Rolling Texas Tech Faces Reeling Oklahoma State

Friday, September 21st 2007, 11:18 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Considering both Oklahoma State's recent history of success at home against Texas Tech and the Cowboys' current circumstances, they have reason to be glad it's the Red Raiders who will visit Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday.

With the Cowboys reeling after a disappointing start that included a lopsided loss to a supposedly outmanned Sun Belt Conference foe, and Texas Tech posting its usual big offensive numbers, Oklahoma State _ which has won three of its last four games against the Red Raiders in Stillwater _ is looking for any advantage it can find.

Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora summarizes the team's feelings bluntly: ``The only way to get that taste (of losing) out of your mouth is to win Saturday.''

After losing 41-23 at Troy, Oklahoma State (1-2) would seem to be at a critical juncture of its football season. A win over Texas Tech would at least temporarily soothe a restless fan base and give the Cowboys an early leg up in the always-competitive Big 12 Conference South Division race.

``It's tough when you play a team and they're coming off a big loss like that because they always want to get back out there on the field and prove that they can play, so it will be a little tougher,'' Texas Tech cornerback Chris Parker said. ``We've just got to go out there and try to take that tempo away from them.''

Texas Tech (3-0) enters on a roll after wins over in-state rivals Southern Methodist (49-9), Texas-El Paso (45-31) and Rice (59-24). The Red Raiders feature the top pass-catch combo so far this season in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-A), quarterback Graham Harrell and freshman wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

Harrell leads the nation in total offense, averaging 432.7 yards per game, while Crabtree is tops nationally in receptions per game (with 38 in three contests), second in receiving yards per game (179.3) and third in scoring (16 points per game). At 51 points per game, the Red Raiders are sixth nationally in scoring offense.

Led by Crabtree and Danny Amendola, who has 26 catches for 289 yards and two touchdowns, the Red Raiders' receivers are proving wrong preseason prognosticators, one of whom rated them as the eighth-best unit in the conference.

``I think they've performed pretty well for the eighth-best receivers in the conference,'' deadpanned Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. ``I think over time they might be the eighth-best receivers in the country.''

That wouldn't seem to bode well for Oklahoma State, which is coming off one of its worst defensive performances in recent years, having surrendered 562 yards to a Troy squad that runs an offense similar to the one employed by Texas Tech.

``We've got to do a better job as players and as coaches to make sure that we're in the spots that we need to be in, playing our responsibility and making sure we put our kids ... in the right situations,'' Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman said.

``We've got to coach them better. It's a family thing. It's not the kids' fault. It's not my fault. ... It's all of our faults and we've got to get it corrected.''

Offensively, the Cowboys also have significant issues. They must replace injured center David Washington, a three-year starter, and starting tailback Dantrell Savage could miss a third straight game with a nagging groin injury, meaning his backup, Keith Toston _ who has lost six fumbles in 15 career games _ might start.

At quarterback, sophomore Zac Robinson will make his second career start after supplanting another longtime starter, junior Bobby Reid, before the Troy game.

Still, if recent history is a gauge, Texas Tech could be the ideal visitor for the Cowboys, who are averaging 43.3 points in their past seven home games. In 2005, the Cowboys went 1-7 in league play during coach Mike Gundy's first season but beat then-No. 13 Texas Tech 24-17.

Leach said he would not remind his players about the 2005 game because he wanted them to ``just play the next game. The last time we were in Stillwater, we didn't play well. We underachieved. So we hope to play well this time.''

Oklahoma State also won a 51-49 shootout between the teams in 2003 and prevailed 41-21 in 1999. The Red Raiders won the 2001 game in Stillwater 49-30 and haven't lost at home to Oklahoma State since the formation of the Big 12.