Texas must keep the Red Raiders' offense, which averages 46 points per game, under wraps (photo courtesy of Texastech.com).
Happy Thanksgiving! We hope it is filled with great company and a cornucopia of mouthwatering eats. The Longhorns hope to chew up the 6-5 Texas Tech Red Raiders tonight in Austin, but to do so they will have to contain a Texas Tech offense that averages 46.5 points per game. How can Texas come out on top, prevent the Red Raiders from getting their first win in Austin since 1997 and keep hopes of a bowl game alive? It's time to "Know Your Enemy."
The same old song
Texas Tech appears to be hiding a cabbage patch that grows elite quarterbacks in Lubbock, Texas. Look at the list from the last 30 years. Kliff Kingsbury (now the current Tech head coach) ... B.J. Symons ... Sonny Cumbie ... Graham Harrell ...
Now Texas gets to deal with Patrick Mahomes, the son of former Major League pitcher Pat Mahomes, who is third in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in passing yards and total offense. What makes him even more lethal is that he can run the ball with ease.
The Texas defense would be smart to not sleep on Tech's rushing offense, however. The Red Raiders average 196.8 yards a game — 34th in the nation — and running back DeAndre Washington already has run for 1,282 yards (116.5 yards per game).
Many Texas fans have no problem remembering, or cursing the name of, former Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree. He and Texas Tech upset the Longhorns in 2008, stopping them from going to a national title game. Now the Longhorns get a new test in the form of Jakeem Grant. The 5-foot-6, 168-pound redshirt senior kills teams on offense and special teams, ranking first in the Big 12 with 178.2 all-purpose yards per game. He will try to set the school record for career receiving yards tonight and already holds the Texas Tech record for career kickoff-return yardage.
It seems unlikely that Texas can shut Grant down in both facets of the game, but it is imperative that they hold him to a minimal number of yards on special teams. The battle of special teams will be a game-changer tonight and Texas, which ranks 118th nationally in kickoff return defense, has to step up.
It's worth noting that Texas Tech's kickoff return defense isn't anything special either, ranking 100th nationally, so perhaps the Longhorns flip the script with a big return of their own.
Running out of time
UT running backs Chris Warren and Kirk Johnson must fill in for D'Onta Foreman, Texas' best weapon, and perhaps replace Johnathan Gray, who is questionable to play with a foot injury. That is the bad news. The good news is that Texas Tech offers plenty of room to run. The Red Raiders defense has allowed at least 300 yards on the ground in five of its 11 games. Texas Tech gives up 260 rushing yards per game, while Texas has rushed for 214 per game. If the Longhorns want to win, they have to get production out of quarterback Jerrod Heard, Warren and Johnson. It does not take a football expert to understand that, but Texas has defied logic sometimes this season with its play-calling, so we will say it just in case.
Shock and awe
Senior linebacker Micah Awe is one of the most solid linebackers in the Big 12 and seems to find his way in every play and has registered 102 tackles on the season. He has stated that his job is to "basically get the ball, get the ball or hit someone." What is more impressive are his accomplishments off the field. Yes, we usually focus on studying our opponents within the sidelines, but check this out.
Awe will graduate this year with a degree in petroleum engineering. His parents traveled from Nigeria to the U.S. in 1997 by way of the visa lottery system, and he gives them all the credit for his commitment to being a special student-athlete. In an era in which some question how intensely some players focus on their academics, Awe deserves love for putting his head in schoolbooks, as well as the playbook.