Battle of weaknesses
Sportswriters often like to come up with supposedly clever tags or titles for certain football games. Although I haven’t researched it for full accuracy, I seem to recall that, for example, there has been a Game of the Century, a Game of the Year (or have there been several of them?). Whether or not that is an accurate recall, you will, I assume, agree that sportswriters and broadcasters like to hang a moniker on a game to ensure that fans know how important it is or to delude them into believing that the game has more importance than one would expect in the overall scheme of society.
So, what’s the tag for Thursday night’s game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech? None at this point. But, if one were to apply a tag, it might be a tag to signify an element key to the outcome of the contest rather than one to glorify or pump up the game’s importance. From the Stands, it appears that the game might be tagged as a battle of weaknesses.
I understand that this is neither an exciting nor exclamation-mark-worthy tag, but it may be an apt description.
How so? Here’s how. Texas Tech has a documented weakness so far this season in stopping an opponent’s running game, and the Cowboys, by Coach Mike Gundy’s admission, are struggling in the running game and not performing up to par. Thus, it would appear that each team has a weakness in need of improvement and whichever one comes up with the most improvement will be the winner.
The Red Raiders might have felt like they were the Black and Blue Raiders after the mauling administered to them in their last game by the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs rooted out 438 yards rushing in whipping the Red Raiders 49-28. Ouch! I watched a portion of that game, and the Hogs just lined up and ran over Tech.
In their first two games of the season against two lesser foes, the Red Raiders fared only marginally better. Their run defense ranks 123rd out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams after three games. They have surrendered 294.7 yards rushing per game and yielded 13 rushing touchdowns.
I think it’s fair to say that is a weakness.
Last week, defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt either resigned or, as some media reports said, he was fired. Whichever is true, the Red Raiders now have a different coordinator for their defense. No doubt, all this means attention is being given to upgrading a weaknesses and trying to make it stronger.
When it comes to the running game, the Cowboys are doing just fine on defense, but are not performing up to standard on offense. The Cowboys are accustomed to being right at the top of the Big 12 in rushing–think Kendall Hunter, Joseph Randall, etc.—but this season they are still looking for those 100-yard games by the feature backs. The holes are not there in the line as they have been, Coach Gundy has said.
The Cowboys have continued to be successful in the passing game despite loss of a starting quarterback and a group of young receivers. But, the passing game needs to be balanced by a successful running game.
It’s fair here also to say that this is a weakness.
No doubt, both teams have been working on shoring up their weaknesses and trying to turn them into strengths. From the Stands, it appears that whichever team achieves the greater improvement will win the game.
I’m betting it will be the Cowboys.