Pokes Post goes behind enemy lines to get an honest assessment of the Cowboys’ upcoming foe — the Texas Longhorns.
The Oklahoma State football team opens Big 12 conference play this Saturday on the road against a suddenly very intriguing Texas team that is coming off a crushing 45-44 loss to Cal, but seems to have found their quarterback and offensive rhythm. Hook ‘Em Headlines editor Jeff Kubiszyn was kind enough to answer a few questions about what we can expect on Saturday.
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(You can read my responses to his questions here.)
1. Hey Jeff, thanks for taking some time out for us. The Longhorns have scored over 40 points for two games in a row. Against Rice, most of the scoring was from turnovers. The game against Cal was the first time all season that Texas has had success moving the ball, finishing with 650 yards. Does Jerrod Heard make that much of a difference? Or is the team’s recent success due to switching coordinators?
Texas’ success last week is all on Jerrod Heard. New play caller Jay Norvell is working with a limited playbook – in the Rice game Texas utilized only about half of the playbook. This weekend I expect Norvell to have worked in a few of his plays to compliment what Shawn Watson already had in place.
But everything starts and ends with Heard. Watching his demeanor on the sidelines he reminds many Texas fans of Vince Young. I’m not comparing him to Young, but Heard has a swagger and confidence about him that has been missing from the position since Colt McCoy.
Texas has found its quarterback (finally).
2. Great timing or whatever. The mere mention of Vince Young brings back a lot of awful memories for Cowboy fans. Anyway, staying on the Jerrod Heard topic for a moment. Do you expect the Longhorns to try to run him as much as the Cal game, or will he be more relegated to passing? It’s safe to say that Oklahoma State’s defense is better and faster than Cal’s, and they at least have some good tape on Heard now.
If Norvell can have his way, Oklahoma State will see a steady dose of Jonathan Gray, D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren. The offense is predicated on running the football and Charlie Strong would prefer to grind out a win with a strong running game. He doesn’t want Heard leading the team in rushing again.
That said, Texas gets blown out of the water versus Cal if Heard doesn’t scramble as much as he did. I expect that he will try to run as often as he did against the Bears – it’s the part of his game he is most comfortable with. This game will be a great learning experience for Heard. Because OSU’s defense is better and faster he is going to have to make in-game adjustments. I can see Norvell calling for quick pass plays to get the ball into the hands of the skill players. Heard won’t last the season if he keeps running like he has the last two games.
3. What will Texas do to try to limit Mason Rudolph? OSU’s opponents have sold out out stop the run all season, giving Rudolph plenty of opportunity. Meanwhile, the Longhorns’ defense currently ranks 119th nationally against the run.
I think Texas will try to stop the run and force Rudolph to beat them. But this defense is such a mess right now he may not have to throw much. Missed tackles and third down conversions have absolutely killed the defense. If I’m Mike Gundy I’m running the ball until I have to throw it. Plus running the ball eats up the clock and keeps Heard and the Texas offense on the sidelines.
But this is Texas and Oklahoma State so we know footballs will be flying through the air. The Longhorns are loaded with youth in the secondary so receivers will be open. Cal receiver Kenny Lawler owned Texas, running free through a depleted secondary. I don’t think Gundy can pass up taking some shots down the field. I know I wouldn’t.
Rudolph will put up good numbers. OSU should not have any trouble putting points on the board, either.
4. You’re probably more optimistic about that than a good amount of OSU fans. Moving on. Who is an offensive player not named Jerrod Heard or Johnathan Gray that can have a big impact on Saturday?
Keep an eye on wide receiver John Burt. The true freshman seems to be good for one big play every game. He is quickly becoming Texas’ best receiver. Heard likes throwing deep to Burt because he will go up to get the ball. Texas has great athletes at the wide receiver position, but Burt is by far the most impressive.
5. I’m very curious…what’s the overall mood around Austin right now with Charlie Strong? Personally, I like him, and I’m pulling for him to get Texas back to where they need to be. It certainly benefits the conference.
The mood is actually really good. Heard has really revived the fans. This coincides with the departure of athletic director Steve Patterson. Patterson alienated many Texas fans with the way he ran the athletic program. With Patterson gone it seems like the storm clouds are beginning to dissipate.
(Strong will get it turned around eventually. It may take a year or two longer than most people think.)
Still, everyone knows this football team is nowhere close to what is expected around here. The schedule is brutal. Following the OSU game, Texas plays TCU and Oklahoma. It’s possible the Longhorns could be 1-5 going into the bye week.
Texas and Oklahoma State have had some great battles over the years. Despite the Longhorn’s youth I think this one will be up there with those classics.
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