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Interview with the Enemy: Texas Tech

We talk with Jay Burrous of Viva The Matadors to get the lowdown on Tech’s high-flying offense

NCAA Football: Houston at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After going 3-0 in non-conference play, Oklahoma State is now gearing up to open Big 12 action against those tortilla tossin’ Red Raiders of Texas Tech.

The Raiders enter the game 2-1, coming off a big win over the University of Houston. While this Tech team likes like every Tech team under head coach Kliff Kingsbury — good on offense, not on defense — there are still plenty of unknowns heading into this match-up.

Jay Burrous of Viva the Matadors, the Texas Tech SBNation, site was kind enough to answers some questions about this year’s Red Raider squad.

Phillip Slavin: Texas Tech looks to have rediscovered their offense with freshman quarterback Alan Bowman taking over. Especially after he put up 605 yards and 5 touchdowns on a decent Houston defense. What has made Bowman so effective these past two games and do you think it’s something he can sustain on the road this week?

Jay Burrous: “I think a lot of his success is attributed to good decision making. Through three games, and two of those against above average teams - he’s got zero turnovers. Obviously, that won’t last forever, and no fan expects that, but the stat really pops out given the number of times he’s throw the ball.”

NCAA Football: Houston at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

“The other thing I’d emphasize is that the offensive line is very experienced, and has given him plenty of time to work through his progressions. Against OSU, I’m concerned we’ll see guys like Jordan Brailford win in 1:1s and create pressure with no blitz. How Bowman reacts there should tell us quite a bit, but he did get pressured plenty of times via Ed Oliver Saturday, and that rarely rattled him.”

“Lastly, I think the depth at wide receiver is crucial here. We entered the season without a ton of experience in terms of production. Because of this, I think there’s a ton of parity for that group and no one guy was anointed the “star”. But, Antoine Wesley just broke the school record for receiving yards in a game, and T.J. Vasher has been nothing short of outstanding as well. So, guys are stepping up, but there isn’t a guy like Keke Coutee that teams can take away and screw up our offense. Interestingly as well, the running backs have been fantastic outlets in the passing game too, so it’s just another guy for the defense to always account for.”

PS: Speaking of guys suddenly showing up, running back Ta’Zhawn Henry has been fantastic for the Red Raiders the last two games, running for 166 yards and six touchdowns on 34 carries. What makes him so effective, and how much of his success has been because Tech has suddenly had a successful passing game?

JB: “Ta’Zhawn was a late addition to our 2018 recruiting class, and was a longtime TCU commit. There’s not a single Tech fan that’ll diminish what Henry has done since he’s arrived on campus, and I absolutely love the guy. He’s only like 5’7, 165 pounds, but he runs hard. He’s also been destroyed like 3-4 times this year, and managed to brush it off and keep rolling. But, his work near the goal line is what’s standing out to me. He finds a way to get in the end zone, and I’m wondering if that’s an intangible for him. What will be interesting to see is how Tech leverages Henry and Da’Leon Ward moving forward. Against Ole Miss, Ward had a hell of a game as well, but missed the last two because of injury. I’m sure you’ll see plenty of two back sets, with a tight end Saturday. In terms of the passing game setting up his runs - I wouldn’t really attribute much of his success to that. His most impressive runs have been against heavy boxes.”

PS: Defense? Is Texas Tech playing it this year or is this same ol’, same ol’? Seriously though. Where do the strengths lie on this Tech defense?

JB: “I have absolutely no clue what’s up with our defense. I entered the 2018 season convinced that we’d be a running team with a stout defense. But, we’re in game four now, and clearly that isn’t the case. There’s no doubt that Dakota Allen is the heart and soul of that group, and he’ll need his best game to stymie Justice Hill. Unfortunately, Jah’Shawn Johnson hasn’t appeared in a game this year, and we’re really crossing our fingers he plays Saturday. Johnson was a pre-season All-Conference guy, and he rights a whole bunch of wrongs in the secondary. Given how many big plays we’ve allowed, a guy like Johnson might make a tackle 10 yards down the field, but it saves a 75-yard touchdown run.”

NCAA Football: Lamar at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t see many scenarios that we limit your offense to less than 500 yards Saturday though, and I’m almost certain you’ll score 40-50 points. The key stat to monitor will be turnovers, and when they occur. We didn’t turn Houston over at all last week, and I’d call it almost a requirement this week if we want to keep the game within 20 points.”

PS: Oklahoma State has won 9 straight in this series. What does Tech need to do this week to keep that streak from reaching 10?

JB: “I think we need to effectively run the football in short yardage situations to keep the chains moving, Bowman needs time to work in the pocket, and we’ve got to score touchdowns over field goals. I know that’s a really “hot” take, but those are the key big picture things that need to occur. “

“From an individual matchup standpoint, I think Cornelius’s ability to run worries me a little bit. We can’t afford to spy him, so our defensive line can’t break contain. I’d speculate we’ll put, at least, seven guys in the box to slow the run. How your receiver group wins on vertical routes will be huge, and I’d expect guys like Tyron Johnson to have plenty of opportunities to win.”

“But, let’s pretend we do what we need to do, Cornelius makes a few mistakes, and we hold your to field goals. I guess it’s entirely possible that a big game from Bowman gives us a chance to win.”

PS: Final score prediction?

JB: “I don’t think Boise State was top 15 good (UCONN is a dumpster fire, so that 800+ yard offensive display means little to me), and this OSU team is certainly not as good as last years team. But, Texas Tech doesn’t have the defense to go on the road and stop one of the best balanced offenses in America. I’d say Vegas has this one pegged well, and OSU wins by two touchdowns.”

OSU wins 52-38.