Texas isn’t playing Kansas anymore.
The Jayhawks ran 36 offensive plays against the Longhorns last week. It took Texas Tech a little more than a quarter to run 40 plays when it upset Oklahoma two weeks ago. Texas held Kansas to 46 total yards this past Saturday. Red Raiders quarterback Seth Doege has completed at least three passes that long this year. Bottom line: The Longhorns’ defense will not have it as easy as it did last week.
“I feel like I’ve played them more than any other team for some reason,” said senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho. “Every week preparing for them is different since their offense is prolific. It’s always a great challenge just seeing how your defense can match up against a great offense like this.”
Texas Tech may not be recognized as Texas’ rival as much as Oklahoma or Texas A&M, but the Red Raiders have provided some great entertainment for Longhorns fans over the years. Texas Tech knocked Texas out of the national title picture with a thrilling 39-33 win at Lubbock in 2008. From 2002-2007, the Longhorns and Red Raiders nearly averaged a combined 80 points per game, with half of the contests being decided by six points or less. Texas is favored by 12 points this weekend but has not beaten Texas Tech by that much since 2007.
“They’re definitely a formidable rival,” said senior safety Blake Gideon. “It’s never the team we see on tape. Whatever mistakes they made, they always bring a little extra for Texas. That’s fine. That’s how we like it.”
Texas made nine tackles for loss last week and recorded three sacks, including one each from starting defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor. The Longhorns had the ball for more than 44 minutes but the little time the Jayhawks were on the field they couldn’t move the ball as they got only three first downs.
“We couldn’t have asked for much more of a complete game,” Acho said. “Their offense was very good. They averaged over 400 yards per game. People tried to overlook that. That was a pretty big feat to go out and do what we did.”
Kansas didn’t play much better than Texas Tech did last week. The Red Raiders, after ending Oklahoma’s 39-game home winning streak, were pounded by Iowa State at home, 41-7, possibly because they were looking ahead to their meeting with the Longhorns.
“We’re definitely expecting the OU-Tech team,” said sophomore defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. “I don’t think the Iowa State-Tech team is the one we’re used to seeing. We know that they’re going to be ready to play us.”
Doege went from a 441-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Sooners to a 171-yard, two-interception showing against the Cyclones. But the junior quarterback, who throws for nearly 350 yards per game, leads the Big 12 in completions per game and will present a stiff challenge against a secondary that had a field day against the Jayhawks.
“He should be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country,” said head coach Mack Brown. “Our league has the best quarterbacks in the country by far. I think he’s what sets them apart.”
But, unlike Texas Tech teams of old, Doege hands the ball off every now and then. In 10 seasons under Mike Leach, 81.3 percent of the Red Raiders’ total offense came through its passing game. Under Tommy Tuberville, who’s in his second season as Texas Tech’s head coach, that number has dipped below 70 percent.
“We know they can run the ball,” Jeffcoat said. “I feel like they’ve been running the ball more than lately. They do a decent job with it so you have to be ready.”
It didn’t seem like there was much room for improvement last Saturday, especially on defense. But senior linebacker Keenan Robinson cited missed opportunities to force turnovers, something Texas has emphasized since its most recent bye week.
If the Longhorns play better defense than it did this past weekend, Texas Tech will have trouble getting its aerial attack moving downfield. But keep in mind the Red Raiders can get away with running for -2 yards if they throw for 450.