The last two times the Wildcats faced off with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, disaster struck. Both contests were over before they began, due to the overwhelming offense of Oklahoma State and the sheer lack of defense from Arizona, a defense which, over the past year and a half, has been one of the worst in the country.
Although these are two vastly different teams, (playing in a different environment and with a completely remodeled coaching staff for Arizona) it is hard to forget the 37-14 shellacking in Stillwater last year and the embarrassment of the 36-10 beat down in the 2010 Alamo Bowl. However you look at it, Oklahoma State has had Arizona’s number.
One could make the argument that Oklahoma State has had a lot of teams’ numbers. They have been underrated and one of the best teams in the country the past few years. With the exception of an aberrant loss on the road to Iowa State last year, (a game where Oklahoma State had three interceptions, was leading going into the fourth quarter, and barely lost in double overtime) the Cowboys have not lost a game where they were outplayed since November of 2010.
What’s more amazing is that OSU has only lost a total of three football games since the beginning of the 2010 season. This shows that they are well coached, prepared for every game, and very talented. Too add to the imposing nature of the Wildcats’ opponent, the Cowboys pummeled Savannah State last week 84-0 in a game where Oklahoma State needed only five minutes of offensive possession to drop its first 35 points.
As scary as this matchup seems for Arizona, they do have a chance if they accomplish a few goals in tomorrow’s game. Primarily, Rich Rodriguez and his coaching compatriots need to find a way to limit the Oklahoma State scoring opportunities with a smart defensive strategy. Whether this entails mixing up blitzes, matchups and zones or simply shutting down a specific aspect of the Cowboys’ offense, the Cats must at least slow down this dominant scoring machine.
Hopefully, the new coaching staff can find weakness in the film analysis of the OSU offense that the prior regime and the rest of the country have overlooked.
Also, Arizona must find a way to gain momentum early in the game. Whether this means forcing an early turnover, a few three and outs, or even mounting an early scoring drive, the Wildcats must keep their fans in the game. They must keep them believing that the team has a chance to win. The longer Arizona maintains this momentum and stays close with OSU, the more the crowd will be a factor. This improves Arizona’s prospects of winning.
Finally, the Arizona Wildcats must control the possession on offense. They must limit turnovers and balance the attack with the run and the pass to dominate the time of possession. This will allow them to have long sustained drives that eat up a lot of clock, which not only gives them time to rest their defense, but also prevents the Cowboys’ offense from doing more damage.
If they can execute these strategies and capitalize on their home field advantage, look for the Cats to pull off the upset tomorrow. If the Cats sputter early and fail in their game plan, look for the match to be over abruptly with Oklahoma State riding off into the sunset.