Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1) lost for the first time under coach Kingsbury last week 38-30 against Oklahoma. Now the Red Raiders try to get back in the win column against a team they haven't defeated since the Ol' Pirate roamed the sidelines: Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1).
It's been five long years, and two coaching changes later, since Tech last downed the Cowboys, 56-20, to improve to 10-0 in 2008. Since then, the series has been as one-sided as a dog versus its favorite chew toy. Oklahoma State has dominated Texas Tech by a combined score of 183 to 61 in the last four meetings. In other words, the Cowboys have tripled the Red Raiders in scoring. The last two matchups have been even worse as OSU smoked Tech 59-21 in Stillwater last season, while the year before, in Lubbock, the Cowboys handed Tech its most lopsided loss in school history, 66-6.
The recent Oklahoma State dominance has fueled the motivation Kingsbury has used on his team all week in preparation for Saturday.
"The last two seasons they've beaten us by a total of 98 points," tight end Jace Amaro recounts. "That's all over the locker room right now. We're going to have to take it from them. They've had our number the last two seasons."
"Yeah, that's close to a hundred," Kingsbury said. "So I wanted to make sure they knew that and hopefully they have some pride in themselves when they see that."
Of course, it helps that this isn't the same Oklahoma State team that rolled into Lubbock as National Championship contenders in 2011. This year's Cowboys have dealt with uncertainty at the quarterback position all season, bouncing back and forth between Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. Both have been equally as unimpressive, averaging just 271 yards passing compared to the Red Raiders 413 (3rd in the Nation).
"We need to throw the football better, period," OSU head coach Mike Gundy said. "If you look at the opponent we're playing this week, they're scoring and they've been effective in throwing the football. There's three phases in a game. We all know that. At some point, you have to match them where their strength is."
Because of the pass challenged offense, the Cowboys instead used a strong running game to bolt past Iowa State a week ago, 58-27, in Ames. Running back Desmond Roland set career highs with 219 yards and four touchdowns on his way to Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week. For the season, Oklahoma State averages 166 rushing yards per game compared to 124 for the Red Raiders.
The Red Raiders inability to slow the run game of Oklahoma a week ago was perhaps the biggest reason Tech left Norman saddled with its first loss. Stopping Roland and the rest of the Cowboys runners will be a major priority this week.
"Yeah, they do a great job running it," Kingsbury said. "Each game is different. I thought OU had a good plan, a bunch of unbalanced stuff and kept leaning on them (running backs). We've just got to find ways to get them off the field."
The Cowboys dropped its Big 12 opener on the road against West Virginia. Since then, Oklahoma State has rattled off three straight, mainly because of how successful they've been in the turnover department. The Cowboys have a plus-9 turnover margin with 12 takeaways in the last three weeks. Their 13 interceptions are tied for eighth in the country. Those numbers are in complete contrast to Texas Tech, as the Red Raiders sit at a minus-6 in turnover margin, having turned the ball over 19 times on the season (99th most in the Nation).
So OSU struggles passing and the Red Raiders struggle with turnovers, chances are the team that limits its flaw best Saturday will be the one that prevails. In the Big 12 Championship picture, the loser of this game will likely lose any shot at winning the conference. So clearly, there's plenty more than just recent history on the minds of Texas Tech.
"You're coming back home to play against a team that's really embarrassed you the last two years, to put it bluntly," Kingsbury said. "I don't think there should be any problem with getting them motivated to play this game, and everything's out in front of them. If you want to win the Big 12, you're going to have to win the rest of the games anyways, and I think they see that."
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