The Oklahoma State offense has struggled mightily in the last few games, and after scoring just 7 points in the first half of their game against Texas Tech in Lubbock, the Cowboys hopefully used their week off to work out the kinks.
The Cowboys did manage to put up 28 points in the second half against Tech, but it was too little too late. This week, the Cowboys host the undefeated Baylor Bears, and the offense needs to focus on a few key areas if they want to find success.
Take Care of the Ball
Turnovers have been a concern for the Cowboys for several weeks now. Freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders has been the primary problem in this area as he has amassed 8 interceptions and 3 lost fumbles.
The Cowboys did not turn the ball over a single time in their season opener at Oregon State, something they did just twice a season ago, and it appeared as if they were off to a good start. Since then, that has not been the case.
Sanders is young and inexperienced, but the turnovers are not completely his fault. The offensive line has to do a better job at protecting the quarterback. If the big guys up front can protect the pocket, Sanders will be able to more effectively take care of the ball.
Baylor is tied for 44th in the nation in forced turnovers with 10. They have intercepted opponents 5 times and recovered 5 fumbles. Their defense isn’t particularly stout, but they’re good enough to get the Bears to a 6-0 record. Taking care of the ball should be priority number one on Saturday for the Cowboys, or it could get ugly once again.
Convert on 3rd Down
Oklahoma State ranks 22nd in the nation in 3rd down conversion percent converting 44-of-94 (46.8%) of third downs into first downs. That’s pretty solid, but it’s a bit misleading.
If you takeaway the Cowboys’ first 4 games and focus on the last two, that percent drops to 28.1% on 9-of-32 tries. Oklahoma State managed to defeat Kansas State despite struggling to convert on 3rd down, but part of that was because they did not have as many 3rd down opportunities. Texas Tech, however, was a struggle.
The fact of the matter is that you cannot expect to get first down after first down after first down. 3rd downs are going to come around, and when they do, the offense has to convert, not just to keep the ball moving and to score points, but to keep the defense off the field.
Baylor is not particularly good at 3rd down defense, allowing opponents to convert on 41.2% of tries (93rd in the NCAA). If Oklahoma State can keep the ball moving and keep the Bears’ defense on their heels, they will have a really good chance to win this game.
Score Touchdowns, Not Field Goals
The Cowboys have been pretty solid in the red zone so far this season scoring on 25-of-27 (92.6%) of their trips. However, 9 of those 25 trips have resulted in field goals rather than touchdowns.
Field goals are good because points are good, but touchdowns are necessary if you want to win games in the Big 12. The Bears’ defense has allowed 17 red zone scores in 20 red zone trips, but only 9 of those scores has been a touchdown.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Bears, Baylor averages 37.8 points per game, just a tick below the Cowboys’ average of 39.8 points. It’s likely that this game will turn into a shootout, and if Oklahoma State has to settle for field goals, it may not go their way.