NORMAN (AP) – Bob Stoops is all-too familiar with Texas Tech’s wide-open brand of offensive football.
The Oklahoma coach watched it for years while competing against the Red Raiders and former coach Mike Leach.
Stoops will have another chance to watch the latest version of the “Air Raid” in person on Saturday when the No. 17 Sooners (6-1, 3-1 Big 12 Conference) host surprising Texas Tech and first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“We recognize it,” Stoops said. “It’s still difficult to stop, though.”
The No. 10 Red Raiders (7-0, 4-0) were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 before the season, but they have yet to stumble under Kingsbury — the former Texas Tech quarterback who has energized his alma matter in his first season.
“When you can continue to prove people wrong, it’s great for a team’s psyche,” Kingsbury said.
Led by a pair of freshmen quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb, the Red Raiders enter Saturday second in the nation in passing offense with an average of 416.4 yards per game.
All of those passes have also translated into points, with Texas Tech second in the conference in scoring with an average of 41.1 points per game.
As good as the Red Raiders have been this season, Oklahoma will provide their most difficult test so far this season. The game is the first of three in four weeks for Texas Tech, which hosts Oklahoma State next week and Baylor on Nov. 16.
Much like Texas Tech, which struggled before rallying for a 37-27 win over West Virginia last week, the Sooners have also been stuck in somewhat of a funk in recent weeks — beginning with a 36-20 loss to rival Texas two weeks ago.
Oklahoma fell behind 13-0 at Kansas last week before storming back for a 34-19 win, a game in which it held the Jayhawks to just 201 yards of total offense.
The Sooners lead the country in pass defense, allowing just 149.7 yards through the air per game, and the secondary is likely to be tested early and often on Saturday as both teams look to take a significant step toward a Big 12 championship.
“They’re a ball-hawking defense; get their hands on a bunch of balls,” Kingsbury said. “So, they’re good against the rush, against the pass. They’re just an overall very well-coached, very disciplined defense, so it will be a challenge to move it in all phases.”
Five things to look for as Oklahoma tries to become the first team to slow the high-powered Red Raiders:
1. UNDER CENTER: As good as Texas Tech’s offense has been this season, it enters Saturday with a bit of uncertainty at quarterback. Mayfield was the starter before a knee injury on Oct. 5 against Kansas sidelined him, and Webb has performed well in his absence — throwing for 462 yards in last week’s come-from-behind win against West Virginia. Kingsbury declined to select a starter against the Sooners, saying only “We’ll see how Baker feels and take it from there.”
2. BOOMER BELL: Stoops has faced questions about Oklahoma’s quarterback play since the preseason, when Trevor Knight beat out Blake Bell for the starting job. Bell has performed well at times since supplanting Knight, but he’s thrown three interceptions in his past two games. Against the Jayhawks, the junior was 15 of 25 for 131 yards, and he added 53 yards rushing. The performance was good, but not great — or not nearly as great as Stoops expects his quarterback to play. “I still believe he can play better,” Stoops said.
3. SLOW STARTS: Oklahoma has fallen behind early in each of its past two games, the loss to the Longhorns and last week’s win over Kansas. It’s a sore spot for the Sooners, who hope the return home this week provides an early lift. “It’s got to change,” Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard said. “We need to come out, play fast, get points on the board. That will be very important against Texas Tech with how explosive their offense is.”
4. NEARING HISTORY: Stoops, with a 155-38 record at Oklahoma, is three wins away from passing former Sooners coach Barry Switzer for the most coaching victories in school history. He’s 15-2 at home against ranked opponents, and a win on Saturday would mean he could tie Switzer with a win on Nov. 7 at Baylor.
5. EXPERIENCE FACTOR: While Stoops is nearing a school record in his 15th season, Kingsbury is enjoying an undefeated opening act so far in his first year at Texas Tech. Despite the gap in experience, Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro feels good about his new head coach entering Saturday. “Well, no disrespect to coach Stoops, but I’ve got a great coach over here,” Amaro said. “I feel like he’s prepared in all aspects of the game to be ready for this type of game.”
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