It’s a true rivalry game, one that has featured the home team running out of fireworks (hello, 82-27), wild finishes (who could forget the Tip 6), and the occasional fox on the field. One can only imagine what we are in for Thursday night.
To get some insight into what we can expect amongst the craziness in Thursday night’s game, we reached out to Jay Burrous of Viva the Matadors to get the scoop on QBs, the “defense”, and some new offensive wrinkles.
Frogs O’ War: Tech looks like the Tech of old on offense, piling up insane stats, especially through the air. Whether it’s Jett Duffey or Alan Bowman Thursday, what is making the Red Raiders offense so effective in 2018?
Jay Burrous: I’d like to credit Coach Kingsbury with hiring outside of the Air-Raid family, and approaching Offensive Coordinator Kevin Johns. We’ve seen tons of RPOs this year, lead blockers, and we’ll line up a tight end probably a quarter of the time. There’s no doubt in my mind that his play designs have put guys like Ta’Zhawn Henry in a position to succeed. Which, by the way, thanks again for that guy!
But, Johns isn’t the guy throwing touchdown passes, and Alan Bowman has been nothing short of spectacular. Bowman’s accuracy is what stands out most, and his demeanor is rare for a freshman. I can’t think of many guys who could waltz into Stillwater, or enter a game midway against an SEC defense and show poise like he has. We’re all hopeful he’ll play this week, but I’d much rather have him for the rest of Big 12 play than risk injury.
Lastly though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the play of our offensive line. While, I’ll admit, they had an awful game against West Virginia, they’ve played very well otherwise, and they’re one of the better pass blocking groups in the Big 12. Of course, it never hurts when you return all five of your previous years starters, and some of your backups have received starts at different points in their careers.
FOW: Kliff Kingsbury keeps sending talented receivers to the NFL, and finding immediate replacements to shoulder the load the next year. Out of this crop, who are the guys that stand out as difference-makers?
JB: Antoine Wesley is the leader of the group in yardage and touchdowns. Outside of last week, this is a guy who’s been about as dependable as they come this year and hadn’t dropped a pass. You’ll see him lineup wide, and on the other side is easily our most physically gifted receiver in T.J. Vasher. Vasher actually had an Ohio State offer out of high school and has the ability to make Odell Beckham-style catches. Ja’Deion High, who’s a 6th-year senior, is the security blanket on 3rd down. I’d call out KeSean Carter as well because he’s someone that Kingsbury is finding a way to get touches, and he could make some plays Thursday that really pop on the screen.
Overall, this is a solid group of pass catchers. I’ll admit that the majority of fans were very skeptical of this group entering the season, but they’ve acquitted themselves well.
FOW: The defense is once again... not great. Coming into the season, many people thought it would be a much stronger unit, as talented as they are and as consistent as the coaching has been. Tech has played some really good offensive teams, but is there something keeping them from being better at keeping opponents’ offenses off the field?
JB: I think we’ve learned the hard way that you can’t forecast turnovers. Entering the season, we had three guys on the pre-season All-Conference team and those guys have combined to create literally ZERO turnovers in five games. The only other culprit I’d credit might be injuries? But, that doesn’t feel like the reason we’ve had such a porous group. Oddly enough though, we’ve morphed into Alabama on defense the last two games in the second half. We held Oklahoma State scoreless, and West Virginia only had 7 points because of an interception returned for a touchdown. Should this group manage to turn it on in the first half as well, I think we’d be onto something?
FOW: Which players can be difference-makers for the Red Raiders on Thursday night?
JB: It’s straightforward, but whoever starts at quarterback is going to need to play effectively. So, whether that’s Jett Duffey, Alan Bowman, or McLane Carter - we need to protect the football, make plays when they’re there, and be special in the right spots. Otherwise, I think Dakota Allen is an X-Factor here. Should Shawn Robinson somehow play, it’s going to be on Allen to keep him in the pocket. Lastly, this feels like a game where field position is going to play a huge role. So, I’ll be curious if De’Quan Bowman can make some plays on punt returns and assist this offense with the field position game.
FOW: Texas Tech wins if....
JB: If we win the turnover battle 2-0, or 3-0. This is a game that tends to fire up both sides, and the team who doesn’t make mistakes, and forces the other guys to make mistakes will win. Frankly, I worry that our quarterback play costs us this game, and Vegas tends to agree because the line is -7 TCU.
FOW: TCU wins if....
JB: Whoever plays at quarterback can secure multiple 3rd-down conversations, and break our backs on long touchdown passes. My speculation is we’ll load up the box to stop the run, so whoever plays quarterback will need to win with their arm.
FOW: What’s your prediction for the final outcome?
JB: I want to believe that we have the firepower to win this game, and I’d forecast a win if Alan Bowman was 100%. But, Bowman isn’t 100%, and our defense hasn’t shown the ability to stop decent offenses on a consistent basis to start games. My speculation is that TCU jumps up 14-0, or 17-0 lead, but we keep it close throughout the game and lose 38-34.