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The Broken Engine: Texas Tech's Offense

Remember the days when offensive ridiculousness was defined by Mike Leach's soldiers? Well, by Texas Tech standards, this 2006 unit is positively average. Scoring is down nearly 10 points per game from a year ago (39.4 - 29.8), while total offense is down over 70 yards per game, too. What's different from last year that might explain the dropoff?

Waaaay back in April, I wrote, "The biggest loss [for Texas Tech] is versatile running back Taurean Henderson. I can't see their offense matching last year's, though they'll still manage to pass for their 400+ yards per game." It's nice to be right every once in a while, and in this case, those words seem to perfectly capture Tech's slowdown. The multi-dimensional, super-talented Henderson was good for 22 touchdowns last season, 17 on the ground. This year, without him, the Red Raider tailbacks have only found the end zone four times.

Henderson's absence has even affected the way Leach has crafted his gameplan. Where Texas Tech averaged about 26 rushes per game last season, they've dropped that number to about 17 this time around. The shorter games this season account for some of that, but not the 35% decrease that we've seen thus far. It just looks like Mike Leach doesn't trust any of his backs to carry much of a load. Looking only at the numbers, sophomore Shannon Woods is doing a very solid job so far this season (557 yards, with 6.1 per carry), but he's never had more than 15 carries in one game.

The entire burden of the offense, then, has been placed on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Graham Harrell. And what a burden it's been. Leach's Red Raiders threw a whopping 391 passes in 12 games last season - most by Cody Hodges, with a few by Harrell. This season, Harrell's already thrown 356 passes. 356!

The other consequence of the lack of a running game is an increase in short-yardage passing. Last season the Red Raiders had four receivers average over 12 yards per reception. This year, only one of their top five receivers tops that mark (Joel Filani, 12.3 yards per reception). As opposing defenses quit worrying about Texas Tech running the ball, they're honing in on the passing game, eliminating deep balls and keeping Tech receivers in front of them.

Take out the engine and the car doesn't work as well.

These trends bode well for Texas, of course, which has had its share of problems keying in too much on the run while leaving room for big plays in the passing game. If Chizik's worth half his weight in gold - and we know he is - the Horns will let the front four handle the run while getting the linebackers and secondary keyed in on their coverage assignments. Given the strong push that Texas' defensive line is getting against every opponent this season, this could be one more long, tough afternoon for Graham Harrell.

With all due respect to Mike Leach and his creative offensive mind, all the pieces are in place for a Longhorn rout.