Texas wins if, loses if: Texas Tech

Vicente Montalvo, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 24 Double Coverage flipbook.

Big 12 play kicks off this Saturday for the Longhorns as they welcome the Red Raiders to Austin to battle it out for the Chancellor’s Spurs. With Texas having already lost a game earlier this season, it’s important that Sarkisian and team steer through Big 12 conference play if they hope to have a chance at a Big 12 Championship. Two fast paced offenses will battle it out in what is expected to be a high scoring matchup at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Wins if …

… the offense can establish the run game

Texas running backs dramatically improved upon their run game within two weeks since their Arkansas matchup in Fayetteville. After the ground game struggled against the Razorbacks in Week 2, Texas turned it around against Rice, rushing for 427 yards. Sophomore running back Bijan Robinson will have to find the holes and exploit the Tech defense for a balanced offensive attack. Over three games, the Red Raiders defense ranks 14th in the nation, allowing just less than 60 yards on the ground per game. Robinson must continue the momentum he has established and fight for extra yardage using pure strength and elusiveness. Establishing the running game will not only benefit Robinson, but the entire offense as well. It will open the playbook and keep a Red Raiders defense guessing.

…they avoid penalties

Texas is giving up on average only 32 yards per game on penalty yardage, succeeding at limiting the impact of reckless mistakes. Texas’ opponents on the other hand are struggling with flying yellow flags, accounting for double the amount of penalties against the Longhorns. If Texas can limit false starts and pass interferences, it will help starting quarterback Casey Thompson and team maintain possession of the ball and not give any more time to the Red Raiders offense. In years past, Texas has beat itself with an immense amount of yellow flags thrown, but being at home Saturday should help the Horns win the penalty battle.

…Thompson doesn’t force any throws

Junior quarterback Casey Thompson is going to have to accurately use his arm if the Longhorns plan to win their fourth straight matchup against Texas Tech. Instead of throwing the ball wildly around the field, Thompson will have to maintain his composure, making accurate throws to his open receivers down field. Thompson dumping the ball into the flat while there’s tight coverage down field will give his teammates the opportunity to make big plays. If Thompson doesn’t thread the needle too often and stays within his gifted abilities, the Longhorns will get the job done.

Loses if …

… Texas forces Thompson to win the game with his legs

The offensive line has not been immune to ups and downs throughout the short start to the season. Thompson under center brings more mobility, but his movement shouldn’t be something that the quarterback’s teammates rely on him for over an extended period of time. The O-line needs to give Thompson the necessary time to go through his progressions and make the proper read to an open teammate to keep driving the ball down field. The Red Raiders bring the blitz early and often, attempting to rattle Thompson in the pocket and bring him down along with frustrating his sole line of protection.

… the defense can’t pressure the quarterback

Texas Tech has an accurate quarterback under center with junior Tyler Shough, who is completing almost 70% of his passes. With that in mind, Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski is going to have his hands full trying to disrupt  Shough — a first season Big 12 quarterback. While Shough comes from Oregon, he isn’t thought of as a dual-threat quarterback, only having eight yards on 15 rushing attempts throughout his three starts. If Kwiatkowski doesn’t have his defense ready to push and pressure the quarterback from different points on the field, the Red Raiders will be celebrating in the endzone more than Longhorn Nation hopes to witness.