Kliff Kingsbury had been on a triumphant return to the Texas Tech Red Raiders in 2013, leading a young team to a strong 7-0 start and a No. 10 rankings in the BCS standings. But back-to-back losses to the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys have the Raiders pretty much eliminated from the Big 12 title race and clinging to the BCS top-25 at No. 25. While Tech has suffered the shortcomings of a very young roster this season, the real culprit to their two-game slide and elimination from the BCS bowl conversation has been the defense’s failure against the run.
Over the first seven games of the season, the Tech defensive front looked pretty strong against the run. They were giving up an average of just 123.4 yards per game and 3.34 yards per carry and had only surrendered nine rushing touchdown during their winning streak. In the last two games, the Raiders have been run off the field. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State combined for 558 yards and eight touchdowns over the last two weeks, averaging a whopping 5.31 yards per carry in back-to-back losses for Texas Tech.
That inability to stop the run has directly impacted the success of the Red Raiders in just about every aspect. With opponents sustaining long, clock-killing drives on the ground, the Tech offense can’t get into a rhythm and use an up-tempo pace to its advantage. Standing on the sidelines getting cold destroys the rhythm of the Red Raiders’ offensive attack and gets them out of sorts when trying to mount rallies. The best defense for no-huddle offenses that want to turn the game into a track meet is and will continue to be keeping that offense off the field.
Kingsbury will need to find a fix for his rush defense in a hurry, too. The schedule doesn’t get any easier the rest of the way for Tech with the Kansas State Wildcats (No. 4 in the Big 12 in rushing offense), Baylor Bears (No. 1) and Texas Longhorns (No. 3) on tap to close out the regular season. The Red Raiders started strong under Kingsbury but they must rally their rushing defense if they hope to salvage his first season and avoid a late-season swan dive in the standings.