Here are five things Oklahoma Sooners fans should know ahead of this weekend’s matchup against Texas Tech and its new head coach:
Texas Tech made news on Monday when it dismissed head coach Matt Wells after a 5-3 start to the season, and after a particularly bad loss last Saturday against Kansas State.
The Red Raiders led Kansas State 24-10 at halftime. They lost 25-24. This was apparently the last straw for Tech’s athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who is said to be going after “elite” candidates to replace Wells.
Wells entered the season already on the hot seat after two straight four-win seasons in 2019 and 2020. He ends his time in Lubbock with a 13-17 overall record, and a 5-15 record against the Big 12.
The move comes as Tech is scheduled to face four ranked opponents in its last four games of the regular season, starting with fourth-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday.
In for Wells steps offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who will serve as Tech’s interim head coach through the rest of the 2021 season.
Cumbie, of course, was a quarterback at Tech under head coach Mike Leach, and he led them to an 8-4 record and a Holiday Bowl victory in 2004. Cumbie was named Tech’s offensive coordinator prior to the start of the 2021 season and now very suddenly finds himself at the head of the program.
He takes over a Tech team currently vying to punch a ticket to its first bowl game since 2017. Cumbie and the Raiders are a win away from doing so.
Cumbie says the rest of the season will be like a “five-week job interview.”
Tech passing game vs. banged up secondary
The Sooners are currently dead-last in the Big 12 in passing yards allowed per game.
The Oklahoma defensive secondary was missing five players last Saturday against Kansas, including starters Woodi Washington, D.J. Graham and Delarrin Turner-Yell. The Sooner D allowed Kansas and quarterback Jason Bean to pass for 246 yards, their second-highest total of the season. That was a Jayhawk team that’s ranked dead last in passing yards gained per game.
Texas Tech ranks second in the Big 12 in that category, behind only Oklahoma and its 273 yards per game through the air.
It appears as though the Sooners will be heavily shorthanded in the secondary once again on Saturday. Add an interim coach who really doesn’t have much to lose by slinging it around on offense as much as possible, and it could spell another long day for the Oklahoma defense.
Red Raider air raid
The passing game goes through quarterback Henry Colombi, who took over for Tyler Shough after the latter broke his collarbone in the Texas game, and through wide receiver Erik Ezukanma.
Colombi has thrown for 1,214 yards in five games for Texas Tech, totaling four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Ezukanma is a playmaker who’s electric with the ball in his hands, and he isn’t just a threat through the air.
The Oklahoma defense has allowed an opposing receiver to go off for at least 100 yards in each of its last three games, including an eye-popping 261-yard game by Texas’ Xavier Worthy.
‘Speed D’ is going to have trouble shutting teams down until it gets the important members of its secondary back. Expect Ezukanma to have another productive day.
Not over ‘til it’s over
Regardless of who its head coach is, this Red Raider team has a reputation of letting leads slip away, which may not bode too well against a Sooner team that has made wild come-from-behind wins look rather routine.
Texas Tech has been outscored 94-65 in the second half against Big 12 opponents so far in 2021. Last week’s 14-point blown lead to Kansas State is the most recent example, though the team also lost a 17-0 lead to West Virginia in a Week 5 victory that required a last-second field goal for the Red Raiders to get past the Mountaineers.
These are two teams that can put up bunches of points in a flash. Expect no lead to be safe, in either direction, on Saturday.
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