Kansas Pregame Report

The last time Texas Tech met the University of Kansas on the football field (2001) misery reigned supreme for the Red Raiders. After jumping out to a seemingly comfortable first half lead en route to what looked to be an easy victory, Tech fell apart after losing quarterback Kliff Kingsbury and linebacker Lawrence Flugence. The Jayhawks stormed back and took a 34-31 overtime victory. The Raiders hope to return the favor Saturday...

The Raiders hope to return the favor Saturday in a game that kicks off at 2:30 p.m. in Lawrence, Kansas. The Fox Sports Network will televise the contest.

The first order of duty for the Raiders, if they expect to return victorious, will be overcoming a Jayhawk defense that currently ranks tenth nationally in yards allowed. Leading the charge for this unit are junior linebacker Nick Reid of Derby, Kansas, and senior safety Tony Stubbs from Lake Worth, Florida. The two stalwarts are first and second, respectively, in total tackles among Big XII defenders. The Jayhawk defense has effectively clamped off opposition scoring as well, allowing Tulsa three points in the season-opener, Toledo 14 the next week, and 20 points in a loss to Northwestern. Kansas defeated Tulsa and Toledo handily.

Needless to say, Jayhawk head man Mark Mangino is confident about his defense's prospects, even against a Tech offense that is number six in the nation.

"One of the keys to playing good defense this week will be assignment-sound football. If our kids will be very precise in their assignments and how they pursue things, I feel good about our defense."

And if the Kansas defense is not "assignment-sound"?

"...Texas Tech will find flaws and exploit those flaws until we do something about it." Coming off a record-setting performance in which it scored 70 points in less than two and a half quarters against TCU, the Tech offense has to feel that it is capable of exploiting any weakness. Mangino recognizes the scope of the challenge.

"This week we play a very good Texas Tech team. They are going to put the ball up a lot, but you still have to defend the run or they can hurt you with it. They have an excellent quarterback who has been in their system and learned and adjusted very well to what they do. They have some good receivers like Hicks, who is playing great football for them right now."

The Hicks to whom Mangino refers is none other than 6' 4" sophomore Jarrett Hicks. On the season so far, the Houston native has caught 25 balls for 511 yards and three touchdowns. He averages 20 yards per catch and 170 yards per game. Another dangerous receiving threat for the Raiders is junior tight end Bristol Olomua who has 14 receptions and leads the team with four touchdown catches.

Kansas' Stubbs recognizes the challenges presented by Tech's treetop receiving corps. "It's going to be tough because they have real long arms and they're tall, so we just have to try and contain them. We will really have to play their hands and try to bat the ball down." The man charged with getting the ball to Tech's talented receivers is senior quarterback Sonny Cumbie, a walk on from Snyder. On the year, he has completed 114 of 186 passes for nine touchdowns and 1,360 yards with four interceptions. Tech's leading rusher is junior Taurean Henderson. The Gatesville native has 159 yards on 40 carries through three games.

For all of its volatility and combustibility, the performance of the Raider offense has not surprised too many people. After all, under the direction of Mike Leach, Tech is known for just such explosiveness. The impressive performance of the Raider defense, on the other hand, has caused eyebrows to arch and defensive coordinators' lips to purse all across Big XII country. Currently, the Raiders rank 43rd nationally in total defense and lead the Big XII in pass defense.

Undoubtedly, balance is one of the features that has prompted the revivification of the Tech defense. The Raiders boast excellent defenders at numerous positions. Tech's leading tackler is Rockwall junior Vincent Meeks. The free safety has 25 stops and two pass breakups. Senior strongside linebacker Mike Smith has 22 tackles, two for a loss, one pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. Sophomore cornerback Antonio Huffman has 12 stops, an interception, three passes defended, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Defensive end Adell Duckett, a senior from Mineral Wells, has 10 tackles, four tackles for a loss, one sack, two passes broken up, two quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles.

The Kansas offense has been hit-and-miss so far, but has put Tech defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich on notice, nevertheless.

"Well, they're similar to our offense. You know, they throw a lot of screens: middle screens, running back screens; they do crossing routes like our offense. And you're frightened because any time you can give up a big play."

If the Jayhawks are to hit Tech with big plays, they are most likely to do so in the passing game. Kansas rushers, led by running back John Randles 189 yard, are averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. The Jayhawks passing attack, conversely, has been proficient. Sophomore quarterback Adam Barmann of Weston, Missouri, has completed 68 of 113 passes for 703 yards and seven touchdowns with only two interceptions. Brandon Rideau, a 6' 4" senior from Beaumont, has been his favorite target. The wideout has 16 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns.

If the Jayhawk passing attack and salty defense are to spark Kansas to a win, however they will have to buck a couple of trends. Tech holds a commanding 7-1 edge in the series between the two schools. Furthermore, Raider opponents have managed only three points total in third quarters this season, while Tech has put up 45. Another Tech exercise in third-quarter dominance could doom the Jayhawks' chances, just as it did the TCU Horned Frogs last Saturday.

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