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The Huddle: Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Baylor Bears

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A preview Texas Tech's last game of the year, against the Baylor Bears, in Arlington. We've got players to watch, keys to the game, stats, quotes from Art Briles and so much more.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Game Details:

Who:Texas Tech vs. Baylor
When: November 29th @ 2:30 pm
Where: AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX
Watch: ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Key Injuries: Jordan Davis, JahShawn Johnson, Keland McElrath, Chris Payne, Donte Phillips

So Thankful. I’m incredibly fortunate to have so many talented people who have dedicated themselves to this little space on the web to write about all things Texas Tech. Behind the scenes, it’s tough to sometimes see everything that happens and how difficult it can be to find talented, dedicated and genuinely nice individuals to write about your team.

It’s cliche to write about how much you appreciate people at this time of the year, but the folks that are a part of this staff are not told enough by me how much I appreciate them. So thank you to Travis, RndRckTTU, DanSwany, MikeTTU, LoneStarRedRaider, TMacRaider and MeestahRogers for making this year a huge success. I cannot do this without you and the increase in the success in the site is because of you all. I wish I could say it is because of the success of the football team, but this is where we’re at and without your consistent and weekly work, there’s just no way that we can be as successful without their hard work and dedication.

Koozies Makes Lives Better: When I bought those koozies, I definitely had aspirations of making a bit of money off of them. With the cease and desist letter that I received on or about the same time that I was planning on starting to sell them, I recoiled a bit. It’s amazing to me the relationship between me and Texas Tech. It is the school that I love. I don’t want to take anyone’s trademark and I’ve never tried to do that, but they sure do enforce them against me and VTM and I’m not sure why. I’ve tried to be not so angry and I think I’ve done well with that. I’ve had a few Kumbaya moments with the folks from RaiderPower and Red Raider Sports and it’s been really good.

So I was taken aback when the t-shirts were pulled with one of the reasons being that the colors being used were owned by Texas Tech. So, I did the next best thing, and I suppose this was a sort of middle finger, I just gave them away. I did have some fantastic people ask if they could buy the whole lot, but I didn’t want to make this anyone else’s problem and I needed to solve it. It was definitely time-consuming, but it was worth it to make the lives of different people a bit better and it was even better knowing that you all got to choose your charity and what was important to you (I had two suggestions). Really big high five you all.

Morning Links. Because I’m running late this morning, here are your morning links:

Potential. LAJ's Don Williams ranks the top 30 freshmen or sophomores currently on the team and this is a pretty interesting exercise, if for no other reason, there's going to be more freshmen arriving shortly, in about a month or so, that's going to change how this list appears, in QB Jarrett Stidham and DT Breiden Fehoko.  Here's the top five and you can go check out the rest:

1. SE Devin Lauderdale: He's that rare recruit who almost immediately lived up to his reputation. Lauderdale was supposed to be a speed receiver who makes big plays - and he's been exactly that for the last six weeks.

2. QB Davis Webb: In two seasons, Webb has 44 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions. He's way ahead of the pace of Kliff Kingsbury, who threw 95 TD passes for Tech, but only 25 in his first two seasons. Kingsbury also tossed 17 interceptions as a sophomore, which provides some insight into the patience he's shown with Webb.

3. QB Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes looks poised, competitive and athletic. His ability to make plays on the run, coupled with good judgment, will endear him to Kingsbury if he keeps it up.

4. OG Baylen Brown: Le'Raven Clark, Reshod Fortenberry, Alfredo Morales and Jared Kaster will all be gone by 2016. Brown, who's played alongside them since he was a freshman, will be the leader of the line by then, building a 30-start resume.

5. ILB Mike Mitchell: That he has rare athletic ability is well-documented. Whether the transfer from Ohio State becomes a big-time football player remains to be seen.

Anyone else think that this spring is maybe the most important that this program has had in the past decade?  From the players needing to improve by leaps and bounds to the coaching staff needing to bring in a haul of talented players.

Covering Top Returners. Also from LAJ's Don Williams, he looks at how the special teams has done an excellent job of limiting some of the Big 12's great returners:

"Coverage has been excellent this year," Tech special teams coach Darrin Chiaverini said this week.

Kansas State's Tyler Lockett leads the FBS in punt-return average, and Oklahoma's Alex Ross and West Virginia's Mario Alford rank second and third in the nation in kickoff-return average. None had a significant runback against Tech.

The same goes for TCU's Cameron Echols-Luper, a top-20 national punt-return man, and Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill, who poses a threat with both punts and kickoffs.

Tech has countered with some solid special-teams performers of its own: Kenny Williams on coverage units, Quinton White and Austin Stewart as punt-team gunners and Taylor Symmank punting.

Uniform Tracker. Because at the heart of it all, VTM is a fashion blog.

Uniform Tracker
Opponent Helmet Jersey Pants Result Photo Photo Credit
Central Arkansas W, 42-35 Michael C. Johnson
UTEP W, 42-35 John Weast
Arkansas L, 49-28 John Weast
Oklahoma State ** L, 45-35 Brett Deering
Kansas State L, 45-13 Scott Sewell
West Virginia L, 37-34 John Weast
Kansas W, 34-21 Michael C. Johnson
TCU L, 82-27 Ronald Martinez
Texas*** L, 34-13 John Weast
Oklahoma**** L, 42-30 Michael C. Johnson
Iowa State W, 34-31 Steven Branscombe

* Click photos to embiggen.
** The color intended to be depicted is ombré.
***Not exactly sure how to represent the tri-colored helmets of red white and blue and am going with blue as it was the most prominent color.
****Obviously, choosing that the jersey color is red is questionable at best, but someone has to make the tough decisions.

Quotes

We finally get some coach transcripts after a couple of weeks off.  Here's head coach for Baylor, Art Briles, talking Texas Tech:

Opening Statement:
"That's a great and deserved honor for [Shawn] Oakman. Like we were saying last spring, we felt like we had a chance to have one of the best D-lines in America and those guys have not disappointed and Oakman is certainly one of the leaders, if not the leader of it. So I'm really happy for him and how he performed the other day and how he's performed all year. He's played with a lot of tenacity, a lot of energy and a lot of positive vibes, which is pretty impressive. The thing I like about our football team, the thing you always try to preach is consistency. It's hard to stay consistent over a four-month period of time with a lot of distractions and I think our guys have done that for the most part. I'm pleased with their attitude, their mentality, their focus and their vision. The game the other night--there was a good crowd coming out. I thought it was an outstanding crowd for the blackout. That's always a fun and festive atmosphere and they made it that way. Mother Nature didn't quite cooperate but at the end of the day she really did because we got our game in and no delays and got out of there with a hard fought win against a good football team. Oklahoma State is a good football team, and I've said that all along and will still say it now. They've got good people, they've got good coaches and they've got great tradition. They're a hard football team to beat and that was a big game for our guys. All of our focus and energy right now is on Texas Tech. There is no Saturday past this Saturday at Arlington at 2:30 p.m. in the climate-controlled confines of Jerry's world. We're certainly looking forward to that and we know we'll have an outstanding crowd. It'll be a great football game between two teams that are fighting hard for respect."

On Kingsbury declaring the game their "bowl game":
"The thing that's a little bit different about this year than last year is last year toward the end of the season we were a couple teams' bowl games and it kind of surprised us and we weren't used to it. This year we're used to getting everybody's best shot. We're used to people coming out and swinging at us, not punches, but haymakers. That's a different version of this year's team as opposed to last year's. What we want it to be is every time we play someone-it's our bowl game. That's our mentality when we step on the football field because ultimately that's what you're shooting for. If you don't take care of this week, next week doesn't exist so our mentality is we have this Saturday, we're playing a good football team and it's two teams fighting for respect."

On team depth now compared to what it was when Briles first came:
"It's incomparable. It's apples and oranges. It's not six one way and half-a-dozen the other. It's night and day between what we were then and what we are now with depth on our football team. It took us about four years to build up to Big 12 quality depth and now I certainly feel like through recruiting and everything that's gone on with us over the last two or three years that we certainly have people that we can put on the field and perform at the level it takes for us to win on Saturdays."

On what Texas Tech does well:
"They're just good. They're always good. I'm trying to think back-in '08, '09, and '10 they beat us by seven points and in '11 it was a two-point game at halftime. Robert [Griffin III] got hurt right before the half and Nick [Florence] came in and we ended up winning the game but it was a two-point game at half. In '12 I think we were down 21-7 and get a turnover right down there late and throw a touchdown and make it 21-14 at half and then last year they're up 20-7 or 21-7 and it's 21-20 at the end of the first quarter. They're an explosive football team and being in the controlled climate-it's good for Baylor but it's also good for Texas Tech too. It fits both our styles. There's really not an advantage for one team over the other but they're just good. They play well and up until the last couple of years they've been a thorn in our side. We know that it's a game where we have to be at our utmost best to have an opportunity to win."

Stats

Stat
Total Offense 584.5 (1) 485.2 (18)
Rushing Offense 239.5 (20) 157.5 (70)
Passing Offense 345.0 (4) 327.6 (6)
Scoring Offense 50.0 (1) 29.1 (63)
Total Defense 329.7 (18) 509.5 (122)
Rushing Defense 108.6 (10) 259.9 (121)
Passing Defense 221.1 (52) 249.6 (93)
Scoring Defense 21.7 (27) 40.6 (123)
Turnover Margin 0.90 (13) -0.91 (115)
3rd Down % Off. 44.6% (33) 43.0% (46)
3rd Down % Def. 33.5% (15) 46.0% (113)
Yds/Play Def. 4.69 (15) 6.30 (111)

Those stats, right? Just about every metric, Baylor isn't better, but much better than Texas Tech. And I'm not really even talking about the offensive side of the ball, but the defense is the most eye-opening if you havne't really taken a look at those stats for most of the year. Baylor's success this year can be largely given credit to the defense, who is just fantastic in run defense and third down defense. Oh, and those yards per play on defense is also terrific. This is the reason for the Baylor turnaround, is that they've just been fantastic on defense.

Offensively, this is really nothing new. The rushing offense isn't led by just one guy, it's a handful of players adding to darn near 240 yards of rushing on offense and a passing offense that is just as lethal.

I'm struggling to add somethign worthwhile here or pick out a statistic that would be beneficial for Texas Tech. The one Baylor loss, they were penalized 18 times for over 200 yards. Without having gone back and looked at that game, any team that is that far back in terms of down and distance will struggle to complete those third downs, which is what happened. If the flags come out on Saturday, this could be an advantage for Texas Tech as long as Texas Tech doesn't follow suit.

Tweets

The Lady Raiders are in the Bahamas for the holiday!

Congrats to Janine Beckie on her National Team call-up!

It’s so beautiful!

#taco

Five Things

1. Three Players to Watch on Offense for Baylor.

1) QB Bryce Petty (6-3/230): Petty hasn't been as great as last year, but it doesn't really matter because the Baylor offense has been unbelievable overall, so who cares if he hasn't done as well. Petty's touchdowns are down by 10 or so, but it really doesn't matter. Petty is completing 58% of his passes for near 2,700 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 5 touchdowns. The best thing is that Petty really doesn't pull the ball down and run, averaging only 2 yards a carry, but Petty is just as athletic as Cody Thomas, so it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him tuck and run if the opportunity strikes.

2) WR Corey Coleman (5-11/190): This is the player that maybe worries me the most because of what he did in the Oklahoma game and horrible visions of Petty and Coleman doing the same thing against Texas Tech. Coleman had 15 catches for 224 yards and all Baylor did is lob that up against the Oklahoma secondary and Texas Tech's secondary isn't going to be in real good shape on Saturday. In just 7 games (he was injured the first 3 or so games), Coleman has 47 catches with 871 yards and 9 touchdowns.

3) RB Shock Linwood (5-9/200): Linwood is good, but not great, very similar to DeAndre Washington in terms of numbers. It's the threat of Linwood that's great and there are other options there too. Linwood has 198 carries for 977 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those 13 touchdowns are what is worrisome as he is really a threat to score a lot more than Washington.

2. Three Players to Watch on Defense for Baylor.

1) DE Shawn Oakman (6-9/280): It's not even close for me, Oakman is the most dominant and most gifted player on the defense, making just 41 tackles, but of those 41 tackles, 14.5 are tackles for loss and he has 8 sacks. Oakman is a physical freak who can dominate a game with his presence alone. Oakman has registered a TFL in every game except for two, a early non-conference game against Northwestern St. and against Oklahoma.

2) LB Bryce Hager (6-2/235): Hager is Baylor's leading tackler with 80 tackles and a terrific 8 tackles for loss to go along with 5 quarterback hurries and 2 force fumbles. Hager isn't the guy that's the best player, but he is integral as anyone on the defense and it's always a positive when you have a linebacker making the most tackles on your team.

3) DE Andrew Billings (6-2/300): I normally try to highlight a secondary player, but I wanted to focus on the defensive line because that's what's dominant for Baylor. Billings is what you hope for the trajectory for Breiden Fehoko as Billings is just a true sophomore and already has 32 tackles and of those numbers, 11 are tackles for loss and has 2 sacks on the year.

3. Three Keys to the Game.

1) Weather the Storm: Baylor has scored 161 points in the first quarter. Yeah, let me type that again. 161 points in the first quarter. Texas Tech has scored 178 points in the first and second quarters combined. Combined. Baylor is going to score, the key is to limit the number of times that they score as much as possible early rather than late. Not an easy task, but Texas Tech has to eat up that clock in the first quarter, hold onto the ball and consume some of that time. It's like the Princeton offense on basketball. Play keep away a bit. The biggest problem is that Texas Tech's offense hasn't played keep-away for the most part as the longest drive against Iowa State was 4:47 (which ended with the INT in the endzone) and after that, the next closest was 2:33. Not a lot of time clicking off of that clock.

2) Limit the Run: In Baylor's lone loss, they ran the ball 42 times for just 95 yards. I don't think there's any way that Texas Tech is even remotely close to that figure by the end of the whistle on Saturday, but I think that's the biggest thing that you can do to a Baylor offense is stop the run. I think Mike Smith has to sell out to stopping Linwood, but I'm doubtful that the horses are there to do that. Similarly, WVU ran the ball 50 times and even though they only gained 134 yards, they still ran the ball.

3) Frustrate on Third Down: Baylor has been terrific generally speaking on third down, but against WVU, Baylor and largely Petty were just 3 of 16 on third down and when teams can't convert, they can't stay on the field. Again, I think that's a pretty slim hope, especially considering Texas Tech's 3rd down defense is one of the worst in the country while Baylor's is one of the best.

4. Two Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Win.

1) Playing for an Upset: Nothing to lose, right? That's hardly a positive, but it's the hand we've been dealt, so let's do it. The game plan is pretty simple, keep the ball away, run the danged ball and Patrick Mahomes has to be magical. Yeah, he has to be magical and some way some how, things just have to fall into place. The problem is that I'm more confident that this can happen on offense and I'm less confident that it can happen on the defensive side of the ball. I can't wrap my head around that, which is why I go back to the idea that Mahomes has to be magical. He has to lead the offense to more than 4 of 11 on third down and things just have to work out.

2) Gotta Be Due: When was the last time that Texas Tech upset someone? How long has it been, that Texas Tech won a game that they were expected to lose by double-digits? It's probably the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State, where I remember hoping on Twitter for that game and simply taking a WTF sort of attitude and it was Davis Webb that had the magical day, or at least a magical half, and Arizona State couldn't come back. Heck, even before that, I suppose it was that win against Oklahoma in that terrible 2011 season that was as unexpected as you could imagine. At least with Arizona State, you could argue that it wasn't until that game that Texas Tech was fully healthy for a long time during the course of the 2013 season, while the 2011 Oklahoma was completely unexpected and written down as a loss.

5. Two Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Lose.

1) A Scoring Problem: Although the Texas Tech offense has been significantly better, at least in terms of yards, Texas Tech is going to have to put up some points. Much and many more points than in previoius weeks. The last time that Texas Tech scored 40+ points was against Central Arkansas. Yeah, that's right and that's the problem. Despite the improvements, and things have improved recently it's putting the ball in the endzone that's the problem. That's not a problem for Baylor, not really at all. And as everyone knows, it wouldn't surprise any Texas Tech fans for Baylor wanting to put up some style points and show the committee that they can win by 50 as well.

2) The Secondary: I don't have a clue as to how the secondary is going to work out, but if Texas Tech is considering starting and or playing John White and switching players from cornerback to safety for the final game is problematic. And don't get me wrong, I love John White and his story and I think he'll be fine, but with the Baylor offense being so terrific, this is a pretty simple recipe for disaster. And we haven't even talked about Antwan Godley. And I don't even have any insight as to how things can or should work out or who will play where. It creates significant match-up problems, especially knowing that the only two cornerbacks that the team is comfortable playing are two freshman in Tevin Madison and Nigel Bethel II and then it's a grab-bag after that. There's no doubt that the freshmen cornerbacks are improving, but this is a crazy tall task and it's most likely another learning lesson.