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Friday, November 26, 2010
Bedlam: Three keys for Cowboys, Sooners

By David Ubben

Three things Oklahoma must do to win:

Brandon Weeden
Getting pressure on Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden will be crucial for the Sooners.
1. Stop the "other" guys. Running back Kendall Hunter and receiver Justin Blackmon are going to get theirs. They always do. Hunter has been held under 100 yards just twice this year, and Blackmon has at least 125 yards and a touchdown in all 10 of his starts. But Oklahoma State's offense really gets humming when players like receivers Bo Bowling and Josh Cooper and running back Joseph Randle get involved. Oklahoma can win if Blackmon and Hunter both have big days, but if quarterback Brandon Weeden clears 400 yards through the air thanks to 75 yards from Bowling and Cooper and another 75 or so from Randle, it's not going to happen for the Sooners.

2. Protect the passer. Oklahoma will lessen the pressure on Landry Jones with plenty of screens and swing passes, but when the Sooners do go downfield, they have to keep Jones off his back. Like most quarterbacks, a pressured Jones is a much more mistake-prone Jones.

3. Bring an aggressive defensive gameplan. The Big 12 team with the most success slowing Oklahoma State's offense was Texas A&M, which led 21-7 at halftime in Stillwater this year. The Aggies did it by bringing a wide variance of blitzes and making plays in the backfield. Oklahoma State's offense is capable of making big plays over the top, but that's what makes the Cowboys so good offensively. They're just as capable of dinking-and-dunking their way up the field. It's an efficient, precise offense. Force Weeden to make the difficult plays down the field to Blackmon. He'll probably still make a couple, but nobody's held Oklahoma State's full-strength offense to fewer than 33 points. Don't expect Oklahoma to be the first.

Three things Oklahoma State must to do win

1. Minimize the damage on the edge. Oklahoma is going to look for Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray on plenty of swing passes. If Oklahoma State's defenders on the edge tackle well and make those plays a consistent 1-2 yards instead of a consistent 5-8, it'll give the Cowboys a leg up and force Oklahoma to look for more difficult sources of offense.

2. Get the crowd involved. Baylor isn't known for its intimidating home-field advantage. Texas A&M is, and Missouri's fans were more riled up for their date with the Sooners than they've been for any other game in a long time. Oklahoma beat the Bears, and lost by 14 to the Aggies and by nine to the Tigers. The empirical data supports the notion that Oklahoma plays poorly on the road, and the Cowboys fans have to make sure Boone Pickens Stadium is more like Faurot and Kyle Field than Floyd Casey Stadium. Paddle people, your time is now. That said, the team has to give them something to cheer about. Missouri returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Texas A&M shut Oklahoma out in the first half and ran the opening kick of the second half back for a touchdown. A snap over Jones' head into the end zone for a safety on the first play against Texas A&M helped, too. The Cowboys would get a big boost from a big play or two early in each half to inject some energy into the building.

3. Take advantage of the kicking game. Tress Way and Quinn Sharp are close to a push as punters, but Oklahoma State has a huge advantage in the field goal-kicking department. Oklahoma's Jimmy Stevens is 10-of-13 on the year, but the reason for his lack of attempts is a lack of confidence from coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners rarely attempt kicks longer than 45 yards. Oklahoma State's Dan Bailey is 22-of-26, but all four misses have come in his past three games after a perfect start. Stevens, meanwhile, made three kicks last week against Baylor, even though the longest was a 33-yarder. Bailey missed against Kansas from 46 and 50 yards, but he was 8-of-8 on kicks longer than 40 yards before last week's game. His other two misses came from 39 yards against Texas and 31 at the end of the first half against Baylor. The return of early season Dan Bailey would be a welcome sight for the Cowboys, and one that could decide the game.