The Texas Tech football program was hoping to get back a key defender, linebacker Jacob Rodriguez, this week when Kansas State visits Lubbock. According to head coach Joey McGuire, though, that isn’t likely to happen.
Speaking to the media on Monday, McGuire said that Rodriguez is still “a week away” and that the hope is for him to return to the field next weekend when Tech travels to BYU for the first time. That’s a bit disappointing because Rodriguez would be a great asset against the Wildcats on Saturday.
When playing Kansas State, linebacker play is always critical given how well the Wildcats run the ball between the tackles. What’s more, KSU features one of the toughest running backs in the Big 12, DJ Giddens.
The 6-foot-1, 212-pound sophomore has already run for 488 yards and 4 TDs this season. Averaging 97.6 yards per game, he checks in as the No. 5 rusher in the conference.
In five games this season, Giddens has two 100-yard efforts including a 207-yard, 4-TD outburst against Central Florida two games ago.
What makes the KSU rushing attack even more dangerous, though, is the fact that QB Will Howard also contributes on the ground. Texas Tech fans are all too aware of how this program has struggled against running QBs over the years so there will be some uneasy moments in Lubbock when Howard decides to use his legs this weekend.
At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Howard is a load to bring down. Already this season he has 227 yards on the ground while finding the endzone six times with his feet.
That includes last week’s loss to Oklahoma State that saw him pick up 104 yards and a TD on just 10 rushes. In other words, having Rodriguez back to help man the middle of the Red Raider defense this week would have been ideal.
Of course, Red Raider fans are likely still traumatized by the thought of a K-State QB running all over their team after what former Wildcat, Adrian Martinez, did last year in Lubbock. In a 37-28 win, Martinez picked up 171 yards and 3 TDs on just 12 carries. That included a 69-yard run as part of a day that saw the Wildcats amass 343 yards on the ground as a team.
While Howard is not nearly as explosive as Martinez, he can still turn a game with his ability to run the ball. Rodriguez’s presence would have been a great way to combat that threat this week.
Still, Tech seems to be doing well against the run without its week-one starting middle LB. After allowing only 17 rushing yards to Baylor on Saturday night, Tech is giving up an average of only 117 yards per game on the ground with Rodriguez out.
Much of that success is because Ben Roberts, a redshirt freshman, has stepped up in a huge way. The linebacker leads Tech with 45 tackles after stepping into the starting lineup for Rodriguez.
Still, getting Rodriguez back as soon as possible would be a huge boost to this Red Raider defense. Fortunately, it appears that will happen soon, but just not this week.
However, the offense will get a boost this week with the return of wide receiver Jordan Brown who has missed the last two games. McGuire shared that Brown should be ready to go this weekend while starting left guard, Cole Spencer is day-to-day with a foot injury that caused him to miss the Baylor game.
Brown is fourth on the team in receiving yards with 151 on 10 catches. He also has a TD grab this year, his second season as a Red Raider after transferring in from Kansas.
Even with Brown out, Tech has averaged 44 points per game over the last two weekends. That’s because of the improved ground game featuring Tahj Brooks who has put together a string of four-straight 100-yard performances.
This week, though, the passing game might be relied on more heavily given that KSU leads the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed per game at just 93.4. Thus, Brown and his fellow receivers might be called upon to be bigger contributors against the Wildcats.
What is good news is that Tech seems to be getting healthier at the mid-way point of the season. After no significant injuries against Baylor other than a concussion for linebacker Bryce Ramirez (who McGuire says is also day-to-day), Tech is in about as good of shape as possible on the injury front right now and reinforcements appear to be on the way.