Over/Under: 45 Pass Attempts a Game

Kliff Kingsbury has gone on record that Texas Tech plans to run the ball more, but what exactly does that mean? Just how much will Texas Tech continue to air it out next season? RaiderPower.com takes a look in the latest installment of its Over/Under series.

As much as the Oklahoma Sooners from the 50s through the 80s could be relied upon to run the football, usually from the wishbone formation, Texas Tech in the 21st century can be counted upon to sling it. Mike Leach set the identity when he arrived in Lubbock, and Tommy Tuberville and Kliff Kingsbury have done nothing to undermine it.

Indeed, since 2008, Texas Tech has never finished lower than No. 5 nationally in passing attempts per game.

That “low” mark came in 2012 when the Red Raiders threw the ball a mere 45.7 times per outing. Last season Tech claimed a podium finish at the No. 3 spot, having passed the ball 46.6 times per game.

201446.6No. 3
201354.9No. 2
201245.7No. 5
201150.0No. 1
201047.5No. 2
200951.5No. 2
200850.9No. 1

But 2014 was anything other than successful. And while the entire team partook in the blame for a 4-8 record, Tech’s offense, historically the program’s mainstay, dipped in a great many statistical measures. In short, the vaunted Air Raid was largely a load of hot gas.

It was a traumatic season all around. And there’s little doubt it affected Kingsbury and his staff. Nobody likes to go through the misery Tech experienced in 2014, and that applies a fortiori to coaches whose jobs and careers are on the line.

So in the offseason we heard rumblings that Tech will run the football considerably more in 2015 than they did last year. And given the success of the ground game in 2014 and the return of almost all its key components, it only makes sense that the Red Raiders will play more heavily to that particular strength.

But will it actually happen? Will Tech pass the football fewer than, let’s say, 45 times per game?

Most of the indicators say yes. Stellar back Deandre Washington returns for his senior campaign after rushing for over 1,100 yards and 5.9 yards per carry last season and is backed up by Justin Stockton who flashed signs of being a special talent himself by gaining almost 400 yards at 8.2 yards a clip as a true frosh.

The excellent offensive line returns almost totally intact, and barring injuries which would test the unit’s questionable depth, will be one of the nation’s best.

And then there are the Red Raider receivers who, after a fairly dismal showing in 2014, must be counted a bit of an unknown, particularly compared to the backs and the offensive line.

The makeup of the Big 12’s defenses should also tempt Tech to run it more. Increasingly, those defenses are going to nickel and dime packages in an attempt to stanch passing leaks, and with defensive backs such as Danzell McDaniel, Zack Sanchez, Kevin Peterson, Karl Joseph, and Duke Thomas, they are fully equipped to do so. Confronted with secondary talent such as this, Kliff Kingsbury might not be the only coach who thinks better of passing the football on practically every down.

Against all of these factors there is just one countervailing phenomenon, but it could be critical. I speak of the force of habit.

Kingsbury is an old quarterback. And quarterbacks like to throw the football. Kingsbury probably likes to throw it more than most. So while it is one thing to talk about running it in the offseason, what happens in the heat of the fray when the adrenaline flows and fortune favors the bold? Do you exhibit Bill Snyder calm and discipline, or do you call plays in the spirit of the Pirate?

The suspicion here is that Tech’s backfield and offensive line talent will be too great for Kingsbury to ignore. Consequently, the Red Raiders will pass the ball fewer than 45 times per game, but don’t expect them to drop out of the top 10 in this category.

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