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5 QUESTIONS WITH JARRET JOHNSON, PUBLISHER OF RAIDERPOWER.COM

5 QUESTIONS with Texas Tech Scout publisher Jarret Johnson of RaiderPower.com ... and how Chip Brown answered the 5 QUESTIONS posed to him by RaiderPower.com ...

#1 ... Two Saturdays ago, Texas Tech lost 66-59 at home to OU in a game in which QB Patrick Mahomes threw for 734 yards and ran for 85 (setting an FBS record for total offense with 819 yards). 

So, how on earth did Texas Tech and TCU play a double OT game last Saturday and it play in the 20s? With Tech winning 27-24 in Fort Worth - where two years earlier TCU beat the Red Raiders 82-27?
 
JARRET JOHNSON: That's a good question. Mahomes and Co. took advantage of what is a pretty bad OU secondary, but put little pressure on Baker Mayfield. So each quarterback turned in historic performances. Last week, TCU sat back in essentially a prevent defense and dared Tech to run the ball. 
To Kingsbury and the offense's credit, they were able to adjust on the fly and started feeding their green, but rested - true freshman running back Da'Leon Ward - who finished with 147 all-purpose yards. 
The Red Raiders ran the ball 49 times last week and only attempted 40 passes. In fact, Tech ran the ball 22 times in the fourth quarter alone, which was one more rush than the Red Raiders posted for the entire game against Oklahoma.
 
#2 ... What's the latest on QB Patrick Mahomes' injuries? And what is he going through each week to endure the AC sprain in his throwing shoulder?
JARRET JOHNSON: Mahomes' shoulder is as healthy as it's been since he suffered the injury against Kansas back on Sept. 29
His final play last weekend looked gnarly, but he said afterward he was fine and actually threw some passes to test it out. 
Kingsbury confirmed this in his press conference on Monday and added he expects Mahomes to practice more than he has in weeks. Mahomes then did in fact practice Monday.
 
The biggest struggle for Mahomes in previous weeks against Kansas State and West Virginia was simply he didn't practice and his shoulder wore down as the games went along. 
 
Like I said previously, Mahomes is significantly healthier now compared to when he first injured the shoulder. He will play Saturday and I expect another huge game from him.
 
 
 
#3 ... Which game gives a more accurate picture of Tech's D - the OU game or the TCU game? It would seem Tech's defense figured something out in holding TCU to 24 points in double OT. (Or is TCU's offense that bad?)
JARRET JOHNSON: Oh I have to say the Oklahoma game. 
Texas Tech has allowed over 40 points per game since David Gibbs took over the defense before the 2015 season and has especially struggled against Big 12 opponents. 
Gibbs did however make some adjustments last week which could continue to pay dividends. 
First off, he played his younger guys, such as true freshman corner Douglas Coleman more and it paid off as Coleman picked off Kenny Hill, who was benched shortly after. Tech also blitzed more, especially on third down and played tighter coverage on the perimeter. 
 
 
#4 ... Texas Tech, TCU and Texas are all 4-4 and 2-3 in the Big 12. Charlie Strong is shopping for asbestos underwear his seat is so hot. What are big-picture fan expectations in Lubbock for Kliff Kingsbury, who is 23-23 in his fourth season? Are the big-money power brokers at Tech happy?
 
JARRET JOHNSON: No doubt the natives are restless, but I don't think Kingsbury's seat is anywhere near as hot as Strong's appears to be. 
One major reason is Kingsbury signed a contract extension ahead of the 2014 season which guarantees him significant money through 2020. In fact, he's guaranteed $9.4M after this season. 
I realize that may not be a big obstacle for Texas, but Tech can't afford to pay Kingsbury to not coach and bring in a new guy. 
Add in the fact he's one of the program's more celebrated players in recent history, plus the notion he's considered a stand-up, quality person and you have almost a consensus among all of Red Raider Nation of really wanting to see Kingsbury succeed. That good will and contract probably means he's the man through the 2017 season, but if he doesn't come on I hear Tech will cut the cord after that. 
 
#5 ... What's your prediction for Saturday's game?
JARRET JOHNSON: I believe it will be a high scoring game in the 50's and whoever has the ball last will win. I still don't have much faith in either defense.
******
And here's how I answered the 5 QUESTIONS posed to me by Jarret Johnson and RaiderPower.com: 

1. Big win over Baylor last week, how was UT able to do it and is there anything you can point to that the Longhorns can build on, take to Lubbock?

CHIP BROWN: Offensively, this team is being carried by RB D'Onta Foreman, who ran 32 times for 250 yards (7.8 ypc) - his ninth straight game rushing for 100 yards or more (second only to Earl Campbell's school-record 11 straight games).

Foreman also went over 1,000 yards (1,105, 6.4ypc) for the season, becoming Texas' first 1000-yard rusher since Jamaal Charles in 2007 (which sort of lets you know where the talent level has been in terms of recruiting before Strong arrived).

Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele tends to rely D'Onta's twin brother, Armanti, in critical passing situations, such as the 38-yard catch Armanti made on UT's last-minute drive to the go-ahead FG with 46 seconds left in that 35-34 win over Baylor.

But Texas has struggled to move the ball out of its 18-Wheeler Package, which I've dubbed the 18-Flat-Tire Package, featuring backup QB Tyrone Swoopes.

Against Baylor, Texas went 0-for-5 on third-down conversions from the second quarter until early in the fourth quarter - getting outscored 20-3 in that span.

New offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert could do no wrong the first four games of the season, when UT was averaging 41 points per game. But Texas is only averaging 27.7 ppg over its last three (a 27-6 win over Iowa State, a 24-21 loss at K-State and a 35-34 win over BU) and defenses have figured out the 18-Flat-Tire Package.

Texas forced eight turnovers against OU (4), Iowa State (1) and Kansas State (3), and the offense could only convert them into a total of three points (1 FG vs OU).

Texas won the turnover battle 3-0 at K-State, and the offense couldn't convert them into a single point in a 3-point loss.

Based on Texas' up-and-down season, it's no surprise that early on, when the offense was soaring, the defense was giving up big play after big play. (The average length of the 26 TDs scored by opponents the first five games of the season was 23.8 yards per score).

Then, as the defense has improved, the offense has begun to bog down. So if there's one thing Texas may be starting to figure out, it's the confidence to make some plays in the secondary and force a turnover or two. 

Through the first four games of the season, Texas had forced an FBS-worst one turnover (a fumble recovery vs UTEP). The last four games, the Texas D is averaging 2.5 turnovers gained per game. UT is +4 in turnovers in that stretch.

 

2. It's no secret coach Strong is on the hot seat. What does he need to do to keep his job? Is there a chance that if UT loses in Lubbock Strong's fired immediately after?

CHIP BROWN: He could really use a win Saturday in Lubbock - obviously. But most importantly, Strong needs to avoid the embarrassing loss. 

I'm told nothing will happen in terms of a dismissal during the season. I think Strong has a chance to survive at 7-5 if there aren't any more embarrassing losses. 

That's always been Strong's problems - the embarrassing losses. Strong is 15-18 in three seasons at Texas, and 10 of his losses have been by 18 points or more. 

The loss that hurt Strong most this season was the 49-31 loss in Stillwater in which three extra points were blocked - with one being returned for two points. 

Texas' big-money donors can handle hard-fought losses. They can not handle embarrassment. And that's when the Texas BMDs really started turning their attention to Tom Herman, who remains the top preference if Strong is let go. 

But school president Greg Fenves and athletic director Mike Perrin know Strong got no support his first 20 months on the job from former AD Steve Patterson. So they are doing everything they can to support Strong and want him to succeed.

 

3. I'm a big Shane Buechele fan. What have you seen from him this season? What is your analysis of his game? 

CHIP BROWN: It's funny - it was a conversation I had with Kliff Kingsbury at Big 12 Media Days that really got me thinking Shane Buechele might be able to help save Charlie Strong's job.

I said to Kliff: "You can't keep a quarterback on campus, and Texas can't find one."

And Kliff said: "They've got one now. I was the first one to offer Shane Buechele. The kid is smart, accurate, quick release, competitive. He's a good one."

I said: "There are concerns about his slight build."

Kliff said: "I coached Johnny Manziel and Case Keenum. He's plenty big enough."

Buechele is not only accurate, his deep ball is a thing of beauty. Only drawback right now is Buechele isn't a threat to run, and defenses don't respect him at all in the zone read game. 

So, new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert needs to change some things up, because the more defenses see this offense on film, the more success they're having slowing things down.

 

 

4. So Breckyn Hager popped off earlier in the week that UT's plan was to injure Mahomes. As you can imagine that got Lubbock and the football program all fired up. What's been the reaction to his comments in Austin and around the program? 

CHIP BROWN: Breckyn being Breckyn. But the fact he and Charlie Strong had to issue apologies probably means Hager has talked to the media for the last time this season. 

I talked to Hager's former high school coach Todd Dodge on the morning sports talk radio show I'm on Austin and Dodge probably said it best: "The great thing about Breckyn is he constantly lets you know by his actions and words how much he loves football. And sometimes Breckyn may let you know in a little too much detail how much he loves the game."

Hager has been trying to get his teammates to match his intensity. Maybe this was an attempt to do that. We'll see.

 

5. Does this game feel like it has more juice than in recent years?

CHIP BROWN: There's a lot at stake for Texas for sure, with Strong's job status the way it is, so - yes!

 


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