No. 22 Texas to face tough test in first road game at Texas Tech

Hunter Dworaczyk, Senior Sports Reporter

When No. 22 Texas arrives at Jones AT&T Stadium to play Texas Tech on Saturday, the Longhorns can expect to be greeted by a sea of red. 

With Texas’ move to the SEC looming, Saturday could be the Longhorns’ final trip to Lubbock for quite some time. The Red Raider faithful are well aware of the game’s significance and bought tickets accordingly. Jones AT&T Stadium will be sold out for the first time since 2018, Texas Tech announced on Tuesday

While the listed stadium capacity is just over 60,000, Texas Tech’s home environment is one that has given superior Texas teams fits in the past. In 2018, former Longhorn quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw a game-winning touchdown pass with only 30 seconds remaining in the game to escape the Red Raiders. 

The last time the Longhorns traveled to Lubbock two years ago, Texas trailed Texas Tech by 15 points with about three minutes left in the game before ultimately clawing back and winning in overtime.

Preparing for his team’s first road game of the season, head coach Steve Sarkisian said on Monday that it’s important for Texas’ players to love the opportunity to go into a hostile environment.

“Adversity is going to strike Saturday. I don’t know when (and) I don’t know how,” Sarkisian said. “The reality is we got to keep leaning on one another and not get fragmented. I think our guys understand that. It’ll be a great environment for football.”

Schematically, the Red Raiders can complicate the game for the Longhorns’ rushing attack. Texas Tech has allowed just 82.7 rushing yards per game this season, the second-best mark in the Big 12.

Texas Tech defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter has a knack for mixing up his defensive fronts, a strategy that can make it difficult for offensive lineman to properly execute their blocks in the run game. Sarkisian said on Monday that, paired with quality defensive players, DeRuyter’s scheme is why Texas Tech’s numbers against the run are so impressive.

“I don’t think it’s a real secret of why they’ve gotten to where they’ve gotten,” Sarkisian said. “They’ve got the right ingredients in place.”

Texas Tech’s ability to stop the run could wind up being troublesome for a Texas team with an injured quarterback room. Though Sarkisian said all of his quarterbacks practiced on Monday, the Longhorns figure to rely heavily on their dynamic running backs. 

One way the Texas offense can increase its chances of effectively running the ball against its conference opponent is by ensuring its offensive line is on the same page. Senior running back Roschon Johnson said he likes the effort he’s seen from the line so far this season.

“We know if they can get a hat on a hat, (the running backs) can make hay,” Johnson said. “They’ve done a great job of doing so, and I feel like we’ve taken advantage of it so far.”

Despite Texas’ 1-4 record in road games last year, Texas’ players maintained that the team’s improved culture will help them to block out the opposing environment.

“It’s just going to be us there,” senior edge rusher Ovie Oghoufo said. “It’s not going to be DKR fans or Texas fans, it’s really just going to be us coming together (and) showing that team chemistry we have been working on is definitely going to help us out on the road.”