Keys to the Game - OU Edition

If there's one Big XII fight song I can't stand, it's that of the University of Oklahoma.  It's bad enough that Rogers and Hammerstein had to write a musical about the state.  I don't need to here Boomer Sooner 487 times on Saturday.  And the only way to keep the band quiet is to make sure OU doesn't score, doesn't make any first downs, and is generally embarrassed during the game.  Here are my thoughts on how the Red Raiders save my ears the pain.  


OU has had similar problems to Tech this year on offense.  Struggles along the line, losing Sam Bradford to injury, and the loss of Jermaine Gresham.  The scary thing is they have a bunch of young talented guys who have been going through growing pains, and no one knows when they might break out.  Our job is to make sure that it isn't this weekend.  Other than that, I think the offenses are pretty evenly matched.

Our problem comes with the defense.  One thing that OU has done, perhaps better (or at least more consistently) that any other team we have played in the Leach era is to thwart the Air Raid.  OU has one of the most effective schemes for making the Tech offense stall.

The first thing they do is coach their defensive line to fill the passing lanes and get their hands in the air.  This makes passes to the middle of the field more difficult and encourages the QB to look outside.    The next thing they do is line up soft at the corner and invite the screen or pass to the flat, but close hard as soon as the ball is snapped. So now the Tech QB is forced to make a decision to either force a throw across the middle, throw a screen that is going to get blown up, or hope he can pick up a few yards in the flat.  The throw to the flat is likely to have help from the safety, and is therefore prone to being picked off.

The third thing OU does defensively is key.  As everyone here knows, the Tech receivers are taught to adjust their routes based on how the defense is playing them. OU knows this.  They adjust the depth at which their LBs are playing to force the Tech receivers to go where they want them to. By playing zone across the middle at just a couple of steps deeper,than normal the LBs entice the crossing receivers to run more shallow routes.  It allows the LBs to play down hill, make quick tackles and keep the play in front of them versus trying to run with a receiver.  The alternative for the Tech receivers is to try to get behind the LB's, which makes for a more difficult throw that the QB must wait on to develop.  Meanwhile, the OU front four is continuing to push, collapse the pocket, and get pressure. 

In doing these things, Oklahoma is better able to anticipate the play that the QB wlll go to, and make sure they have men in the right spots to play down hill and make quick tackles.

The last option for Tech is to check to the run.


Offensive keys

1) Match the tempo. Tempo has been a problem for the Red Raider offense this season.  We have seen inconsistency at nearly every skill position.  Consider a new QB, injuries, and an unsettled QB situation on top of a green offensive line that has gone through a lot of shuffling and sustained a lot of injuries and you can start to see why things have never really gelled.  OU likes to play up-tempo and keep the opposing defense on its heals.  We need to get into a rhythm and match the intensity.

2) Find the play makers.  By this I mean Baron Batch, Eric Stephens and Harrison Jeffers.  We don't win this game if Batch doesn't have at least 150 all purpose yards, with a healthy contribution from whichever of the other two isn't in the dog house this week.  I don't foresee the shuffle pass or outlet screen picking up a lot of yards against this OU defense, but I think we may have some opportunity on the ground and in the flat if the corner is otherwise occupied.  If we can make the OU LBs have to account for our running backs, it will open things up in the middle of the field.

3) Control the Line of Scrimmage.  As Seth mentioned yesterday, OU is one of the best at getting pressure on the QB, and we have struggled in providing protection.  Brandon Carter has another chance this week to improve his NFL draft stock against McCoy.  We also need our tackles to get their footwork figured out and their heads in the game on every play, and OU is pretty quick off the edge, too.  This is another area in which inconsistency has been killing us.  We can't have that and come out with a W.

Defensive Keys

1) Stop the run.  OU's play calling is almost exactly 50% pass/50% run for the season.  The important thing is that, they have lost every game this year when they have had less than 160 yards on the ground.  160.  That is significant when you consider it includes sacks and TFLs.  We need to keep them close to 100 yards rushing.  Put 8 men in the box and make Jones beat you through the air.

2) Force Turnovers.  I really never imagined I would say this in the Leach era, but this game could end up being a defensive battle.  We are going to need as many opportunities as we can get to put points on the board.  A couple of OU drives stopped short by turnovers would go a long way in providing those extra opportunities and keeping OU's offense off the field.  The more OU is on the field, the better chance they will have to get their run game working.  We don't want our defense to have to grind it out against an OU team that is running the ball well (see above) as it will only get better later in the game.

3) Let the pocket collapse.  As mentioned above, the OU line has struggled, and so has Landry Jones.  He has thrown for less than a 50% completion rate 4 times this year, including the last 2 weeks.  If we keep the OU run game in check, I don't think we are going to have to manufacture a lot of pressure for the OU passing game to struggle.  Just play solid fundamentals up front and let it happen.  We'll get our sacks in this game.

Special Teams

Penalties have been hurting here the past 2 weeks.  I like that we are being more aggressive, but lets find a happy medium and quit roughing the kicker.

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