Texas Tech travels to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns Saturday morning at 11 AM on FX in a nationally televised game. The Red Raiders are coming off a well-chronicled meltdown against Iowa State in which Tech gave up 41 points to a team that was mired in a four-game losing streak. Conversely, Texas looked polished in a 43-0 win over Kansas in which the Longhorn defense allowed the Jayhawks to gain a paltry 46 yards in the entire game.
The chasm between the two teams appears wide, but that may not be an entirely accurate picture. This is the same Texas Tech team that went to Norman and upset Oklahoma, ending a 39-game home winning streak and casting serious doubt on Oklahoma's march to the BCS National Championship game. For contrast's sake, this is also the same Texas team that was outscored by Oklahoma's defense on a neutral field only three weeks ago. The intrigue surrounding this game is immense.
Texas is led by a tandem of freshman quarterbacks. First is David Ash, who has completed 61-98 passes for 615 yards with three scores and five INTs. Ash has also run the ball 46 times for 14 yards and one TD. The other half of the Longhorn's QB duo is Case McCoy. For the season, he has completed 36-54 passes for 444 yards and two scores with no INTs. McCoy has rushed the ball nine times for -15 yards and no scores.
Pacing the Longhorns' rushing attack is freshman Malcolm Brown. He has 131 rushing attempts and 635 yards and five scores. Next is Foshwitt "Fozzy" Whittaker, who has totaled 52 carries for 288 yards and four TDs. Much like Texas Tech's Ben McRoy, Whittaker is also a superb return man. In 2011, Whittaker has eight kickoff returns for 372 yards and two TDs. After Whittaker is freshman Joe Bergeron who has accumulated 31 carries for 223 yards and two scores. Goal line back Cody Johnson has 17 carries for 46 yards and four scores. QB Ash has the other rushing score for the Longhorns, but the collection of talent at RB is astounding. D.J. Monroe hasn't scored this season but he has 187 yards on 24 carries (7.8 yards per touch) and WR Marquise Goodwin has nine carries for 88 yards (9.8 yards per rush).
The Longhorns diversified their offense in the offseason by hiring Boise State's Bryan Harsin as co-offensive coordinator. Harsin can confound even the most seasoned defense. Exhibit A of that feat would be Oklahoma, who fell victim to Harsin's trickery when Boise State scored an improbable touchdown using the Statue of Liberty play on the Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl a few years to complete a thrilling come-from-behind win for the Broncos. Texas Tech's young defense will have to be extra sharp to stymie Harsin's multifaceted attack.
True freshman Jaxon Shipley paces the Longhorn WR corps. So far in 2011, Shipley has 33 catches for 438 yards and three TDs. Mike Davis is next with 27 catches for 418 yards and one score. RB Whittaker has 15 grabs out of the backfield for 129 yards and one score. The aforementioned Marquise Goodwin has 10 catches for 74 yards but no scores. Goodwin is an elite athlete who can score any time he touches the ball. The fact that he hasn't hit pay dirt in 2011 is surprising. Junior TE D.J. Grant has nine receptions for 114 yards and three TDs to finish Texas' scoring.
Seth Doege leads a humbled but hungry Texas Tech bunch into Austin. Doege has completed 254 of 374 passes for 2,799 yards with 22 TDs and six INTs. Doege has also run 42 times for 67 yards and three scores. The junior from Frenship rushed eight yards to the end zone for Texas Tech's only points last week against Iowa State. That followed Doege's masterful performance against OU in which he was 33-52 for 441 yards with four scores and no INTs. The disparity between the two games is prodigious, but it's safe to say that Doege and the rest of the team have put both the OU and Iowa State contests behind them to focus on Texas.
Aaron Crawford will once again get the start at RB for the Red Raiders. Crawford has totaled 53 carries for 219 yards and one score in 2011. Behind Crawford is emerging true freshman Deandre Washington. He has 55 carries for 268 yards and three TDs. A question to ponder here is whether or not the freshman Washington can wrest the starting spot from Crawford. In Tech's spread offense, blocking oncoming rushers from Seth Doege is also an important job of the RB. That may be what is keeping Washington from getting the starting nod. Regardless, the future is bright for Mr. Washington. Doege's three scores and suspended Ronnie Daniels' one TD end Tech's rushing scores for 2011.
Texas Tech's group of receivers is led by sophomore Eric Ward. The sophomore from Wichita Falls really came into his own when Darrin Moore suffered an injury against Nevada and missed significant time. So far, Ward has 49 catches for 492 yards and eight TDs. Alex Torres is next with 41 catches for 510 yards and four scores. Then it's Cornelius Douglas who has tallied 29 receptions for 329 yards and one score. Darrin Moore adds 354 yards and four TDs on 23 receptions. Freshman TE Jace Amaro and Tramain Swindall each have two scores while Jacoby Franks, Adam James, and Bradley Marquez each have one receiving TD to finish Tech's scoring.
The game between these two teams takes on added importance for both teams beginning this season. With the exit of Texas A&M to the SEC, the UT-Tech matchup becomes the premiere matchup of Texas schools. Texas Tech has played its best when it has started fast in 2011. Admittedly, that hasn't been often enough so far this season. The benefits of playing well, especially early, on offense are crystal clear for Texas Tech. First, a good start gives the entire team much-needed confidence. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it takes some pressure off of Texas Tech's young defense. With the weapons that Mack Brown has at his disposal, Texas Tech may need to score 42 points or more to stay in the game.
Expect UT's Harsin and fellow co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to do what every other team has done against Texas Tech: run the ball. Whether it's any of Texas' cadre of talented RBs or designed QB runs, Texas will force the Red Raider defense to stop its rushing attack. Thus, Seth Doege and his charges must attack Texas in the same way he did against Oklahoma: using an even combination of short and deep passes, while mixing in timely runs to thwart the aggressive defensive line from targeting the Red Raiders' QB. Does Texas Tech have enough to pull off another thrilling road victory in conference play? Tune into the Red Raiders' eighth consecutive television game Saturday morning and discover the answer.
Texas Tech: 38