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Big 12 Football

Comparing Michigan State and Oklahoma State’s wins over Tulsa this season



The Texas Longhorns are set to battle the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Big 12 opener this week. The Longhorns enter this game with a 2-1 record, coming off a win last weekend over the Rice Owls by the final score of 48-13. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State knocked off the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on the road last weekend 40-21.

With the Longhorns opening their Big 12 slate with one of the more successful teams in the conference, identifying trends from their film is crucial. Especially since Oklahoma State looked like a much different team in their three non-conference wins, there’s a lot to learn about them heading into Week 4.

Their most recent win over Tulsa came in interesting fashion. Oklahoma State was even down at halftime, and it took a career day from redshirt sophomore running back Chuba Hubbard to power them to a 19-point victory. There were multiple aspects of the game that Oklahoma State faltered in that the Longhorns could potentially exploit this coming weekend.

Moreover, Tulsa had two difficult Power Five opponents this fall, and wound up losing to both. But that was largely expected. Tulsa hosted Oklahoma State in Week 3 and traveled to face head coach Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans to open the 2019 regular season.

With a difficult non-conference slate against two borderline top 25 teams, Tulsa is a good film study for the Longhorns to prepare for Oklahoma State on Sep. 21.

Oklahoma State’s pass rush might not be as good as advertised

A well-known fact about the former Tulsa transfer quarterback Zach Smith is that he holds onto the ball for too long. He sat back in the pocket and waited too long for plays to develop against both Oklahoma State and Michigan State. The season high for sacks for the Spartans and Cowboys both came against Tulsa. Michigan State got to him six times and Oklahoma State got to him three times, and had a lot of quarterback hurries.

Keeping pace with Texas star quarterback Sam Ehlinger is a much taller task for the Oklahoma State pass rush than Smith was with Tulsa.

Spencer Sanders and Brian Lewerke are sporadic with their accuracy

A common theme between the Oklahoma State and Michigan State offenses against a pretty underrated Tulsa defense was the fact that the quarterbacks struggled with accuracy. Redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders completed his lowest number of passing attempts on the season in the win over Tulsa, just above 56 percent. Some of his throws were way off and easy to read for the Tulsa defense.

Michigan State senior quarterback Brian Lewerke is notorious for having sporadic throws. He completed around 56.7 percent of his passing attempts with just under 200 yards and one score in their season opening win over Tulsa.

If the Longhorns get a version of Sanders on Saturday night that is just as inaccurate as he was against Tulsa, it could be a big boost for the pass defense.

Big play could be a big problem

While Oklahoma State wasn’t very creative in drawing up their plays to get the ball to their two star skill position players, they were still able to gash the Tulsa defense on a handful of plays. Junior wide receiver Tulane Wallace had 90 of his 118 receiving yards on one big play that went for a late game touchdown. Hubbard also had a 75-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the game for the Pokes.

Michigan State’s leading receiver, Darrell Stewart Jr., also got the bulk of his receiving yards on one play. The big play threat was open to Michigan State against the Tulsa defense for most of the game. But that’s just not how the Michigan State offense has run lately under Dantonio.

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