"Were more mature right now than last years group because we were at the same place in our season last year and then we didnt respond at Tech like we needed to," Brown said. "I think the experience of last year has helped this football team understand its about how we play Saturday."
The difference is that this year Texas has a running game, a phenomenal freshman QB, a healthier defense, plus its a home game. The $64,000 Question (not yet adjusted for inflation) is whether Texas can sustain a pass rush against QB B.J. Symons who, with an average game (by his standards) could break Ty Detmers NCAA single-season passing record (5,188) set in 1990.
"With their ability to throw it, well probably miss church," Brown said. "Its going to be a 16-hour game. And the games never over because the clock doesnt run with them. They could have 100 plays very easily. Its preparing for a totally different offense than any other that we play."
And, ideally, a totally different outcome than in 2002.
Not many realize that the Texas Tech series has been, for the past decade, UTs most competitive series aside from Oklahoma. The series is deadlocked at 5-5 the past 10 years. (Texas is 4-5-1 against the Sooners during that span). Texas leads 38-14 overall and is 24-5 against the Sand Aggies when the game is played in Austin. Techs last road win against Texas came during John Mackovics swan song in 1997, but Texas has won by an average of 48 points during its last two home meetings against the Lubbock school.
Texas Tech is 7-3 on the season, with all three losses coming on the road (N.C. State, Oklahoma State, Missouri). The Raiders, however, outdueled QB Eli Manning in a 49-45 win at Ole Miss.
TEXAS TECH OFFENSE
The Raiders run one of college footballs quirkiest and most prolific offenses, leading the nation at 612.9 ypg. (Texas checks in this week averaging 439.8 ypg, NCAA No. 20). Actually, the Raiders dont "run" their offense as they do "throw" it. And throw it. And throw it. Its passing game leads the NCAA, averaging 508.7 yard through the air.
"They throw the ball 50-to-70 times a game so your pass rushers get really tired," Brown said. "They have great speed."
For the Raiders, it all begins up front. The huge splits in the offensive line spreads the defense and makes it difficult to blitz and generally makes it difficult for down linemen (especially the DE) to get to the QB.
"They dont get sacked much," Brown said, "but youve got to get them off their rhythm. (Former QB Kliff) Kingsbury got on a rhythm and we never got him off. He stayed hot. Same way with Jason White at Oklahoma. He just got hot and stayed hot. We didnt do anything about it."
Note: while true, Brown isnt saying that just to scare you. He is setting up the Tech game as if it were an Oklahoma rematch. He made the same comparison to Arkansas when Nebraska came to town. Still, its all about disrupting the QB with Techs offensive scheme.
"If you get inside, they throw their quick screens to the outside," Brown noted. "If you blitz, they block down and run their little outside sweeps. They do a great job with their scheme."
Symons (who looks like one the NSync boy band members, or so says my daughter) leads the nation with 474.1 passing ypg, and needs 477 during the next two games to break Detmers record. Symons will be playing with a gimpy knee but the senior is not about to miss his first, and last, start against Texas. And, after starting just one season, Symons 5,286 career passing yards ranks No. 7 in Big 12 history.
"B.J. is a great competitor," Brown said. "Hes never played against Texas, so hell be pumped up and ready to go for this weekend. Hes got a national stage to do it on."
Techs quick-hitting passing attack is predicated upon getting receivers into space against man coverage and features an amply dose of bubble screens, slants, some run-and-shoot and will sprinkle in some runs to keep the defense honest.
"They play the one-minute offense the whole game," Brown said, "so youre never out of this game until the games over. Look at their scores: they were down at halftime, 35-14, against Oklahoma State and it ended up 51-49 (OSU). The game may last until Sunday morning. It will be a shootout that will not be over until the last play."
While USC coordinator Norm Chow has the reputation for distributing the ball, nobody spreads it as thick as Tech. Fifteen different Red Raiders have caught a pass this year. In short, everybody on their offensive team that touches the ball has a chance to score.
Speaking of scoring: the DKR jumbotron (or whatever theyre calling that big, electronic thing in the south end zone these days) should light up like a pinball machine Saturday when two of the nations top five scoring offenses are on the same field. Techs 44.9 ppg is second best in the country while Texas more balanced attack is not far behind at 42.4 ppg (NCAA No. 4).
"They get 200 yards out of the short stuff," Brown said. "Its like their running game. Then they have the ability to come at you deep with their speed."
Speaking of their running game, Tech rushes for just 104.2 ypg (NCAA No. 104) and is more one-dimensional offensively than is Nebraska (at the polar opposite end of the spectrum). Yet, Tech is remarkably efficient on third down conversions for a passing team. The Raiders lead the league in this category, converting 70-of-132 attempts (53 percent), an area where Kingsbury broke our hearts last season.
Afterwards, defensive coordinator Carl Reese spent nearly two weeks throwing up arms bemoaning how he tried everything to get to Kingsbury but absolutely nothing worked. A year later, it begs the question: how do you defend the Air Raiders?
"You cant stay in the same stuff (defensive scheme) against these guys," Brown said. "We did a great job here two years ago changing up and it kept them off-balance. But if you let them have a rhythm, theyll beat you to death. Thats what they did last year. We couldnt get them off the field."
Added Brown, "We dont need to start slowly in this game. We need to go attack and be aggressive and make our plays early because every play in this game is so key because they have the ability to score so quickly."
WLB Derrick Johnson will be key Saturday to Texas underneath pass coverage, and needs to show why he is Texas first Butkus Award finalist
"He has the ability to run with the back out of the backfield, which Tech will do a lot," Brown said. "He can do the things a defensive back can do on backs and tight ends and still play linebacker."
Of course, CB Nathan Vasher (a Thorpe Award semifinalist) will have to do as bang-up of a job Saturday as he did in Stillwater last weekend. In fact, dont be surprised if Vasher comes up with the two picks needs to break Noble Doss 52-year old school record for career interceptions.
"I got on Nathan because he had only interception against Oklahoma State," Brown said, "and he told me wanted to break the record at home."
The best defense against Tech is the Texas offense. The Horns need to get out of the gate quickly, unleash a steady onslaught of QB Vince Young and RB Cedric Benson, run the clock, plus give the receivers a chance to shine on Senior Day.
"Theyre going to move the ball and get some yards so youve got to try to force some turnovers," Brown said. "Youve also got to do a great job in the red zone. And you cant get discouraged when theyre making plays because theyre going to make them."
LITTLE BIG MAN
One of the biggest seniors on the field Saturday will be one of the smallest. Texas Tech receiver/punt returner Wes Welker stands all of 5-9 but stands taller in the record books.
"Hes hurt us every year hes played us but hes hurt everybody else," Brown said. "Hes so good with his hands on the ball and youve got to treat him like a running back. Thats their running game: throw a little bubble screen to him and he can make eight real quickly."
While Carlos Francis leads the team in receiving yards (1,024), Welker leads the Big 12 in receptions (7.3 per game). His 5,404 career all-purpose yards ranks No. 2 all-time in the Big 12 (second only to Texas Ricky Williams 5,992 all-purpose yards). Welker already holds NCAA records for career punt return yards (1,745) and career punt returns for TD (8). Not bad for an Oklahoma City kid that went virtually unrequited out of high school.
"He shows that recruiting services dont always have all the answers -- and coaches," Brown said. "Hes a guy whos just a football player. Some people would probably say hes too small, and would ask where he would play. The guy is just a player. Hes more than paid his way, and hes a great message for other guys that are overlooked in recruiting to not give up."
Roy Williams wants to go out in style Saturday, but this time its personal. Roys brother Lloyd Hill was a two-time All-SWC receiver at Texas Tech from 1990-1993. Although Roy has taken two-of-three from his brothers alma mater, the bragging rights have shifted since Texas loss in Lubbock last season.
"My brother was talking trash for 364 days," Roy said. "Hopefully, by the time I leave, well be 3-1 (against Tech). Hopefully, it aint 2-2 (or) hell bash me the rest of my life."
If it werent for all those PATs from their respective high-scoring offenses, Texas FG kicker Dusty Mangum and Tech FG kicker Keith Toogood would be the loneliest guys in college football. Fact of the matter is neither squad typically settles for field goals.
On the season, Toogood is 6-of-9 FG (NCAA No. 93) while Mangum is 5-of-7 (NCAA No. 98).
"Sixteen field goal attempts between two teams after 20 games isnt very many," Brown noted.
TEXAS TECH DEFENSE
Definition of oxymoron: Texas Tech Defense.
While leading the nation in passing, Tech is No. 111 nationally (and dead last in the Big 12) in total defense, surrendering 460 ypg. The Raiders are yielding 198.8 yards on the ground (NCAA No. 102) and 262.1 yards through the air (NCAA No. 101).
One of Browns coaching commandments is never to criticize an opponent, yet the Obi Wan of coach-speak probably was challenged this week to find something positive to say about a Tech team that allows 33 ppg.
"Both defenses wont get talked about this week so both defenses will be mad," Brown said. "People arent giving their defense enough credit for the improvement theyve made the last two weeks."
Yeah, playing Baylor sure makes a defense look improved. I asked Brown what specific improvements he saw in Techs defense.
"Their defense really won the game at Colorado," Brown said. "They held them to 20 points and 290 yards, and Colorados got a good offense. That was very impressive. They did the same thing at Baylor. They just seem to playing with a lot more confidence. Theyve been overshadowed by their offense and theyve got some new defensive staff members, so its probably just taken them a while to get comfortable with the scheme."
Note: Colorados "good offense" includes the Big 12s worst ground game (94.8 ypg), not to mention the nations worst pass defense (310.8 ypg, NCAA No. 117).
"I told our offense that they better get ready for a mad, talented defense that no ones talked about coming in here on Saturday," Brown said.
One bright spot for the Tech defense (and a definite sore spot for Texas) is DB Ryan Aycock. His six INT this season ranks No. 8 nationally. Aycock, youll recall, is the kid who intercepted Chris Simms fourth quarter pass intended for FL B.J. Johnson to seal Techs upset win.
But perhaps Cedric Benson summed it up best when he said: "A lot of teams have had success on them (Tech defense) but that wont guarantee our success. Weve still got to put things out here on the field during practice and execute on Saturday."