Keys to the Game

RaiderPower takes an in-depth look at the keys to the game for the Texas Tech - UTEP matchup, while avoiding the usual common sense analyses. What must the Red Raiders do to escape with a win? Come inside to find out.

1. Put pressure on Jordan Palmer.  Anyone who has watched a UTEP game will tell you that when Palmer is under pressure, he has a tendency to throw passes up for grabs.  If our defensive line can get significant penetration into the backfield, Palmer will likely revert to the being the interception machine that he has been known for in the past.  Jordan had 4 interceptions against San Diego State, so hopefully our defense can force a similar amount of turnovers.

2. Establish the running game early.  Texas Tech needs to keep the defensive backs on their toes to open up the passing game.  Shannon Woods and/or Baron Batch (yes, Baron is supposed to play) must get off to a good start so our receivers can run free in the secondary.  If UTEP's secondary starts to creep towards the line to spy on the rushing game, look out, because then Graham will be able to choose between four open receivers.

3. Protect Graham Harrell.  Sure, Graham had a strong opener against SMU, but half of it can be attributed to the great protection from the offensive line.  He was only sacked once all afternoon, as the offensive line did their job very well.  Harrell got into a rhythm, and became unstoppable.  The line needs to continue to facilitate Graham's growth in the offense if we expect to pull out the win against a decent team on the road.

4. Shut down Johnnie Lee Higgins.  Higgins is the go-to-guy for Palmer, and is the gas in Texas-El Paso's offensive engine.  Johnnie Lee has some serious speed, so the Red Raider secondary needs to make sure that Higgins doesn't get behind them in coverage.  If Higgins is shut down, the UTEP offense will likely struggle.  No one else in their receiving corps is particularly intimidating, nor does 38 yards rushing against San Diego State look scary to anyone.

5. Take the crowd out of the game.  In order to avoid Saturday's game becoming this year's New Mexico or Oklahoma State, the UTEP crowd must be silenced early.  If Tech's first few drives sputter and the UTEP crowd gets behind their team, I'll begin to get very worried.  This will be UTEP's biggest game in a long time, so they'll be up for it.  Plus, they claim that the mountain acoustics add to the sound.  I don't buy it, because a quarter of the stadium has no seats in it, and our team is used to environments like Kyle Field and Nebraska.  But that's just me.

All in all, Texas Tech should be able to control both sides of the ball if they play to their potential.  However, this is a frightening trap game on the road, and it will be a test for Harrell early.  Will he pass the test as well as he can pass the football?  We will find out on Saturday in another great Texas Tech football game.

-Trent Wycoff

(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at

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