The Oklahoma Sooners are hoping they've rediscovered their running game.
Eating clock and sidelining Texas Tech's unshakably-in-rhythm offense will be one of the best ways to keep Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree and the Red Raiders from becoming just the third team to beat the Sooners in Norman in the Bob Stoops era (60-2).
"We've run the ball really well [lately]," Stoops said. "But … it's a different challenge each week. It'll be tough this week. They do a really good job up front, but we hope to be able to execute it and have it be a strong factor in how we move the ball."
Struggles running the ball came as a surprise this season. Oklahoma has a massive, experienced offensive line that figured to make life easy for backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. But the Sooners ran for only 25 yards on 36 carries against TCU. Then, OU had just 48 yards on 26 carries against Texas in the Sooners' only loss this season.
"We know we have to run the ball and take care of the ball," Murray said. "It all starts with the offensive line. They just have to continue to create holes and protect Sam [Bradford]. I think we'll have a good shot."
Oklahoma coaches are hoping a 328-yard rushing day against Texas A&M two weeks ago is a good sign. In the past four games, Oklahoma has run for 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"It's just the fact that we challenge ourselves," Murray said. "We have to help Sam, the receivers, the passing game out. We just have to keep being more physical at the line of scrimmage."
Oklahoma leads the nation in scoring offense, averaging 51.4 points. Texas Tech is third, averaging 47.9 points. Everyone is expecting a shootout.
"We are going to have to put up points and they're going to have to put up points," Murray said. "Both teams are going to have success and it'll be like a roller coaster, and we're going to have to stay focused."
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops vs. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. Stoops is used to the biggest of games, having won a national title (2000) and five Big 12 championships. Only Oklahoma State (2001) and TCU (2005) have beaten OU in Norman in Stoops' 10 seasons. Leach is in a Big 12 South-clinching game for just the second time. The first was a 60-15 loss to Oklahoma in 2002.
Player to watch
Texas Tech K Matt Williams. It's one of the best novelty acts in college football – Williams wins a contest for free rent in the third quarter of a victory over Massachusetts early in the season, then walks on to the team at Leach's request. But what happens if Saturday's game boils down to a field goal? Will Leach trot out Williams or freshman Donnie Carona, who missed an extra point in overtime against Nebraska and has been anything but automatic?
Missouri QB Chase Daniel threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over Iowa State, leading the Tigers to at least a share of their second consecutive Big 12 North title. … The last time Mizzou won or shared conference titles in consecutive years was in 1941-42, when the program won consecutive Big Six Conference championships. … In a 41-21 victory over Texas A&M, Baylor freshman QB Robert Griffin established a school single-season record for touchdowns responsible for (25) and moved into second on the school's single-season total-yards chart (2,744). … Baylor LB Joe Pawelek had two interceptions against Texas A&M and leads all Division I linebackers with six interceptions – the most by a Baylor player since 1991. … Nebraska posted 340 rushing yards in a victory over Kansas State – its most in a Big 12 game since running for 352 yards against Kansas in 2002. … Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew posted his 100th career reception in a victory at Colorado last Saturday, becoming the first tight end in school history to do so.
Kansas leading rusher Jake Sharp and leading receiver Kerry Meier were injured in last Saturday's 35-7 loss to Texas. Both could miss the regular-season finale against Missouri on Nov. 29 in Kansas City. … Because it appears the Big 12 will get two teams into the BCS, the league likely will fall short of filling its bowl allotment. Unless 5-6 Colorado beats Nebraska to become bowl eligible, the Independence and Texas bowls will be without their Big 12 tie-ins. … Kansas State managed just 59 rushing yards on 32 carries in a home loss to Nebraska. … K-State coach Ron Prince will coach his final game for the Wildcats this weekend against Iowa State. … Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns for the Cyclones, setting a school record with 36 completions. But he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Missouri FS William Moore, and the Cyclones have lost nine in a row.
What they're saying
"I've had opportunities to be a head coach and I've been waiting on the right one, and this is the best one. If I had left Austin, my wife was going to stay here. She loves Austin." – Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, on being named coach-in-waiting at Texas.
"There's a lot of good football out there and different ways to move the ball and Mike will agree with that, but that's not how he's going to do it. He has always been very emphatic that to be really excellent and good at what you do – not that he doesn't look for new wrinkles because he's always added little things – but the meat and potatoes of what he does is still there from when we started (together at Oklahoma) in 1999." – Oklahoma's Stoops on Texas Tech's Leach, who served as Stoops' offensive coordinator at OU in '99.
"We don't really mind the road games. We've had just as much fun at Kansas and Kansas State, places on the road. I think it's always good to beat someone at their own place, you know? ... It reminds me of the old 'Thirsty Thursday' days in minor-league baseball, when you get beer thrown at you. I kind of enjoy it." – Texas Tech OT Rylan Reed, a former minor-league pitcher, on the Red Raiders' game at Oklahoma on Saturday.
"She told me, 'Mike, it's really not all that bad. There are good things.' I said, 'Good things? We can't stop anybody. We can't run the football. We can't score enough points and we can't keep people off the scoreboard. What are the good things?' She said, 'Well, you're losing weight.' " – Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, at the annual Texas A&M-Texas luncheon at the Touchdown Club of Houston, on what his wife recently said.
In a home loss to Nebraska, Kansas State junior QB Josh Freeman set the school record for career total offense with 8,080 yards. … Nebraska senior QB Joe Ganz set the school single-season record for completions (247), and his career-high 95 rushing yards against K-State were the most for a Huskers quarterback since 2003. … Oklahoma State has held opponents scoreless on their first possession in 10 of 11 games this season. … Texas A&M freshman Cyrus Gray became the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards in kickoff returns in a single season against Baylor last week. … Texas A&M senior RB Jorvorskie Lane scored his 49th rushing touchdown – fifth in Big 12 history and second nationally among active Division I players. … Texas QB Colt McCoy tied Vince Young for career victories by a quarterback at Texas by improving to 30-7 (Young was 30-2). McCoy also has gone 15 consecutive games with a TD pass, which ranks second on UT's career list behind Major Apple white (19). … Texas WRs Jordan Shipley (75) and Quan Cosby (72) give the Longhorns two receivers with at least 70 catches in a season for the first time in school history. … Texas Tech's defense leads the conference in interceptions with 16. … Tech WR Michael Crabtree has 18 receiving touchdowns, moving his career total to 40 in two seasons. He needs four to tie his Big 12 single-season record, set last season, and two to tie the league's career record of 42, set by Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods from 2000-03. … Colorado went 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversions in a loss to Oklahoma State last week.