Published January 13, 2015
Norman, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - Ranked rivals in the Big 12 Conference get together on Saturday afternoon, as No. 10 Texas Tech pays a visit to No. 17 Oklahoma.
The Red Raiders are a perfect 7-0 on the season, only the fourth time that's happened in history (last being in 2008), and the first with former standout quarterback Kliff Kingsbury as their head coach. Tech is 4-0 in conference, having taken out TCU (20-10), Kansas (54-16), Iowa State (42-35) and West Virginia (37-27), but that quartet has a combined record of only 9-17 (2-12 Big 12), so the team's heaviest lifting is still to come.
Oklahoma brings a 6-1 mark into this contest, and Bob Stoops' troops have won three of their four Big 12 bouts, the lone setback coming in the annual Red River Rivalry matchup with Texas (36-20) on Oct. 12. The Sooners bounced back from that setback to win at Kansas last weekend, 34-19. OU, which has won six straight home games, will play three of its final five on the road, and with tilts against Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State remaining, the road to the Big 12 title won't be easy.
Oklahoma owns a 14-6 lead in the all-time series with Texas Tech, and the Sooners won last year's matchup, 41-20.
The ridiculous numbers put up by Baylor notwithstanding, Texas Tech is one of the most potent offensive teams in not only the Big 12, but the nation as well. The Red Raiders average 41.1 points and 548.1 yards per game, and their weapon of choice is clearly the pass. The QB tandem of Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb have combined to complete 63 percent of their passes for more than 2,900 yards, 19 TDs and 10 interceptions. A total of four players have at least 30 catches, with TE Jace Amaro leading the way with 56 receptions (tops in the conference) for 742 yards and three TDs. Brad Marquez has a club-best five scoring grabs. The Tech rushing attack isn't nearly as explosive, but Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington have a combined 10 rushing scores, despite both averaging less than four yards per carry.
In place of the injured Baker (knee), Webb became the first Texas Tech freshman to exceed 400 yards passing in his first two starts, throwing for 462 yards is last week's win over West Virginia. Amaro finished the day with nine catches for 136 yards and two TDs, while Marquez tacked on eight grabs for 112 yards. Amaro has caught at least eight passes in six consecutive games now. Williams scored on a pair of short runs, and tallied 58 yards on 16 totes. Tech lost a pair of fumbles and committed seven penalties for a loss of 80 yards, all while keeping possession of the ball for nearly 10 minutes less than the Mountaineers.
Kingsbury spoke after the game about the expectations he has for Webb, and the confidence the team has in his ability to get the job done.
"We talk about it all the time. Fortune favors the bold. We're not going to leave it up to anyone else. We knew it was up to him to make good throws, and today he did that," the first-year coach continued, "He's always had the ability. The thing I'm most impressed about is his determination and work ethic. It puts him in a position to be this type of player. I'm proud of that more than anything."
The Red Raiders surrendered 437 yards to WVU, but recorded a pair of sacks and allowed an average of 5.9 yards per pass attempt. A total of three guys logged nine tackles for the Tech defense, and the unit as a whole was credited with seven TFL. Ola Falemi broke up three passes.
Kingsbury's defense ranks in the upper half of the Big 12 standings in several categories, not the least of which is scoring defense (18.7 ppg, fourth), run defense (123.1 ypg, third), total defense (358.0 ypg, fifth) and third-down conversion defense (.300, first). Will Smith paces the unit with 47 tackles, and he also leads the way with 3.5 sacks. Kerry Hyder has 10 of the club's 54 TFL, while J.J. Gaines has two interceptions, but the team has picked off only five passes all season.
The Oklahoma offense hasn't been as dynamic this year as it has been in the past, but that's not to say the unit hasn't been productive. With Blake Bell now running the show, Stoops has seen his team average 30.0 points and 422.0 yards per contest. Bell is a 63.9 percent passer who has thrown for nearly 1,100 yards with eight TDs and only three interceptions. Jalen Saunders heads the receiving corps with 29 catches, but his 278 yards and three TDs rank second behind Sterling Shepard's 348 yards and five scores. Brennan Clay (496 yards, three TDs) spearheads a rushing attack that generates 227.9 ypg, while Damien Williams adds 315 yards and three scores for a team that has only eight rushing TDs all year.
With guys like Frank Shannon (52 tackles, one INT), Charles Tapper (4.5 sacks) and Zack Sanchez (10 PBU) leading by example, the Oklahoma defense allows just 17.1 points and 293.4 yards per game -- the former ranking second in the league, and the latter placing the team first. The Sooners are the nation's top squad in terms of pass defense, yielding a mere 149.7 ypg with only five aerial scores.
Oklahoma trailed Kansas last week, 13-0, but found its groove in the second quarter, taking an 18-13 lead into the locker room at intermission. The Jayhawks fought valiantly, but in the end the Sooners simply proved to be superior in nearly every aspect as they won their sixth game of the season. Bell (15-of-25, 131 yards, one INT) didn't have his best outing, but wound up throwing a couple of TD passes. Shepard finished with seven catches for 82 yards and two scores. Williams, Roy Finch and Bell turned a collective 32 carries into 162 yards and a TD, helping the Sooners muster 235 rushing yards on the day.
Kansas had all kinds of trouble trying to establish an offensive rhythm last week, tallying a mere 16 passing yards on only five completions. The Jayhawks managed just 201 yards of total offense, converting a paltry 2-of-11 third- down opportunities along the way. Aaron Colvin led the Oklahoma stand with eight tackles, while Tapper made half of his six total stops behind the line of scrimmage, two of them being sacks. OU did not force a turnover in the game.
Without taking anything away from Kansas, Stoops praised his team for battling back from an early hole and for putting the distraction of playing in a hostile environment in perspective.
"It was a good win, I was proud of the guys for hanging in there during some adverse situations. (They) played a really strong second and third quarter to regain the lead and get some momentum. It is always good to win on the road."