Red Raiders Try and Spoil Homecoming for KU

The tough road continues for Kansas football on Homecoming weekend.

A week after losing to No. 4 Oklahoma in Norman, 45-31, the No. 19 Jayhawks (5-2, 2-1 in Big 12) host No. 8 Texas Tech (7-0, 3-0) at Memorial Stadium this Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN.

Winners of its final two games last year, including a Gator Bowl victory over Virginia, Texas Tech enters the game with a Big 12-best nine-game winning streak. The Red Raiders have won the last two meetings against Kansas and hold a dominating 9-1 series edge, including 5-0 in Lawrence.

While Texas Tech hasn’t yet played a ranked team and wasn’t exactly overpowering in its last two outings against Texas A&M (43-25 on Oct. 18) and Nebraska (37-31 in OT on Oct. 11), the Red Raiders pose a fierce test for Kansas. Led by senior quarterback Graham Harrell and last year’s consensus All-American receiver (sophomore) Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech boasts the best passing offense in the country (418 yards per game) and the nation’s No. 5 scoring offense (45.9 points per game).

Expect a shootout between these two potent spread offenses since Kansas can score as well, ranking No. 24 in the country in scoring offense with 33.9 points per game.

Harrell and the Red Raiders will certainly look to exploit the KU secondary, which gave up 468 passing yards to OU. Harrell ranks fifth all-time in the NCAA with 13,443 career passing yards.

“Graham Harrell is a very good quarterback,” KU coach Mark Mangino said. “He sits in the pocket and gets his reads. He has an excellent group of receivers, led by Michael Crabtree (34 career receiving touchdowns, including 22 last season). They really work well together. ... He has only been sacked once all year.”

KU’s defensive front didn’t put much pressure on OU quarterback Sam Bradford last week, allowing him to have a career day. Mangino hopes his Jayhawks fare better against Harrell.

“We cannot allow him to sit back there because he will find somebody open,” Mangino said. “We have to be good at coverage, but we also need to find ways to have him get rid of the football sooner. ... We certainly would like to get more pressure with the four-man rush and we will never give up on that.”

Mangino added that “our corner play has got to get sharper with reads and understanding what is in front of them.”

While Mangino is concerned about his pass defense, he admits “we are not alone in defense in not playing the pass as well as we would like. In our conference, with the spread offense, nobody is really playing exceptional defense.”

Texas Tech is also running the ball better than ever. Baron Batch and Shannon Woods lead the rushing attack, which averages 138.6 yards per game, the Red Raiders’ most since 1999. Texas Tech also has 20 rushing touchdowns.

On defense, the Red Raiders are fourth in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing 21.1 points per game. Texas Tech ranks No. 2 in rushing defense, No. 10 in passing defense, and fourth in total defense.

The Red Raiders held Texas A&M to just 32 yards of total offense and four first downs in the second half last week.

Mangino said Texas Tech has “outstanding players on defense.” The top defensive performers include linemen Brandon Williams (seven sacks) and McKinner Dixon (six sacks), linebacker Brian Duncan (team-leading 51 tackles), cornerback Jamar Wall and safeties Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonet, who ranks among the NCAA top 10 with four interceptions.

The Jayhawks’ players welcome the challenge of facing Texas Tech and its lethal spread offense. They know they must get more pressure on the quarterback, tackle better, become more assignment sound, and not blow coverages as they did against OU.

“For a team that comes out and throws as much as Texas Tech does, it’s going to be a great challenge for us to stay on our coverages,” junior safety Darrell Stuckey said.

“When you face a spread offense it leaves less of a margin for error. If you go up against a team that runs a power offense where they want to run the ball all the time you can have errors and still make a tackle or still get in the gap. You can’t make errors and all of a sudden try to cover someone who wasn’t covered already. It’s one of those things were it poses matchups that you have to open your eyes for and be able to mentally go through and prepare for before you get into the game.”

On offense, KU hopes to continue to score with the likes of quarterback Todd Reesing, wide receivers Dezmon Briscoe (career game against OU with 12 receptions for 269 yards) and Kerry Meier, and running back Jake Sharp, who has rushed for over 100 yards the last two games.

Sharp is looking forward to the Saturday showdown.

“I think it will definitely be a shootout,” he said. “That’s what Texas Tech is known for, so it will be fun.”

Sharp loves the challenge of playing another top 10 team.

“That’s why I came here to play,” he said. “It’s (Big 12) the best as far as college athletics are concerned and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Sharp will be even happier if KU beats the Red Raiders and moves to 3-1 in the Big 12. Top Stories