Poor Run Defense Equals Late-Season Spiral

Well, you can't blame it on Tommy "Flubberville" anymore. Texas Tech has lost three straight and could finish this season with five consecutive losses.

Well, you can't blame it on Tommy "Flubberville" anymore. During Tuberville's final two seasons in Lubbock, the Red Raiders went 1-10 in the final five games of the Big 12 schedule. When Kliff Kingsbury's Red Raiders jetted out to a 7-0 start and a top 10 national ranking, we all hoped those back-half death spirals were a thing of the past. And indeed, most of us thought that was the case.

With native son, true Texas Tech Red Raider and coaching prodigy Kingsbury at the controls, it really seemed as if a new day had dawned and that the gridiron nightmares of the recent past would stay in the past. When the 2013 Red Raiders were flying high it seemed almost unthinkable that the team could collapse and finish the regular season on a five-game losing skid.

But following a 49-26 home drubbing at the hands of Kansas State, such an outcome seems not only possible, but likely. Tech next draws an undefeated Baylor team that spanked Oklahoma on Thursday and is in the thick of the national title hunt. With so much to play for, it seems highly unlikely that the Bears will stub their paws against the Red Raiders.

Tech then ventures to Austin, where the Red Raiders haven't won in 16 years, to take on a surging Longhorn team that still has a shot at the Big 12 title. Again, Tech's opponent will not only be not talented, but well motivated.

If, indeed, the Red Raiders close out their current campaign with two more losses, they will have gone 1-14 in the concluding five games of conference play over the course of the last three seasons. Tech's lone win, incidentally, was a 41-34 double overtime squeaker over perennial cellar-dweller Kansas last year in Lubbock. In other words, the Red Raiders have been finishing conference play with all the punch of a linguini strand that has been boiled an hour and a half.

An explanation for this dismal phenomenon cannot be posited with any certainty. Is it poor coaching? Is it a lack of player talent? Is it a lack of depth? Who knows? Probably all of the above to a certain degree. But there is one glaring factor that binds all of Tech's late-season losses together. Generally speaking, during these periods, the Red Raiders have played horrendous defense. More specifically, Tech's defense hasn't been able to stop the run any more than a Depends undergarment stops dysentery.

We all know the Red Raider run defense has been bad over the last few years, but perhaps we didn't realize just how bad it's really been. Let's take a closer look.

In the final five Big 12 games of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and the last three games Tech has played in 2013, the Red Raiders have surrendered 3,797 yards on the ground. That equates to an average of 292 rushing yards per contest, which would place Tech No. 124 out of 125 FBS teams in the nation right now. And during this period, Tech is allowing 5.68 yards per carry, which would currently be good for No. 119 nationally.

So let's just lay the cards on the table and state the obvious. The Red Raiders don't need more offensive firepower to be a championship caliber program. They don't need dramatic improvement on special teams. Heck, even their pass defense has been passable. But if Texas Tech is ever going to be anything more than a tin man which crumples like a Smart Car in a head on collision with a freight train when the competition gets tough, the Red Raiders must play competent rush defense. Nothing else really matters.


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