<
>

No. 15 Oklahoma State to test improved Texas Tech defense

Much has changed for Oklahoma State and Texas Tech since last week.

Back then, the Cowboys appeared to be a juggernaut on a collision course with Oklahoma for Big 12 supremacy and a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Red Raiders were staring at a treacherous trip to play Houston.

Now, Oklahoma State has to pick itself up off the mat following a 44-31 home loss to TCU, and there are probably a lot of places the Cowboys (3-1) would rather try to get back on their feet than in a night game in Lubbock, Texas.

Meanwhile, the Red Raiders matched defenses with Houston and came out ahead with a 27-24 victory. Texas Tech might actually be able to play some defense, although there are probably a lot of opponents the Red Raiders (3-0) would like to test that theory against other than Oklahoma State.

No. 15 Oklahoma State and Texas Tech has each other on Saturday night as the Cowboys will attempt to extend their eight-game winning streak in the series.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy clearly hopes not too much has changed.

"Tech is similar to what they have been," Gundy said during his weekly press conference. "Their quarterback throws the ball really well and has tremendous skill. They do a nice job with play-calling and mixing things up and I'm fairly certain that their defense is improved."

Red Raiders linebacker Dakota Allen earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after he produced 12 tackles, a pair of QB hurries and an intercepted against Houston.

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury understands that just because his defense has been able to make stops and create turnovers in nonconference play, the Red Raiders have to keep improving under third-year coordinator David Gibbs as Big 12 play begins.

"That's what we've been searching for and that's why I've been so excited to have Coach Gibbs here for his third year, trying to have some of that consistency, develop a culture, develop an identity," Kingsbury said Monday. "You can see they're understanding what he's about. Hopefully that continues to pay off."

Fittingly for a couple of schools whose mascots are six-shooter-toting Western characters, the Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech matchup has annually been a shootout. The Cowboys prevailed, 45-44, last season to continue a trend.

The winning team has scored at least 45 points in eight of the last 10 contests. That goes back to 2007, when Oklahoma State won, 49-45. The next year, then-No. 2 Texas Tech defeated the ninth-ranked Cowboys, 56-20.

But that was the Red Raiders' last win in the series.

Despite Oklahoma State's loss to the Horned Frogs last week, Kingsbury can see that the Cowboys still have the potential to shake his team's newfound confidence on defense.

"They're still a very good football team, scored a ton of points on everybody and a lot of yards," Kingsbury said. "We'll have our hands full. From the tape I've watched, whoever they've put in there has played at a high level."

Quarterback play is expected to be at a high level.

Texas Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek ranks third nationally with 416 passing yards per game, one spot ahead of Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, who has thrown for 383.3 yards per game. Rudolph has thrown 13 touchdown passes in four contests, compared to Shimonek's 11 in three games.

Last week, TCU instructed its safeties to play back in order to take away Oklahoma State's deep passes. That figured to open potential run lanes, but running back Justice Hill never really got untracked, averaging just 4.1 yards on his 102-yard output.

All-American receiver James Washington is averaging a stunning 27.4 yards per catch.

For Texas Tech, the receiver to watch is Keke Coutee, who has 28 receptions for 446 yards and four touchdowns through three games.

Oklahoma State dropped nine places in this week's Associated Press poll.

"People outside the program go crazy when we have big wins and start making hotel reservations for this or that," Gundy said.

"But in our world, we have a body of work that we have to get accomplished every week. I think you're going to see eight weeks from now that there's going to be a lot of parity in this league. It's going to be exciting for fans, but it's going to be hard on the coaches because there's a lot of teams in the same boat."