Getting to Know: Texas Tech

Texas Tech's 2013 season was the epitome of a rollercoaster year. A promising 7-0 start was followed by five consecutive losses. What went right and wrong for the Red Raiders and how will that affect their Holiday Bowl matchup with Arizona State? We invited Publisher Jarret Johnson to provide his analysis.

Season summary: The hiring of former star quarterback Kliff Kingsbury as coach last December rejuvenated a Texas Tech fan base that languished with Tommy Tuberville at the helm the previous three seasons.

Kingsbury, 34, and his young staff, which included five Texas Tech graduates, set out to return the Red Raiders to the height of the Mike Leach era.

Texas Tech opened the season 7-0 with wins over lesser Big 12 teams such as TCU, Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia and rose as high as No. 10 in the AP poll, but could not sustain its success. The Red Raiders first lost 38-30 at Oklahoma before dropping the next four games by an average of 23.7 points to Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas to end the regular season on a five-game losing streak.

Offense in a nut shell: Kingsbury's Air Raid offense ranks ninth nationally overall with 513.3 yards per game and second in passing at 409.8 yards a game.

Both stats are nothing short of amazing considering Texas Tech rotated a pair of true freshmen behind center after expected starter, redshirt sophomore Michael Brewer, went down with a back injury just weeks before the season.

Baker Mayfield became the first walk-on freshman opening day starter at quarterback in FBS history when he led the Red Raiders to a 41-23 victory over SMU by throwing for 413 yards and four touchdowns. Mayfield finished the season with 2,315 yards, 12 touchdowns, nine interceptions passing and a 5-2 record as starter but missed some time due to injury and lost his job for a stretch to fellow freshman Davis Webb.

Webb stepped in at times when Mayfield was ineffective or injured to throw for 2,315 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions en route to a 2-3 record as starter. Brewer played sparingly even when healthy.

The rushing attack was never able to get going this season behind a young offensive line and was flat out abandoned down the stretch of the season, finishing No. 107 in the country with 121.3 yards per game. Junior running back Kenny Williams leads Tech in rushing with 480 yards and eight scores.

The strength of the team is the receiving corps led by All-American tight end Jace Amaro, who has hauled in 98 passes for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by senior wideout Eric Ward, who has 80 catches for 904 yards and eight scores.

Diminutive speedster Jakeem Grant (59 catches, 707 yards, five touchdowns), is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Defense in a nut shell: The defense opened the season strong, holding its first five opponents to just 13.8 points per game. But as the competition improved, injuries mounted and Texas Tech's lack of depth showed to the tune of 43.5 points allowed per game over the final seven contests.

Teams simply lined up and ran over the depleted Red Raiders' defense down the stretch. Texas Tech allowed 294 yards rushing and 504.6 total yards a game in the final five contests of the regular season.

There have been some bright spots however. Senior linebacker Will Smith earned Associated Press first team All-Big 12 honors after racking up 106 tackles, 8.5 for loss and five sacks. Senior defensive lineman Kerry Hyder was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after tallying 60 tackles, 11.5 for loss and a pair of sacks.

Senior corner Bruce Jones, who has been consistent if not very good this season, has returned to practice after suffering a concussion against Texas on Thanksgiving.

The break between games should give some impact players such as linebacker Terrance Bullitt and defensive end Dartwan Bush the chance to heal up from lingering injuries, which will help immensely.

Senior safety Tre' Porter (75 tackles) is a stabilizing force in a secondary that has had problems at corner and the other safety spot most of the season.

To-do list for bowl game: First off, Kingsbury should name a starter at quarterback. Mayfield left the team, citing a "miscommunication" between him and the coaching staff. Junior Clayton Nicholas, who was never in the mix, has also left the team with the intention of transferring.

That leaves just two quarterbacks on the roster—Brewer and Webb, who have a combined five starts between them. They both have big arms and have shown glimpses of great potential, so it wouldn't shock Red Raider fans if either turned in a breakout performance.

Whoever is named the starter will have to take care of the football. Texas Tech has turned the ball over 31 times, which ranks 107th in the nation. If the Red Raiders have any shot of upsetting Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, they will have to win the turnover battle.

Though Tech has been among the worst in the country in turnovers, it has been even worse when it comes to penalties. The Red Raiders are No. 118 in penalties per game (12) and No. 122 in penalty yardage (76.50).

The defense has to at least slow down the Sun Devils, because it won't be able to stop them. You don't go from giving over 500 yards a game to completely stopping a high power attack like that. So, if Tech can come up with some timely stops and key turnovers, the offense should keep it in the game.

What's interesting is that the two teams' biggest concerns heading into the bowl game may decide the outcome.

For Tech, it's the sieve of a rush defense. How many bodies can defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt throw at the line of scrimmage without getting burned on the back end in the passing game?

Can Arizona State take advantage of Tech's porous rush defense with all the injuries in the backfield?

It will be interesting to see what happens.

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