Texas getting ready for another prolific pass offense

Christian Corona

In honor of Veterans Recognition week, two F-18 Hornets will fly over Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday. But they won’t be the only things flying around this weekend.

Texas Tech is still throwing the ball around a lot. The Big 12 has many great passing offenses and the Red Raiders are near the top again. Seth Doege is picking up where Texas Tech gunslingers like Kliff Kingsbury, Sonny Cumbie and Graham Harrell left off. The junior has thrown for over 300 yards per game and 22 touchdowns this season. Doege will provide a much stiffer challenge for a Texas defense that held Kansas to 46 total yards on 36 offensive plays.

“Thirty-six plays might be the first quarter,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “We go back to a million miles an hour tempo, a great quarterback, wideouts all over the park that can make plays and then the silent killer, which is the run game.”

Two weeks ago, the Red Raiders shocked previously undefeated Oklahoma, 41-38, in Norman, but followed up the brilliant performance with a 41-7 loss in Lubbock to Iowa State. The hangover from taking down the mighty Sooners, possibly combined with looking forward to a game against Texas the following week, could have doomed Texas Tech last weekend. But the Longhorns are expecting the prolific offense that had its way against Oklahoma, rather than the one that struggled against the Cyclones.

“I think the Texas Tech team that we’re going to see is the one that played against OU,” said senior tight end Blaine Irby. “Last week was kind of a trap for them because they had played against OU and were playing us this weekend. It’s kind of hard for them to get emotionally prepared for all of those games.”

Texas, on the other hand, is coming off one of its most impressive contests of the season, particularly on defense. The Longhorns did not give up a point and didn’t allow the Jayhawks past their 40-yard line. That won’t be the case against a Red Raiders squad that has scored more than 30 points per game in their last nine meetings with Texas. But defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor registered sacks in the same game for the first time this season, an encouraging feat heading into this weekend.

“It’s always good when both of us can have a great game,” Jeffcoat said. “[Okafor] played tremendously well. Two forced fumbles, a sack and two tackles for loss. That was big. There’s not that many games that we can lose when we all come out and play like that.”

Pressuring the quarterback will be crucial this week, especially considering that the quarterback will be Doege. He’s maintaining a proud Texas Tech tradition of leading high-powered offenses, airing it out 40 to 50 times per game. Doege leads a Big 12 conference stacked with terrific quarterbacks in passing with 2,779 yards, the second-most in the country behind only Arizona quarterback and Austin product Nick Foles.

“For a spread offense, he throws the ball deep exceptionally well,” Diaz said. “The easiest way to get beat is to give up big plays. He can stretch you vertically, but he can work you horizontally. And he’s just in an offense where they’re going to run the pass concepts they’ve run forever and ever.”

Texas held Kansas to -2 rushing yards, but a solid run defense may not seem as important when facing a team with as productive of a passing attack as Texas Tech’s. But since Tommy Tuberville became head coach in 2010, the Red Raiders have run the ball more. Passing has accounted for just under 70 percent of Texas Tech’s total offense since Tuberville took over, compared to more than 81 percent during the 10 seasons Mike Leach was in charge. The Red Raiders are also averaging 11 more rushing attempts under Tuberville than they did under Leach.

“The one thing Tommy’s doing more than Mike did, is they’re averaging nearly 150 rushing yards per game,” said head coach Mack Brown. “They’re staying balanced enough so you can’t ignore the run. All five offensive linemen are back. Three are juniors and two are seniors, and the two seniors are pro prospects.”

Texas will give up a lot more than the 48 pass yards it surrendered last weekend, now that the Longhorns are facing an elite quarterback again. But the Longhorns secondary, now at full strength with Adrian Phillips back in the lineup, should be up for the challenge.

Printed on Tuesday, November 1, 2011, as: Red Raiders will test Texas defense