OU football: Things to watch against Texas Tech

Nov. 25—Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said his team can't get comfortable after securing a big win against Oklahoma State last week.

The win gave the Sooners six on the season and clinched bowl eligibility, extending their active streak of postseason games to 24 years. It was a much-needed victory, but there's still an opportunity for the Sooners to fall short heading into the offseason.

If the Sooners (6-5) win this weekend against Texas Tech, they'll secure a winning record regardless of the bowl game outcome. If they don't, they jeopardize finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1998.

There's still a lot on the line for the Sooners against the Red Raiders. With that in mind, here's a look at three things the Sooners must do to get a win in Lubbock, Texas:

1. Find success on third down

The offense struggled mightily on third down last week against the Cowboys.

On the season, the Sooners have converted 40 percent of their third-down attempts, which ranks sixth in the Big 12. But last week, the Sooners converted just 1-of-14 which kept them from scoring after the first quarter.

"The most frustrating part is that it has fallen in a lot of different areas," OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said. "That is me reflecting and saying, 'Let's make sure we're really tight from what we're calling, what I'm calling every single week and putting these guys in position to go execute things very cleanly against a bunch of different pictures.'

"That to me is where it's gotta be moving forward. I think if there's a regret it's maybe doing a little too much, asking guys to do some different things. That's going to start and end with me. I've got to put them in some better positions on third down to go make those plays."

It hasn't been a problem in every game. But that was the fifth time this season they've converted less than 35 percent in a game.

The Red Raiders rank fifth in the Big 12 in opposing third-down conversions, surrendering a mark of 38 percent. But if the Sooners struggle to convert against the Red Raiders, that could spell trouble.

2. Get Dillon Gabriel back on track

Against the Cowboys, the OU quarterback threw for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter.

After that, he threw for just 60 yards and zero scores. He only completed 1-of-12 attempts in the second half. The Sooners didn't score on their final 12 possessions.

Consistency has been a problem for Gabriel the last two weeks, as he threw for only 190 yards against West Virginia. If it hadn't been for that explosive first quarter, the Sooners might have fallen against the Cowboys.

The Sooners need Gabriel to bounce back, but that could be tough against a Texas Tech defense that is surrendering just 228 passing yards per game, which ranks third in the Big 12.

3. Get Jalil Farooq back on track

The sophomore receiver has been big for the Sooners all season. But after his 30-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter, Farooq didn't catch a pass the rest of the way.

It's just the second time since Week 3 that he's failed to catch two or more passes. He also had a few uncharacteristic drops, particularly in the second half, that kept the Sooners from finding momentum.

Lebby said it'll be important to get him involved against the Red Raiders.

"He'll be able to bounce back because he's had production," Lebby said. "We know what he's capable of. I think he knows he left some big yards out there. Two of the touch drops that were inside five, six yards from the line of scrimmage, those actually had the ability to be really big plays and then obviously the scramble on third down, Dillon makes an unbelievable play for us there. We've got to make that play."

On the season, Farooq has 24 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns."

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580