MANHATTAN, KS - NOVEMBER 05: Head coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks on during a game against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 5, 2016 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has sort of an unusual concern regarding his Cowboys as they prepare for Saturday's Big 12 clash with Texas Tech.
They score too quickly.
Or at least they did last week in a shootout with Kansas State.
After taking the lead on running back Chris Carson's 17-yard run with 1:46 remaining in the game, the Cowboys needed a red-zone stop to secure their 43-37 win over the Wildcats.
“I joked with the guys and said I wish I would have told Carson to slide on the 5-yard line if he gets in the open, and they did not think it was very funny,” Gundy said. “You have to score when you have to score to score, but everybody that watches Big 12 football knows with the quarterback play we've got in this league, no lead is ever safe.”
That presents an interesting scenario for this weekend when the No. 13 Cowboys (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) and unranked Red Raiders (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) face off at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. FoxSports1 will telecast the Big 12 contest.
The two teams last year combined for 123 points. After comparatively mild 24-17 and 34-17 wins for the Cowboys in 2009 and 2010, the last five meetings — all wins for the Cowboys — have been by scores of 66-6, 59-21, 52-34, 45-35, and, finally, 70-53.
With Oklahoma State averaging nearly 41 points a game and Texas Tech 46, a repeat performance wouldn't be all that surprising.
“We play a lot of games in this league where it isn't easy to predict what the score will be, just because of the quarterback play and how explosive teams can be at any given time,” Gundy said.
Backing up the notion that the game could turn into an offensive show is the play of the respective quarterbacks.
Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph set a personal best for passing yards in a road game with 457 against Kansas State. Rudolph completed 29 of 38 passes and bounced back from two interceptions, one resulting in a pick-six. He came into the game with only two picks on the season and a string of 163 passes without an interception.
Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes was under pressure the whole game in last week's loss to Texas, but still threw for more than 300 yards for the seventh time in nine games in 2016. He has averaged passing for just under 432 yards a game.
“Mahomes is an outstanding player with outstanding targets and it's kind of hard to get a grasp on them,” OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “Conceptually, they have concepts, but then their biggest plays come off of when he scrambles around and creates a different play from it, so we have to be very disciplined and stay with the receivers a long time.
“We'll have to show him a couple of different looks, confuse the looks for him, but it's the reason he's leading the nation in all of those offensive categories. He's a great talent and he's going to be a tough task for us.”
The Cowboys go into the game in second place in the conference standings behind Oklahoma, which is unbeaten in league play at 6-0. Win out — they finish against TCU and the Sooners — and they win the title.
The Red Raiders are looking for two more wins in their remaining three games to get to bowl eligibility. But Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury isn't emphasizing that angle.
“I'm sure players think about it. Coaches think about it,” Kingsbury said. “But when you're playing a top-15 team on the road, you better worry about them first. That's a big challenge, and it's been our main focus.”
After the trip to Stillwater, the Red Raiders finish against Iowa State and Baylor.
“We haven't beaten them in a long time,” Kingsbury said of the Cowboys. “I would expect us to be excited to play.
“It's a ranked team, probably the last ranked team we'll play this season. On the road, they always have a great environment. The fans are right on top of you. So I think our players understand what it means and how long it's been.”