Texas at Oklahoma State 10-31-09

October 31, 2009


(3) Texas (7-0) at (13) Oklahoma State (6-1)

Saturday, October 31st, 8:00 p.m. (et)

GAME NOTES: A top-25 battle is set for Stillwater this weekend, as the third- ranked Texas Longhorns take on the 13th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in a crucial Big 12 battle in Boone Pickens Stadium.

Mack Brown’s Longhorns are well on their way to a Big 12 South title with one of their last real hurdles coming in the form of the Cowboys. Texas is undefeated on the year at 7-0 and 4-0 in league play, and enters this game following perhaps the team’s most impressive victory to date, a 41-7 dismantling of Missouri in Columbia last weekend.

Mike Gundy’s Cowboys have been one of the more resilient teams in the country this year. Despite losing a great deal of star power, OSU remains in the hunt for the Big 12 South title at 3-0 in league play. The team kept its perfect conference record intact with last weekend’s 34-7 rout of Baylor, Oklahoma State’s fifth straight win.

Gundy knows the kind of team his squad will be facing on Saturday.

“We’re playing a very, very good football team. I don’t think there is any question, depending on who you talk to, that this could probably be the best football team in the country.”

This series has gone Texas’ way almost exclusively, with OSU winning just two of the 23 all-time meetings (in 1944 and 1997). Mack Brown is a flawless 11-0 against the Cowboys. Despite the advantage heavily favoring the Longhorns in the series, the matchups of late have been very competitive, including last year’s 28-24 Texas victory in Austin.

Colt McCoy is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and played like it last time out against Missouri, completing an efficient 26-of-31 passes, for 269 yards and three TDs in the lopsided win.

Efficient play has not been a problem for this offenses, as Texas leads the nation in scoring (41.9 ppg). Balance is the key, with the Longhorns showing the ability to dominate both on the ground (164.0 ypg) and through the air (274.1 ypg).

McCoy has fought through illness and injury this season but has still completed a sterling 71.7 percent of his throws for 1,806 yards and 14 TDs. It doesn’t hurt to have one of the nation’s top receiving threats to go to downfield in Jordan Shipley (58 catches, for 713 yards and five TDs). Shipley is red-hot right now, coming off the Missouri game in which he hauled in seven balls, for 108 yards and two scores.

There aren’t many teams getting it done on defense the way Texas is. The Longhorns lead the nation in rush defense (41.3 ypg), rank second in total defense (235.6 ypg) and ninth in scoring defense (13.6 ppg).

The play along the defensive line is headlined by rush ends Sergio Kindle (team-high 9.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks) and Sam Acho (7.0 TFLs, team-high 5.0 sacks). The linebacking corps features standout Roddrick Muckelroy (team-high 46 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks). Disruptive playmakers like LB Emmanuel Acho (8.0 TFLs) and tackle Lamarr Houston (8.0 TFLs) are also getting the job done in the front seven. Safety Earl Thomas (35 tackles, five INTs) is a ballhawk in the secondary.

Brown has very little to complain about in regards to his defense.

“The defense continues to play at a really high level. You can win championships with defense, and our guys are forcing much more turnovers than they did last year. We are really excited about watching them force turnovers and stop the running game and being physical on defense, and we need to continue to do that especially on the road.”

The OSU offense has had to make some adjustments with the loss of both All- Americans Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter. While there is some good news with the probable return of Hunter this week, it was announced on Tuesday that Bryant’s current suspension will last through the 2009 season as ruled on by the NCAA.

The one constant this year has been the play of quarterback Zac Robinson. The veteran signal-caller has completed over 65 percent of his passes, for 1,547 yards, with 12 TDs and just three INTs.

Gundy has certainly recognized the play of his signal-caller of late.

“He’s playing well right now. He’s playing with more confidence. He’s managed the game very well. In my opinion, being a good quarterback is being able to manage the game in understanding what your strengths are and where their weaknesses are and try to attack those areas using what your strengths are as an offense. I think he’s done a pretty good job of that over the last few weeks.”

Robinson has also helped a ground game that is averaging a steady 185.6 yards per game, despite its best tailback being sidelined for five games. In Hunter’s absence, RB Keith Totson has emerged as a viable option, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and six TDs.

No one will be able to replace Bryant’s playmaking ability down the field, but Hubert Anyiam has done his best to help assuage the loss, pacing the team in receptions (23) going for 306 yards and two TDs.

While the OSU defense had some tough outings early in the season, it is playing much better of late, including a smothering performance at Baylor last week. The unit is giving up 20.0 ppg and while the pass defense has been suspect (253.1 ypg), the rush defense has been solid (99.0 ypg).

Senior middle linebacker Donald Booker has led by example this season and currently paces the team in total tackles (52), TFLs (6.0) and sacks (four). Senior strong safety Lucien Antoine (43 tackles, 5.0 TFLs, one sack, one INT and three forced fumbles) has played lights out in the secondary. Senior LB Patrick Levine (38 tackles, three TFLs, three INTs) contributes to a steady veteran corps of defenders in Stillwater.

The Longhorns are winding up a grueling four-game stretch and with Hunter’s likely return this week, this could be the perfect time for OSU to spring an upset and start to cloud up the BCS picture.

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