Archive for Saturday, October 25, 2008

Red Raiders adding run to gun

Traditionally pass-happy Tech leads Big 12 Conference with 5.5 yards per carry

Saturday morning, the Kansas football team takes on undefeated Texas Tech. Historically speaking, this has been a one-sided series. The Red Raiders and Jayhawks have played 10 times before. Nine times, the Jayhawks have lost.

October 25, 2008


There are certain things you can count on in each college football season.

ESPN analyst Mark May will pick against Kansas University (no matter how one-sided the matchup), 84 percent of fans will refer to Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel as "Chase Daniels," and the Texas Tech Red Raiders will put up passing numbers that defy logic.

Consider: In the past six seasons, the Red Raiders have led the nation in pass offense five times - they were third in 2006 - and have averaged 415.4 yards per game in that span.

This season, however, Tech has added a twist. With opposing teams altering their defenses in an effort to stop their potent pass game, the Red Raiders haven't shied away from running the ball. Behind dual running backs Baron Batch and Shannon Woods, Tech is averaging a Big 12-best 5.5 yards per carry, and against Nebraska two weeks ago, was almost perfectly balanced, throwing 25 times and rushing 23.

The newfound ground attack represents a significant wrinkle for the Red Raiders, which is fine with the big lugs on the offensive line, who are happy to be doing something besides pass-blocking for once in their careers.

"In the past, it has been pushed to the side and wasn't really a focus," said offensive lineman Brandon Carter of the team's run game. "And since (offensive line coach Matt Moore) has gotten in here, he's changed things up and got us toward running as much as passing."

While you're not likely to mistake Tech for the Pittsburgh Steelers - the team ranks eighth in the Big 12 in rush offense, after all - the Red Raiders have shown an increasing willingness to give the much-used arm of quarterback Graham Harrell a rest.

And on multiple occasions this year, they've had little problem doing so. In a 58-28 victory over Kansas State on Oct. 4, Texas Tech rushed 30 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and already this year they've compiled two more touchdowns on the ground - 20 - than they did all of last season.

"If you lighten up the box and take people off the front, they'll run the football," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "They've proven that they'll do that, and do it successfully. If you try to just drop seven and eight people constantly, they'll eat that up."

Jayhawks defensive coordinator Clint Bowen assures that Tech, by nature, is still a passing team. The Red Raiders are averaging a nation-best 418.4 yards per game through the air. Harrell is ranked in the top 10 of just about every significant passing category, and receiver Michael Crabtree, last year's Biletnikoff Award winner, has caught 51 passes for 724 yards and a conference-best 12 touchdowns.

But this year, during a season in which they've sprinted to a 7-0 record (3-0 in the Big 12), the Red Raiders are proving they can also grind out yardage when necessary - a reality that makes planning against them that much tougher.

"If you give them something, (Texas Tech coach Mike) Leach is going to take it," Bowen said. "So if you want to sit there and not be sound against the run, he ran the ball (23) times against Nebraska."


umpinaslump 9 years, 8 months ago

Odds are against going 7 and 0 plus T.T. is probably looking forward to Texas. K.U. has added incentive of knocking off a No. 5-7 team. K.U. in overtime.

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