BETSY BLANEY, Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Baker Mayfield showed his scrambling and throwing talents in the Red Raiders first two games against lesser programs’ defenses.
Now it’s time for the freshman walk-on to face No. 24 TCU, which returns nine starters from Big 12’s top defense last season.
Mayfield, third in the nation with 390 yards passing, wasn’t sacked in last weekend’s 61-13 win over Stephen F. Austin but he went down four times in the win at SMU in Texas Tech’s season opener. TCU’s defense could show him pressure he’s not yet seen.
Texas Tech (2-0) will need a strong performance from its inexperienced offensive line going up against the Horned Frogs in their first Big 12 visit to Lubbock.
“There are no weaknesses,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. They attack our game. We’ll have to play our best game to try to protect Baker.”
It’s the Horned Frogs first Big 12 visit to Lubbock.
TCU lost in triple overtime last season in Fort Worth.
TCU coach Gary Patterson said defensive end Devonte Fields, the Big 12’s defensive player of the year in 2012, will start against the Red Raiders. He’s still got one quarter remaining of a two-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team or university policy during the offseason.
The Horned Frogs (1-1) know Mayfield has extra motivation. TCU, the school the 18-year-old wanted to play for, didn’t offer him a scholarship. Mayfield arrived on the Lubbock campus about two months ago. He got the starting nod after the Red Raiders presumptive starter, redshirt sophomore Michael Brewer, reinjured his back in fall workouts.
“I heard he really wants to beat us,” Patterson said of Mayfield.
Here are five things to watch when TCU plays Texas Tech.
ONE QB, ONE PLAN
With senior starter Casey Pachall out for multiple games with an injured left arm the Horned Frogs can focus on a single game plan against the Red Raiders. Back-up quarterback Trevone Boykin, a sophomore whose three wins as a freshman were all Big 12 road games, is a dual threat out of the backfield. Last week he led three straight scoring drives after Pachall left the game.
Red Raiders receiver Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro, a 6-foot-5 junior, are Mayfield’s favorite receivers. There are others who also pose challenges for the Horned Frogs. “They’ve got a couple guys who can make you miss,” Patterson said. “When you have guys who can beat people one-on-one, that always causes you nightmares because you hate being in space and they do a nice job with that.”
TCU’s B.J. Catalon returned a kickoff 100 yards in the loss at LSU to tie for the second longest in Horned Frog history. The running back totaled 159 yards on four returns as part of 233 all-purpose yards in the loss. Out of the backfield this season he’s averaging 5.8 yards a carry. Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt knows what his players are up against. “It’s a big challenge to roll our sleeves up and battle these guys in the trenches to prevent the run game in the middle,” he said.
TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, who had six picks last season, will match up with Ward. The Red Raiders top receiver doesn’t have a TD yet this season but is averaging 11.6 yards per reception. Red Raiders receiver coach Sonny Cumbie said Verrett’s one of the country’s best. “He’s as quick and fast as they come,” Cumbie said. “He’s not afraid to tackle. He’s not afraid to be physical and mix it up. We’ll have our hands full with Verrett.”
Kingsbury doesn’t know precisely where his team is at but thinks the TCU game will give him a better idea. The Red Raiders appeared to improve last week from their opening week on the road at SMU. The Horned Frogs “are at the top of the conference, and if you look at the preseason polls where people would pick them with all the returners they have coming back, it’s going to be a great challenge,” he said. “I’m not sure where we’re at as a team, but I know they’re really good.”