October 13, 2007

Reversal of (road) Fortune?

Last season, Oklahoma State had a tough two-game homestand in the middle of the season.

The first game in that pair didn't go as well as the Cowboys would have liked. After taking a 20-13 lead into the fourth quarter, Texas A&M scored two touchdowns to take a late lead and OSU forced overtime with another score. In the extra frame, both teams traded touchdowns - but not extra points. The kick by Jason Ricks was blocked and the Aggies escaped Stillwater with a 34-33 victory.

The next week? OSU had arguably its best game of the season, coming back from a 16-0 deficit to beat Nebraska, 41-29.

This season, OSU is getting ready to play the second of two tough road games in the middle of the season. Last week, the Pokes enjoyed a 17-0 halftime lead in Aggieland, only to lose 24-23.

Does that mean OSU will win 31-19 this week, mirroring last year like the A&M game did? There's no telling, but the Cowboys (3-3 overall, 1-1 Big 12) find themselves in the same position they were in last season, only on the road and not at home. To duplicate last season, OSU will have to find a way to pick up a road win, which it hasn't done in Big 12 Conference play since Kansas last season. The game was not picked up by any of the normal television outlets and will only be televised on Pay-Per-View. Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m.

It's a matchup of two teams with putrid defenses. Both the Cowboys and Cornhuskers (4-2, 1-1) rank in the 90s in total defense. Also, both teams' defensive weaknesses play into the strengths of the opposing offense. In short, a lot of yards could be racked up and a lot of points scored at Memorial Stadium today.

Obviously, for OSU, the main concern is Sam Keller. He's had a nice season so far for the Huskers, completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,720 yards and nine touchdowns. He does have eight interceptions, however.

"He's a good quarterback," said defensive lineman Maurice Cummings. "He is good under pressure. He has been playing pretty well this year. We've just got to put pressure on him and make sure we harass him the whole game."

The Cowboy defense has played better as of late, even with the late collapse in College Station. Before the second half of that game, the Pokes had allowed only 13 points in the last eight quarters.

"We are attacking a whole lot better, we are not loafing as much," Cummings said. "Tackling is the main thing that we are doing a whole lot better. Coach Beckman's intensity is spreading out among all of us."

Limiting scoring hasn't been the case with the Huskers, however, who allowed 41 points last weekend in a loss to Missouri.

"They've played some offensive teams that are, in my opinion, pretty good," said head coach Mike Gundy. "If you want to see a good offensive team, go look at Ball State. That quarterback (Nate Davis) can play. He made some really good plays against them. Obviously Missouri is a good offensive football team and USC is a good offensive football team. So you're seeing them go against some good offensive football teams."

And they'll face another one today in the Cowboys, who sport the 10th-best rushing attack in the nation and the 14th-best offense overall. NU has had a lot of problems stopping the run this season, ranking 97th nationally at 190 yards per game.

If the Cowboys are to repeat what they did last year, it'll take more than just moving the ball well - it'll mean putting together an entire game away from Stillwater.

"I think we are really close," said center Andrew Lewis. "We need to eliminate those mistakes and just play sound football. It is just making stupid mistakes, that is all it is."

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