BETSY BLANEY, Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) – Texas and Texas Tech are far removed from 2008.
The teams met on Nov. 1 that year – like Saturday’s game – when the Longhorns were the country’s top-ranked team and the Red Raiders were No. 6.
Texas Tech fans remember the winning touchdown pass in the closing seconds as if it was yesterday. The pass from Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree took the Red Raiders to their highest ranking ever – No. 2.
That was then, and for both teams, it’s nothing like now. Both teams have struggled this season and their fans would like to forget last week’s debacles: Texas Tech’s 82-27 drubbing at then-No. 10 TCU and the Longhorns first shutout – 23-0 at Kansas State – in 10 years.
The Red Raiders (3-4, 1-4 Big 12) and the Longhorns (3-4, 2-3) need to win three of their remaining four games to become bowl eligible.
Texas coach Charlie Strong knows his staff has a tough task.
“We can’t allow the players to check out because we still have games to play,” he said. “You still have four games left to play. You have a chance to get to a bowl game. That’s what it’s about now.”
The Longhorns, who have won the last five games, probably won’t know who’ll be behind center for the Red Raiders until Texas Tech’s first possession. Sophomore quarterback Davis Webb reinjured his left ankle and left in the third quarter of the TCU game. If Webb can’t play, it’ll be true freshman Patrick Mahomes’ first career start.
“He’s an accurate passer and does a good job extending plays with his feet,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Mahomes. “I think that’s something he really excelled at in high school and has continued to do that in our system.”
Five things to know for Saturday’s game:
Both teams have starting sophomore QBs, though Webb – if he plays – has more experience than Texas’ Tyrone Swoopes. Webb has thrown for 2,539 yards and 24 TDs. Tyrone Swoopes has thrown for 1,495 yards and eight TDs along with five interceptions for the Longhorns. “Tyrone is still young, still developing,” Strong said. “It’s hard to put a guy on a pedestal so quickly. He’s going to get better and better.”
PLAGUED BY PENALTIES
Texas Tech has hurt itself through much of the season with inopportune penalties. The Red Raiders have gotten 77 penalties (9.63 flags for 89.63 yards per game) to rank next to last in the nation. Texas, too, has had its share of penalties. The Longhorns have been flagged 53 for 454 yards. “Little things have cost us games,” Strong said. “The penalties are the biggest issue and detail to assignment.”
The Red Raiders have turned the ball over 20 times this season to rank No. 123 in the nation. Webb has 13 interceptions this season and lost two fumbles last week. (Texas has 14). Texas Tech has gone 16 games without winning the turnover battle. “We just as a team are going through some things right now and have to continue to work hard and clean a lot of things up,” Kingsbury said.
HOPING FOR A REBOUND
Both teams need a win to stay in the hunt for a bowl. But Texas Tech watched as the Horned Frogs scored the most points ever allowed in the Big 12 game. “It’s something to learn from,” linebacker V.J. Fehoko said. “The great thing about football is we can come in and we’ve got a big game this week, so we can put our attention and our anger and our frustration toward that.”
When was the last time a running back for pass-happy Texas Tech led the Big 12 in anything? Well, this week, actually. De’Andre Washington leads the conference in rushing average (5.6 yards per carry) and number of 100-yard rushing games (3).