After dropping back-to-back games against Oklahoma State and West Virginia, the Texas Longhorns are looking to bounce back on the road against a Texas Tech Red Raiders team slogging through its own two-game skid.
Each of the two teams are a bit banged up, but fireworks will likely fly in Lubbock on Saturday night. The Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to discuss Texas Tech’s injuries, Sam Ehlinger chasing history, and what kind of game we should expect on Saturday.
Arguably the biggest storyline for Texas Tech is injuries to freshman gunslinger Alan Bowman (partially-collapsed lung) and senior linebacker Dakota Allen (hand, knee). How advantageous is it for Texas that two of TTU’s most essential contributors likely won’t play?
Cody Daniel — Co-Editor: Even without them, I don’t think Texas is in for some kind of easy road win, but when you lose two of your top players, it hurts. If Texas wins, I think we’ll look back on Bowman and Allen’s absences as a key factor.
Gerald Goodridge — Contributor: It’s rarely a bad thing to have your opponent hurting, but I think this game is more about how Texas plays and less about how Texas Tech plays. Texas has struggled to get up for road games, and even though they’ve got the offense to get back in games, you never want to fall behind in a place like Jones AT&T Stadium.
Kameron McAfee — Contributor: It certainly won’t hurt, but Texas can’t afford to start slow. Even without Bowman this Tech team can put up points in a hurry. The last thing we need on a Saturday night in Lubbock is to get down early. The Bowman injury is really the big one, in my opinion. I feel completely different about the game without him running that offense.
Wes Crochet — Contributor: Well, these past two weeks we’ve seen what missing starters has done to the Longhorns so we should all see that Tech certainly won’t be at full strength on either side of the ball. On offense, Tech’s playbook gets smaller, though Duffy does have the ability to improvise and make up plays with his feet. Defensively, losing Dakota Allen is a big blow because Tech doesn’t really have another guy close to the player he is on defense.
Obviously, without Bowman, Texas Tech’s offense will look fairly different. With Duffey behind center, what will Texas’ defense have to do differently to avoid being embarrassed again?
Cody: Duffey still has a strong arm on him and obviously, he’s a threat with his legs. I think the key will be to keep a spy such as Gary Johnson on him at all times and force Duffey to beat you with his arm.
Gerald: Jett Duffey was an Elite-11 quarterback that can make plays with his feet. If you remember the last two games, quarterback runs literally won both games, so managing to contain Duffey will be paramount. The ends and linebackers have to keep him bottled up in the backfield and force him to make plays with his arm rather than his legs.
Kameron: Honestly, tackling well is a major key for me. If this defense allows several yards after initial contact (like we have seen for far too long), it could end up being a long night for this defense. They have to limit the big plays on the ground and pressure Duffey to beat you with his arm.
Wes: What comes to mind initially is disciplined defense. Contain, take good angles tackling and pursuing the ball-carrier (Duffey, in this example), and take away Tech’s ability to pick up big chunks on the ground. Duffey can make plays with his feet, and Tech running back Da’Leon Ward appears to be back at full-strength, and he is a running back that could give a porous Texas run defense fits. Making the Tech offense one-dimensional will be a goal, and it’s something Todd Orlando alluded to this week at the press conference.
Though Bowman and Allen are among those not expected to play, Texas Tech still has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Which three or four worry you the most?
Cody: Though I’m a fan of Texas Tech’s secondary, I think the offense has several weapons to worry about. Antoine Wesley is an elite threat and T.J. Vasher is another lanky target. De’Leon Ward being healthy could be huge as well.
Gerald: Antoine Wesley is the most-obvious choice. He’s been on a tear the last three weeks and is just a big target. Linebackers Riko Jeffers and Jordyn Brooks have done a decent job getting to the quarterback this year, and with the injury to Allen they will have more pressure put on them to produce at that linebacker spot.
Kameron: I’m fairly confident that Texas will be able to make plays against the TTU defense, so I will go with the two offensive threats that everyone should be worried about. Wesley and Vasher are going to demand the best from the Texas defense, even without Bowman there to feed them the ball. If we see DB play anything like what we saw in Stillwater, I hope you have alternative plans in place for Saturday night.
Wes: On Offense, Tech utilizes two tall receivers in Antoine Wesley (6’5”) and T.J. Vasher (6’6”), so the Texas secondary will have a tall task ahead of them (zing!). I’ll note Da’Leon Ward again at running back as well. Defensively, defensive back Vaughnte Dorsey caught people’s attention last week against Oklahoma as he picked off Kyler Murray twice and avoided being ejected for a targeting call that eventually was overturned. Without Allen, he could be a guy Tech looks at for a pulse throughout the game.
Sam Ehlinger is just 28 un-intercepted attempts from owning the Big 12 record for the most consecutive attempts without an INT — Geno Smith’s 273 attempt is the record. Will that record be Ehlinger’s by Saturday night, or will his first pick since Week 1 come first?
Cody: While I think Ehlinger will play pretty impressively overall, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the streak ended this week just short of the Big 12 record.
Gerald: If you toss out the Maryland game, Ehlinger has done and incredible job of protecting the football. The thing that impresses me the most in his maturation as a quarterback is his willingness to throw the ball away, rather than try to force it into tight spots or take a bad sack. So short answer, I anticipate he breaks the record this weekend.
Kameron: He will absolutely break the record. Expecting anything else right now seems foolish given the way Sam has played.
Wes: Is now a time to note Tech is 3rd in the B12 in interceptions with 9 behind West Virginia (10) and the turnover machine we all know as the Kansas Jayhawks (13)?... Alright Trebek, what is “Sam gets the record and then throws an interception all in the same game?”...
Tortillas are obviously going to fly on Saturday. What’s the likelihood that the self-proclaimed ‘Young Prophet’ Breckyn Hager grabs and eats one, just because?
Cody: If Hager gets a pregame on-camera closeup, and a tortilla is nearby, I fully expect him to take a chomp and then make some maniacal facial expression.
Gerald: Breck seems like the kind of guy that would throw it back while pondering the symbolism of the tortilla throw.
Kameron: Well, considering where those tortillas are stashed before the students enter the stadium, I would hope somebody has warned the whole team not to put those things in their mouth. With that being said, Hager seems exactly like the kind of person that would do it anyway. Better have some mouthwash on hand though.
Wes: Breckyn only eats meat and potatoes. Not a chance.
Texas may have needed to win a shootout had Bowmen been healthy, but without one of the Big 12’s top passers in the mix, what kind of game are we in for on Saturday?
Cody: More likely than not, the winner will still need to score plenty of points, I just think Bowman would have ensured that the Red Raiders score more than they likely will. Bet the over.
Gerald: I still think it turns into a bit of a shootout. Duffey is no slouch and he’s got good targets at wide receiver. I would hope to see the Texas offense try to get Watson and Ingram going early to keep the Tech offense on the sidelines as much as they can.
Kameron: A shootout. It is a night game in Lubbock after all.
Wes: Points will be scored in this game. It’ll likely be a 38-28 type of affair.
Prediction time: With each riding a two-game losing streak, will it be Texas or Texas Tech whose fortunes improve with a win?
Cody: Again, points will be scored, but between Duffey’s inconsistencies and TTU’s secondary’s struggles with big plays, I think Texas Tech gives up too many points for the offense to keep pace with. Longhorns win, 41-31.
Gerald: This one feels weird. I feel like Tech is missing its two biggest pieces, which should make me confident that Texas wins. However, my natural sports pessimism and Texas’s lack of results on the road terrifies me. If I have to pick, I think Sam Ehlinger refuses to lose and wills this team to a victory.
Kameron: I’ve got a handful of relatives that are Tech grads. With that, I’ve made the bi-annual trip from Dallas to Lubbock for this game many times, and I’m usually in the thick of the red and black sea of Red Raiders. Yes, including that one time in 2008 *sigh*. If there is one thing I’ve learned, there isn’t anything quite like a night game at The Jones when Texas comes to town. To be real, this game scares the hell out of me, but I have too much pride to pick Texas Tech. Their fans are too annoying for that (excluding my lovely Tech graduate wife, of course). Sam will ball and Texas will win a shootout.
Wes: I’m taking Texas in a game where the Longhorns eventually wear down the Tech defense. Think six-minute-drives-in-the-4th-quarter type of win.