The Inside Slant - Texas Tech (11-17)

With no more Big 12 games left this season, The Red Raiders now turn their attention to games against non-conference foes Weber State and Houston.

INSIDE SLANT

With no more Big 12 conference games left to play this season, the Red Raiders now turn their attention to games against non-conference foes Weber State and Houston.

And Texas Tech (5-5) will need a victory over one of those clubs just to become bowl-eligible and salvage a season that has been a major disappointment.

"We are trying to get to that sixth win and try to get that one, and then try to move on to next week," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said.

A quirk in the schedule is the reason the Raiders started the season with two non-conference games, played eight conference games, and then are ending the season with two non-conference games. Park of that quirk came when the Raiders -- for the sake of more money in their coffers -- agreed to move their annual Big 12 game against Texas from November to Sept. 18 so it could be televised nationally on ABC.

That move also forced Tech to move a home game against TCU to another year and left the Raiders with an open home game in November, which was filled by Weber State. The Raiders and Baylor also moved their normal November game to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in October so they could play it during the Texas State Fair.

That's where the game against Houston came into play.

"The thing about this schedule is, of 10 games that we have played, six have been on the road," Tuberville said. "You can't get any continuity, especially with a young team that we are trying to run a new offense and new defense.

"We won't use that (as an excuse and), we don't have any excuses of how we played. Some (games) we played pretty good, some we haven't played that well. So hopefully we'll finish up on a strong note against two non-conference teams."

It's no secret that normally Tech would have played these two non-conference games before starting conference play, meaning they could be sitting pretty with a 7-3 record with two conference games remaining. But the chase of that almighty dollar by moving the Texas and Baylor games now puts the Raiders in position where some fans may already have judged this as a lost season and may not care about forking over their hard-earned money to see their favorite team play two non-conference opponents.

"Hopefully our fans will come out and support the team in the last couple of games and let them know that they appreciate what they have done, even though it hasn't gone as well as we hoped," Tuberville said. "We have two games to go and we will keep working hard."

Tech got out-worked during last week's not-as-close as the final score 45-7 loss to Oklahoma. The no-show by the Raiders was extremely surprising, especially since Tech went into the game after rallying from a 17-3 deficit to upset No. 14-ranked Missouri, 24-17.

"I thought coming off the win against Missouri we would have some momentum, but I think it worked the opposite for us," Tuberville said. "I think (going into the game against Oklahoma) we had a little more confidence than what we should have had.

"We didn't pay attention to detail early, and it got away from us pretty quickly."

Tech should be able to secure a win over Weber State (6-4), an FCS opponent.

"They have made progress, so it will be a game where we've got to try to come out and play our game," Tuberville said. "We have to play much better than what we have played, play more consistent on both sides of the ball and hopefully good things will happen to us."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Tech has been bowl-eligible for 17 years in a row. It's the longest active streak in the Big 12. The Raiders were bowl-eligible in 1999 with a 6-5 record, but were not extended a bowl invitation. But the Raiders have been to a bowl game every year since 2000, which covers the entire tenure of former coach Mike Leach.

--The Raiders scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game last week against Oklahoma. Other than games against New Mexico and Baylor, it marked the only time this season that Tech scored on its opening drive of the game.

--This is the first time the Raiders finished the regular season with back-to-back home games since 2001. That year the Raiders had to add a game against Stephen F. Austin over the Thanksgiving weekend because of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Tech's game at Texas-El Paso was cancelled that weekend, and the game against SFA was added.

--Tech has recorded 15 consecutive winning seasons, and has won at least eight games for eight straight seasons. The Raiders have to beat Weber State and Houston, and then win their bowl game in order to keep the latter streak intact.

--Last year Tech defeated FCS opponent North Dakota 38-13.

SERIES HISTORY: This is the first meeting between Texas Tech and Weber State.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Although they've stumbled at critical times this season, the Raiders have averaged 427.4 yards per game. That includes being 12th in the nation in passing offense (296.5 yards per game). After a brief experiment two games ago when Steven Sheffield started at quarterback, the Raiders apparently are going to ride Taylor Potts as their starting signal-caller. Potts has thrown for 2,712 yards and 24 touchdowns. Detron Lewis has 64 catches for 618 yards and three touchdowns, while Lyle Leong has 58 receptions for 725 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Behind Baron Batch, Tech's running game has produced seven consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing. With possibly three games remaining, Batch has a chance to have a 1,000-yard rushing season. He has 674 yards rushing on 142 carries. Free safety Jordan Brown is the heart and soul of Weber State's defense, and has often been the best defensive player in the Big Sky Conference.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Tech's defense got hammered last week at Oklahoma, and hasn't displayed any continuity for most of this season. For whatever reasons teams can usually get whatever they want against this defense. Injuries have prevented Tech from being at its best, but injuries are part of the game that good teams find a way to overcome. Linebacker Bront Bird is 15th in the country with 5.8 tackles per game, and safety Cody Davis is tied for 22nd with 5.6 tackles per game.

Weber State showed its staying power last week when it rallied from a 26-13 deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat Northern Arizona 27-26. Vai Tafuna got the game-winning TD when he scored from 2 yards out with 38 seconds left. The Wildcats run a two-back formation, which the Raiders don't see very much in the pass-happy Big 12 Conference. Quarterback Cameron Higgins set a Big Sky Conference record when he tossed his 97th career TD pass last week. But when Higgins was injured in the third quarter, backup quarterback Mike Hoke came off the bench to complete 11 of 15 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown to fuel the comeback win over Northern Arizona.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I haven't not been to a bowl game since I've been here, and I don't want to start this year and nobody else does either. So this game is big for us, and we need to get this win." -- Texas Tech running back Baron Batch.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Weber State at Texas Tech, Nov. 20 -- The Red Raiders could easily have a letdown after getting embarrassed last week at Oklahoma, 45-7. Especially since the luster is already gone on this season, because Tech is guaranteed to finish no better than fifth in the six-team Big 12 South with a 3-5 conference record. However, the Raiders should be energized by the fact that they still can become bowl-eligible, even though they're playing a team from a lower-tier conference.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Tech has to be careful not to come out and think a win is already in the bag just because they're playing an inferior opponent. Players from both teams put their pants on one leg at a time, and if the Raiders come in overconfident they just may need that final game against Houston in order to become bowl-eligible. The Raiders must approach this game with the same passion as they do when they're playing Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M or any other team in the Big 12. If Weber State takes an us-against-the-world mentality and spills its guts on every play, the Raiders may be in a much bigger fight than they anticipated.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

WR Alex Torres -- Torres returned from a knee injury to catch two passes last week against Oklahoma, and is one of five Tech receivers to have at least 100 career receptions. Torres got his 100 receptions in 21 games. The only player who did it faster at Tech was Michael Crabtree, who needed just seven games to catch 100 passes.

QB Taylor Potts -- Potts needs eight touchdown passes to tie for third place on the school's all-time list for touchdowns passes thrown. Potts also can move into third place for the most passes attempted if he throws 92 more passes.

WR Detron Lewis -- Lewis became the first non-quarterback to throw a touchdown for Tech in 15-plus years when he lofted a 3-yard TD to Darrin Moore out of the Wildcat formation last week against Oklahoma.

WR Lyle Leong -- Leong has five multiple touchdown reception games this season. He also is second in the nation in TD receptions with 15.

ROSTER REPORT:

--WR Jacoby Franks remains out after breaking his foot at Colorado on Oct. 23.

--WR Jacoby Franks (broken right foot) hasn't played since the Oct. 23 game at Colorado and will miss the Weber State game.


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