Week 4: Keys to the Game

Payne Williams, Sports reporter

Texas dives into Big 12 conference play Saturday as the team travels to Lubbock to face Texas Tech. The game also marks the Longhorns’ first game of the season without a seemingly elemental home crowd.

Texas Tech is coming off a deflating loss to NC State as it enters conference play with a 2-1 record and two consecutive starts for backup quarterback Donovan Smith after senior Tyler Shough’s collarbone injury in week 1. The sophomore struggled in the Red Raiders’ loss to the Wolfpack, and some Tech fans want to see a start for redshirt freshman Behren Morton, who played the final drive during last week’s loss. However, no change seems imminent. Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire firmly told the media that Smith would start. 

Head coach Steve Sarkisian can key on the inexperience in the Red Raiders’ quarterback room and prepare for a stout Texas Tech defense.


Load the secondary and disguise looks

Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has an opportunity to exploit Texas Tech’s inexperience at quarterback through a variety of strategies.

One of these strategies includes employing a defensive back-heavy scheme. During the Red Raiders’ Week 3 loss, NC State primarily fielded five defensive backs which resulted in a rough outing from Donovan Smith. The Wolfpack intercepted three passes from Texas Tech quarterbacks while only allowing one touchdown through the air.

With the inexperience in the Tech quarterback room, prioritizing speed and pass coverage could result in a day of turnovers for Kwiatkowski’s experienced defense.

The Texas defense also has an opportunity to take a mental advantage over Smith through disguising various coverage and blitz packages. It’s rarely the case that a defense would want the ball to be thrown more, but against Texas Tech, the Longhorns can afford to jump out of blitzes and drop players like senior linebacker DeMarvion Overshown into coverage. 


Feed the skill players

The Texas Tech defense is holding opposing offenses to less than 300 total yards of offense on average and less than 20 points per game. When facing a defense as seasoned as Texas Tech’s, which started six seniors or graduate transfers last week, it’s hard to take advantage of lapses in discipline, especially on the Red Raiders’ own turf.

While it’s only Week 4, it’s safe to say that Texas Tech defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter hasn’t schemed against the skill players of Texas’ caliber yet. Sarkisian has an opportunity to simply give the ball to his star players, such as junior running back Bijan Robinson, sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy and sophomore tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, and let them do what they do best.

Robinson is coming off a Week 3 performance that saw him record over 200 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. While the run game was firing on all cylinders, the passing game left something to be desired from fans.

Hudson Card threw for only 161 yards, including only 41 yards to Xavier Worthy’s name and one 5-yard reception for Ja’Tavion Sanders. The game plan can be as simple as creating mismatches and giving the Longhorns’ elite pass catchers the ball early and often.