Know the foe: Texas Tech travels to Provo hoping for a midseason turnaround

When it comes to an unfamiliar foe, Texas Tech fits the bill for BYU.

While Saturday’s matchup won’t be the first between the Cougars and the Red Raiders, the two schools haven’t faced off since 1940. That contest — a 21-20 victory for Tech in Lubbock — gives the Red Raiders a series advantage, but in the 83 years that have passed both programs have experienced both the highs and the lows of the college football experience.

So, with Texas Tech making its first visit to Provo in program history, here’s a quick preview of the Red Raiders in order to acquaint BYU fans with their new Big 12 conference foe.

Quarterback Questions

Texas Tech had high hopes for their quarterback play. Senior Tyler Shough finished an injury filled 2022 campaign with an impressive regular season performance in a 51-48 overtime victory against Oklahoma. In the contest he passed for a career high 436 yards. He then capped off the season by being named MVP of the Texas Bowl in a Texas Tech victory over Ole Miss. Shough started the 2023 season off with solid numbers by throwing for 743 yards and 7 touchdowns through the first 3 games. However, in the first quarter of the Red Raiders’ clash with West Virginia, Shough suffered a broken fibula that has kept him out since.

Texas Tech then turned to sophomore quarterback Behren Morton to take over signal caller duties. Morton was solid in his relief of Shough and led the Red Raider’s to a 2-0 record through his first two starts. His 696 passing yards and 8 touchdowns to go along with only two interceptions had Texas Tech fans feeling comfortable as they entered a Big 12 matchup with Kansas State. However, after a lingering shoulder issue suffered against West Virginia kept him out of the second half in the loss to the Wildcats, the Red Raider’s again placed quarterbacking responsibilities on true freshman Jake Strong.

Strong struggled in relief of Morton by gong 16-28 for 173 yards 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. However, after a full week of practice the Texas Tech coaching staff believes that Strong is more than capable in commanding the Red Raider offense if Morton, who is currently a game time decision, is unable to play.

Another Bell-Cow Back

For the second week in a row the BYU defense has the misfortune of facing another elite talent at running back. Texas Tech senior Tahj Brooks currently is ranked 5th nationally in terms of rushing yards with 786 yards to go along with 5 touchdowns and an impressive 6.0 yards per carry average. Sophomore running back Cam’Ron Valdez has also impressed fans after rushing for 111 yards on only 6 carries in the Red Raider’s 49-28 win over Houston. Jake Strong also showed impressive rushing ability with a 54 yard run last week against Kansas State.

Sack lunches with turnover margin issues

Through seven games the Texas Tech defense has found its way to the quarterback. They currently rank 5th in the conference with 15 sacks, and have found managed to force 8 fumbles with 3 recoveries as well. Led by an impressive linebacking core this Red Raider defense has found consistency in its ability to cause havoc in the backfield.

The secondary has 5 interceptions on the season along side 19 pass deflections. However, the Red Raider’s inability to win the turnover margin has been reflected in their 3-4 record. Currently they are -3 in this category, and facing an opportunistic BYU defense could pose challenges to a team that will be facing a hostile LaVell Edwards crowd. Certainly, the Texas Tech defense will be looking to force these turnovers against an underwhelming BYU offense.

Balance in the Rankings and parity in the scores

When it comes to offensive and defensive rankings the Red Raiders have an infinity for the number 9. That is because they rank 9th in both offensive and defensive statistics for the Big 12. As an offense they average 410 yards per game to go along with 32.3 points. Defensively they have allowed of 379.3 yards per game and 25.1 points.

Another interesting tidbit is the way they have won and lost this season. In their 4 losses they have only been bested by an average of 8.5 points per game. In their wins however, they have won by an average of 28 points. It is a win big or lose close type of season for Texas Tech.

Conclusion

Last week BYU learned that facing an inexperienced young quarterback is not necessarily a cake-walk. Regardless of who takes the snaps for the Red Raiders BYU must be prepared to face an elite P5 talent with the skills to put Texas Tech in a winning position. Cougar fans can expect fireworks in LaVell Edwards Stadium on the 21st of October.

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