Keys to the Game: Texas Tech

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CONTROL THE CLOCK

Texas has an immensely talented defense, including a couple of players who will continue to hone their craft in the NFL. However, when the defense is forced to stay on the field for almost two-thirds of the game, as it was against Kansas State, things will start to break down.

Texas’ inability to control the clock starts on third down. The offense is converting just 33.6 percent of third downs — one of the lowest numbers in the nation. The inability to keep drives alive has resulted in too many three-and-outs and has forced the defense to compete while its best players are still recovering from the previous drive.

The defense is not immune from third-down woes either. Texas allowed Kansas State to convert 9-of-17 third downs, including an uncomfortable number of third-and-longs.

Texas Tech’s offense is good enough to break the Longhorn defense if it stays on the field for too long. If Texas cannot run the ball successfully and execute on third down, the Longhorns can forget about beating the Red Raiders on the road. 

TURN UP THE PRESSURE

The Longhorn secondary has looked very shaky in its last two games, and it will get no respite against Texas Tech’s air-raid attack. As a unit, the defensive backs are not good enough to solve the problem themselves, but pass coverage becomes exponentially easier when the opposing quarterback is not given enough time to go through progressions and wait for routes to develop.

Texas Tech’s quarterback situation only increases the incentive for a disruptive pass rush. The Red Raiders’ regular starter, sophomore Davis Webb, suffered an ankle injury against TCU, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury says he will go with freshman Patrick Mahomes if Webb is not healthy enough to evade the pass rush.

Webb is good enough to make quick decisions if needed, but the hobbled sophomore could get uncomfortable quickly if he has to move around to evade pressure up the middle from sophomore Hassan Ridgeway and junior Malcom Brown. The secondary might be struggling, but a solid pass rush will hide its flaws and disrupt an injured Webb or an inexperienced Mahomes. 

SCORE WITHOUT THE OFFENSE

Texas Tech’s philosophy in recent years has been to complement an explosive offense with a defense that holds on just enough to win high scoring contests. This season, Kingsbury’s bunch has fulfilled only the former of those requirements, as they sport one of the worst defenses in the country. The offense is certainly good but is not the high-powered machine necessary to overcome such a poor defense.

That being said, the Longhorn offense is not potent enough to be counted on to take advantage of the Red Raiders’ defensive shortcomings. Texas will have to bolster the inconsistent offense with a big play or two on defense or special teams.

A return touchdown would be a godsend, but the return game has done nothing to prove it can provide such a boost. But, the defense does have enough talent to uncork some big plays. Sophomore safety Dylan Haines’ pick-six made the difference against Iowa State, and something similar will have to happen if the Longhorns are to match the Red Raider offense in Lubbock.