After last week's narrow victory over Nevada, the Red Raiders are left with more questions than answers. Even more vexing is the prospect of opening up conference play on the road without the services of leading receiver Darrin Moore. On Saturday, Texas Tech will play its first conference game of the season at Kansas. Regardless of the opponent, Big 12 play is tough away from the friendly confines of Jones AT&T Stadium. The game will be on Fox Sports at 11 am. Traditionally, the Red Raiders have not performed well in early kickoffs.
Kansas is led by sophomore signal caller Jordan Webb. In three games this season, he has completed 39-59 passes for six TDs. Additionally, he has run 22 times for 30 yards (sacks included) for one score. Webb tossed three touchdowns each against McNeese State and Northern Illinois, but had a sub-par game against a stingy Georgia Tech team in game three on the road. Backup Quinn Mecham, a senior, is 6-8 for 63 yards and a score.
The Jayhawks rushing attack is headed by James Sims, a sophomore from Irving, Texas. He has 56 carries for 254 yards and three TDs. He also has 3 receptions for 56 yards. Behind him, freshman Darrian Miller has 34 carries for 173 yards and three scores as well. Tony Pierson, another freshman, has 15 carries for 128 yards and one TD. QB Webb has the only other rushing score for Kansas.
D.J. Beshears, another Texan, leads the receiving corps with 12 catches for 13 yards and two scores. Jacorey Shepard is next with five catches for 136 yards and two TDs. Incidentally, Shepard is a former high school teammate of Tech speedster Jakeem Grant, who is redshirting (so far) this season. Grant's speed is similar to that of Big 12 special teams player of the week Ben McRoy. Judging by his numbers (27.2 yards per catch), it's safe to say that Shepard also has pretty good wheels. Kale Pick, Daymond Patterson, and Andrew Turzilli each have one score to finish Kansas' receiving TDs.
Junior QB Seth Doege showed some moxie last week in rallying Texas Tech past a disciplined Nevada squad. Though it wasn't pretty, the coaching staff and fan base are hopeful that the close game will pay dividends as the season progresses. Despite last week's adversity, Doege has still not thrown an interception and has shown great poise thus far in 2011.
So far this year, Doege is 89-115 for 949 yards with 11 TDs and no picks. Thanks to some timely and impressive running against Nevada, Doege has run 14 times for 76 yards (5.4 per carry). Backup Jacob Karam is still 6-9 for 41 yards and a score.
Junior Eric Stephens is Tech's workhorse back. He established new career highs against Nevada in carries and yards. For the season, he has 61 totes for 344 yards and five TDs. True freshman Deandre Washington has 15 carries for 76 yards and a score. Ronnie Daniels, whose suspension has been termed indefinite, has nine carries for 43 yards and a score—all of which came against his home town New Mexico Lobos. That ends the scoring for Texas Tech's backs. However, the third true freshman runner, Kenny Williams, saw game action against Nevada and finished with two carries for three yards. Williams will likely get some touches the rest of the way since senior Aaron Crawford can't seem to stay healthy and fellow freshman Ronnie Daniels has found a comfortable spot inside Tuberville's dog house.
Darrin Moore, Tech's leading receiver and one of the best in the country, appears to be out of action this week after injuring both his knee and his ankle on the first offensive play of the Nevada game. On one hand, this is a big blow for the Red Raiders. On the other hand, this situation forces other players to step up. Eric Ward proved to be that guy after Doege found him in the waning moments of last week's game. Expect the athletic sophomore from Wichita Falls to see more passes come his way. Alex Torres, Tramain Swindall, Austin Zouzalik, and Cornelius Douglas could also have more opportunities to make plays as Neal Brown's offense adjusts to the absence of Moore. Shortly after Darrin's departure, receiver Bradley Marquez also left the game. Marquez is the true freshman from Odessa who caught a touchdown pass on his first play in a Tech uniform. His status for Saturday's game is uncertain.
Kansas coach Turner Gill is in a similar position to Tech's Tommy Tuberville. Both coaches have rosters filled with young players and transfers. And, like Tech, Kansas has had two pretty good games and one game they'd like to forget. (A 66-24 loss at Georgia Tech). Asked about Kansas, Tuberville said "They're just like us—searching for an identity."
Even with a developing defense and some ailing players on offense, expect Texas Tech's superior talent level to carry the Red Raiders to victory on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow's bunch is likely eager to prove it is a better unit than what it displayed against Nevada. Also, one has to believe that the 4-2-5 defense deployed by Texas Tech is more suited to stopping the Big 12's spread offenses than Nevada's Pistol offense. That doesn't bode well for a young Kansas team.
Texas Tech 41