everybody is aware of what they have been able to accomplish offensively. I don't think we need to talk a lot about what they're doing on offense. The quarterback is playing very well and Crabtree is obviously playing well. I think they have four or five guys that are averaging over four catches a game. So they're doing a nice job of spreading it out offensively. Defensively they're very similar to the scheme they've used the last few years. They're running to the ball more and, in our opinion, they're tackling better and are more aggressive up front. They're doing very well and deserve to be ranked where they're at."

"Obviously it is going to be a big game because of where they are ranked," said co-offensive coordinator Trooper Taylor. "The excitement of that crowd takes it to another level at night at that place. Even when I played at Baylor, when we went there at night, it was always a tough place to play. They are a really good team. I even watched some of their offensive plays in preseason just because I like some of the things they have done. When I was at Tennessee, we looked at some of their offense as well. They have some guys on defense that run really well. Their defensive line does a great job at putting some pressure on opposing teams' quarterbacks. From the Texas game, you were able to see that."

The defense is definitely improved. Tech has been a mirror image of OSU in recent years: big-play offense, Swiss-cheese defense.

"You see the same people playing at a different level," said co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer. "You saw them play better against Texas because of the magnitude of the game. That is a huge rivalry for them. Anytime you have one of those games, it really means something to those kids who are from that area. When you look at last year's game compared to some of the stuff this year, you see a lot of the same guys flying around and really hustling well. You've got to give credit to their defensive staff and what they have been able to do. The attitude is there. They believe in themselves. They are keeping it simple and executing what they do best."

OSU will have to execute well on both sides of the ball in order to pick up the win. Seeing continued improvement from Brandon Pettigrew could make all the difference in a big road game like this one.

"He's getting close to being back to his old self," Gundy said. He's not quite there yet. If you watch him when he gets in space and takes off and runs he drags that foot some. But he's certainly playing at a much higher level than he was two weeks ago. They say it could be another two weeks before he really gets back to full speed. But he's been doing very well and he's been productive for us. We didn't use him as much in the passing game this last week because of the scheme that was presented to us. But he was a very good blocker for us and that was the main reason we were able to get the ball in the perimeter last week."

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