Know Your Opponent: The Texas Tech Red Raiders

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(Graphic by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State looks to get back into the win column Saturday morning against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas.

The Red Raiders sit at 5-2 with wins against Houston and West Virginia and losses to TCU and Texas. Texas Tech blew out Kansas in Lawrence this past week despite a questionable performance from quarterback Henry Colombi.

Head coach Matt Wells is in his third year and is in a “prove-it” season after finishing in the bottom three of the Big 12 the past two seasons. He has yet to beat K-State as the head coach at Texas Tech.

OFFENSE

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie returned to Texas Tech in the offseason, bringing his own brand of the Air Raid back to Lubbock. He led the nation in passing and total yards under Mike Leach as a quarterback in that 2004 system.

Cumbie’s offense takes basic Air Raid ideas about lateral spacing and forcing the defense into pressure decisions and adds run-pass option concepts and a little more balance. They love to force a decision from defenders and then take advantage of whichever option the defender didn’t take.

Columbi is running that system after a broken collarbone sidelined starter Tyler Shough during the Texas game at the end of September. It is unlikely Shough is back this week, as initial reports set his timeline for return around mid-November.

Regardless of the quarterback, Texas Tech’s number one threat on offense is running back SaRodorick Thompson. The junior went over 100 yards for the first time this season against TCU and has found pay dirt six times through five games this season.

DEFENSE

Texas Tech is not a program known for its defense, and this year is no different. The Red Raiders are seventh in yards allowed per game and eighth in points per game in the 10-team conference.

The Tech defense is another Big 12 school that has gone to a primarily three-man front with three linebackers and three safeties. Unlike other schools that employ personnel grouping, the Red Raiders aren’t a team with a dedicated rushing linebacker.

Instead, they are happy to bring three rushers, and when they do bring four, it can come from pretty much any spot on the field. It’s hard for offensive linemen to figure out who to block, especially when they bring a linebacker up on the edge to look like a blitzer and then drop him into coverage and bring pressure from elsewhere.

The Tech linebacking corps is full of graduate transfer seniors, and SAM linebacker Colin Schooler is fourth in the conference in tackles per game. Riko Jeffers — who ended Skylar Thompson’s season this past year — is listed as a middle linebacker but plays a lot on the outside of the linebackers and on the edge.

KEY MATCHUPS

‘It’s Thiiiiiiird Dooooooooown’:

K-State is bad on third down. The Wildcat defense is the worst non-Kansas defense in the league at getting offenses off the field on third down, and their offense is sixth.

The key to beating this Texas Tech team will be keeping their offense off the field, which necessitates dominating third down on both sides of the ball.

Sound protection:

Texas Tech will try to confuse K-State’s offensive line and quarterback with various blitz looks from experienced linebackers. K-State will need to give Thompson the time he needs to find open receivers later in his progression and open holes for the running backs.

Special teams:

K-State needs at least one touchdown either directly on special teams or set up by special teams. The team also needs to avoid the field goal-kicking disasters of this past week. With the Wildcats’ demonstrated inability to stop anyone, they’ll need every point they can get.

PREDICTION:

Columbi has a bounce-back game against K-State’s bad secondary and Thompson takes advantage of K-State using resources to try to stop the pass. The Wildcat offense moves the ball pretty much at will, but their inability to get off the field on third down dooms them late. TECH wins 38-35.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.