EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 11th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
n Date with WVU: Saturday, Oct. 13, time TBA
n Site: Jones AT&T Stadium (60,454, FieldTurf), Lubbock, Texas
n Series: Texas Tech leads 2-1
n Last meeting: Texas Tech defeated WVU, 37-27, on Oct. 19, 2013 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown
n Coach: Kliff Kingsbury (2nd year, 8-5)
Checking them out
When Texas Tech won 37-27 in Morgantown last October, the Red Raiders improved to 7-0 in Kliff Kingsbury’s first turn as a head coach. Since then they are 1-5, having lost five straight before beating Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.
Don’t look at that as some kind of unusual fall-off, however. In truth it was just the reality of the schedule. A weak non-conference slate was followed by Big 12 games with the teams that would wind up in the bottom four positions in the league. Then Tech lost to the top five teams in the conference.
Well, Kingsbury is back for a second try and this time the former Red Raider quarterback isn’t starting out with a quarterbacking dilemma — well, at least not the same dilemma. A year ago his starter, Michael Brewer, got hurt and he used walk-on freshman Baker Mayfield at the start of the season. When Mayfield started to fade a bit, the job was given to another freshman, Davis Webb, who was hot and cold.
After the season, though, both Brewer and Mayfield transferred, as did two walk-ons. Now instead of having plenty of options, Kingsbury has basically one (Webb was the only QB listed on the post-spring depth chart). That’s fine if Webb plays like he did in the Holiday Bowl (28 of 41 for 403 yards and four TDs) and against WVU (36 of 50, 462 yards, two TDs), but not if he plays like he did while losing that starting job during the losing streak. And if he gets hurt, the only other QB available will be a true freshman or a walk-on, although that worked out all right last year.
If Webb holds up and plays to that bowl-game level, though, the Tech offense still has challenges. The offensive line is veteran and solid, led by tackle Le’Raven Clark, but receivers Jace Amaro (14 catches for 292 yards and three TDs in two games against WVU) and Eric Ward are gone and the leading rusher, Kenny Williams, is now a linebacker. But DeAndre Washington has potential at tailback, Jakeem Grant caught 65 passes and Bradley Marquez (eight catches for 112 yards against WVU in 2013) has been moved to Amaro’s spot and should be more than productive there.
The defense has some big issues. A run defense that wasn’t very good last year has to replace three contributors on the line and could attempt to do so with junior college transfers. The back end was decimated, losing five of the top seven for the second straight year. But the linebacker corps returns four of the top five and could be bolstered by Utah transfer V.J. Fehoko and Williams, the converted running back.
n Offense: WR Jakeem Grant, OL Le’Raven Clark, WR Bradley Marquez
n Defense: LB Pete Robertson, LB Sam Eguavoen
n Special teams: K Ryan Bustin
Senior kicker Ryan Bustin had a strange season in 2013. He made 23 of his 27 field-goal attempts, but failed on two of three outside 40 yards and missed three extra points. Still, he’s the star of a special teams group that was below average at best. … Tech has gone 1-9 over the last five games of each of the last two seasons. Don’t be surprised if there are similar issues this year with Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor comprising three of the last four opponents.
Date Opponent 2013
Aug. 30 Central Arkansas DNP
Sept. 6 at Texas-El Paso DNP
Sept. 13 Arkansas DNP
Sept. 20 Open
Sept. 25 at Oklahoma St.* (Thur.) L, 34-52
Oct. 4 at Kansas State* L, 26-49
Oct. 11 West Virginia* W, 37-27
Oct. 18 Kansas* W, 54-16
Oct. 25 at TCU* W, 20-10
Nov. 1 Texas* L, 16-41
Nov. 8 Open
Nov. 15 Oklahoma* L, 30-38
Nov. 22 at Iowa State* L, 35-42
Nov. 29 vs. Baylor* (Arlington) L, 34-63
* Big 12 Conference games
n 2013 record: 8-5 overall, 4-5 Big 12 (won 37-37 over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl)
n Dropped: SMU (W 41-23), Stephen F. Austin (W 61-13), Texas State (W 33-7)