1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-1, 0-0)
Bad Guys: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (1-1, 0-0)
When: Saturday, September 17th at 6:00 pm
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium; Lubbock, Texas
TV/Stream: FSN (FOX Sports Go)
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
2. Uniform Tracker
|Stephen F. Austin||W, 69-17|
|Arizona State||L, 68-55|
3. The Big Storyline
It seems like it is the perpetual question that we have to answer, which is, “So what about that defense?” On Sunday afternoon, I went to a friend’s house where a lot of guys that I know congregate to watch the Dallas Cowboy game. It’s more or less an excuse to get out of the house for just a bit and hang out with some friends. That Sunday was particularly rough because I had slept just 3 hours in order to write the 10 Things while everything was still fresh and getting up early to make sure it would post at a decent hour.
As you might expect, the first question out of the gate for me from the folks congregating was about Texas Tech’s defense and just simply asking, “What’s the deal?” I feel like at this point, I’m just out of answers. Surprisingly, I’ve never once resigned myself to thinking, this is all Texas Tech can ever be, this is it.
In a sense, I do feel like I’m a bit out of answers and that’s the deflating part of being a fan. I don’t know what to suggest or do next. Oh, yeah, I’m sure that I’ll think of something here and there, but I’m not sure what to do. And the other thing that I just can’t comprehend is how and why it just seems to happen to Texas Tech. It seems like other teams can field okay defenses and can hold opponents to less that 68, but why the flip it can’t happen for Texas Tech, I’m not even sure.
My initial reaction was to put some of the blame on Kliff Kingsbury. Not because he’s the head coach, but because he’s the offensive coordinator. My initial thought was that he’s simply scoring too fast. He’s not giving enough time for the defense to recover. Of Texas Tech’s 14 drives, 10 of them were under 2 minutes. That’s somewhat astounding and speaks to the offense that we have. But that’s hardly any time for a defense to recover, figure some things out and that seems to me to be a bit problematic. Helping out last year seemed to be DeAndre Washington, who could chew up some clock and churn some yards, but this iteration of the Texas Tech offense may simply be too good. That’s really somewhat ridiculous to think about and maybe that’s the key to winning football. If Texas Tech really can score at will, and it appears that they can for the most part, if you can limit other team’s abilities to do the same thing by giving them fewer opportunities, then maybe you win some games?
The other answer is for the defense to just be better.
4. One Key Stat
The sample size is small, but as of right now, Texas Tech is on pace to run the ball 25 times a game (50 carries thus far). It’s an incredibly small sample size, but wanted to throw out a couple of items. 1) The last time that this team ran less than 25 times a game was in 2009, that was when Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield quarterbacked and the running duties were shared by Baron Batch and Eric Stephens. 2) The last time that the running backs carried the ball 10 times of less, which is what happened on Saturday night, was in 2014, a 45-13 loss to Kansas State. DeAndre Washington ran the ball 7 times and Justin Stockton carried the ball 2 times.
5. What to Watch on Offense
This was tough because I don’t have anything on Ryan Higgins, who sat out against Arkansas and there’s no video of South Carolina State, not even highlights that I could find. Still though, the first caption is pretty typical from what I can tell, they’ll run this and be wide as well. Notice that the receivers are relatively tight, within the hash-marks and Louisiana Tech is running in 10 personnel.
Here Louisiana Tech goes wide, and I think the reason why La.Tech ran close was because the redshirt freshman quarterback doesn’t have the big arm that Higgins has. Still, the idea is that Louisiana Tech will play both ways, spread you out and keep it close.
Higgins is your typical senior starter, who’s got one year at this thing. He’s going to throw the ball the damn hell all over the place. Higgins averaged nearly 8 yards an attempt and threw 4 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. Again, Higgins doesn’t have much if any experience, but a lot like Texas Tech’s string of seniors that started. Higgins in the same mold, just biding his time until he could start.
And Higgins is going to throw the ball to Trent Taylor, who is La.Tech’s version of Cameron Batson or Jakeem Grant or whoever you want to plug in there. Terrific inside receiver that’s tough to stop. Taylor has 19 catches for 256 yards. That’s sorta insane. Carlos Henderson has 11 catches and no one else is over double-digits.
La.Tech hasn’t run the ball a ton and Jared Craft, despite being a bigger back at 6-0/215, scares me a bit because of last week. Still, Craft has only averaged about 12 yards a carry. Still though, Craft is averaging 81 yards a game and Boston Scott is a good change of pace and the smaller back. The offensive line is big, much like Texas Tech’s. Most of the starters average around 310. Josh Outlaw is running second team on the offensive line.
6. What to Watch on Defense
Louisiana Tech plays a pretty traditional 4-3 defense. Nothing is crazy and pretty traditional. I think that Louisiana Tech will make every attempt to keep things in front of them, they’ll play a single deep safety when they can and two-deep if possible. Remember, Kevin Curtis is the cornerbacks coach and this zone coverage that you see here is pretty typical. It was tough finding plays to show you looks as to how they’ll play Texas Tech because Arkansas runs so many tight end sets.
A little bit of a different look here. Arkansas is nearly in the red zone and Louisiana Tech is changing things up a bit. They’re rushing three with a stand-up defensive end. Notice the middle linebacker is, I think, Dalton Santos, who runs 260 and obviously looking to help in the run game. With the field that much tighter, Louisiana Tech has 9 guys within 7 yards of the line of scrimmage. They’ll look to play tougher and push you around.
The defensive ends runs 255 or 260, Jaylon Ferguson and Deldrick Canty are your starters and they haven’t done a ton just yet, but they’ll probably be of the speed rush variety. The defensive tackles are 275 or 280 and they have been incredibly effective thus far at stopping big runs. Other than Santos, the La.Tech linebakcers are relatively small, 220 or so, but that means that they can cover more ground. Jordan Harris is the leading tackler and a former Cyclone from Iowa State.
I think the passing defense struggled mightily and I’m not expecting any heroic efforts here, but that’s because I think Mahomes is that good. I do really like Xavier Woods at safety, as he’s big enough at 200 pounds to support the run and play in space. The cornerbacks are Prince Sam and Ronald Lewis, Lewis being a transfer from Arizona State.
I think Louisiana Tech has a good offense, but everyone comes back down to earth a little bit, including Texas Tech’s offense. Louisiana Tech may be a little turnover prone and I think that will help the defense and I expect Mahomes to be extra sharp. I don’t know why, but that’s what I’m expecting. Give me Texas Tech 48, Louisiana Tech 35.