Texas Tech football: What we want to see from Red Raiders vs. Tarleton

Texas Tech football: What we want to see from Red Raiders vs. Tarleton
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LUBBOCK, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 12: Texas Tech cheerleaders carry flags across the end zone during the first half of the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Kansas Jayhawks at Jones AT&T Stadium on November 12, 2022 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

Unless you are the loved one of a third-stringer on an FBS program, there’s no way you can enjoy games between teams from the upper level of the sport and FCS teams.  It’s ridiculous that FBS vs. FCS matchups have become expected from almost every program in the nation as they are usually wastes of time for fans and provide nothing in the way of value other than getting to work some backups into game action.  However, the Texas Tech football team must treat today’s contest against FCS opponent Tarleton State with urgency.

After all, FCS teams have been known to pull off stunning upsets with more regularity in recent years.  If that happens to the Red Raiders tonight at home, it will be cause for tremendous alarm.

A win this week is imperative if Joey McGuire’s program wants to sustain the momentum that was created last year in an 8-5 campaign.  Should Tech fail to pick up the season’s first win tonight, the Red Raiders would have to go 8-2 the rest of the year just to match 2022’s win total. They would also have to go 6-3 in Big 12 play just to reach a bowl game.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of people expect a big win for McGuire and Co. in this game.  However, the nature of a game against an FCS team is that it is a no-win situation.

Everything Tech does well tonight will be met with something to the effect of “Yeah, but it was against Tarleton”.  Meanwhile, anything that doesn’t go according to plan will be scrutinized and fretted over with even more intensity than normal.

Still, this game is important because it is the final opportunity for Tech to work out the kinks before Big 12 play begins next week at West Virginia.  Also, this is the beginning of a four-game stretch that could reset this season’s trajectory.

Opening conference play against the WVU, Houston, and Baylor, Tech might be the favorite in all four games until Kansas State comes to Lubbock on October 14.  Running through the next month’s worth of games undefeated would help the Red Raiders right the ship after a 0-2 start and set up an opportunity for them to be relevant in the conference race in November.

That starts by taking care of business against Tarleton.  Though this game doesn’t appear intriguing on paper, it will be worth paying attention to because there are some things we need to see from Texas Tech in the final non-conference tuneup of the year.

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First of all, it would be refreshing for Shough to have a clean game in terms of turnovers.  He’s been responsible for all five of Tech’s giveaways this year and that can’t continue to be the case for the Red Raiders’ starting quarterback.

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This is a game in which Shough must know that he doesn’t have to take risks.  Tech should have enough talent to beat Tarleton without having to throw caution to the wind.

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There shouldn’t be any moments when Shough feels the need to do too much while under pressure or make a risky throw down the field.  If he can understand that as long as every possession ends in a kick of some kind, his team will be just fine, he should have a clean game.

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Also, let’s look to see if this team can stop the needless and untimely penalties that have cost them this year.  Tech has to stop hitting people out of bounds, stop getting called for hands to the face, and stop hurting themselves with mental mistakes.

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In 2023, McGuire’s team is averaging 6.5 penalties per game.  That’s not an egregious number but it could be better.

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Mental mistakes should start to decline by the third game of the year.  This is the 1/4 mark of the season and next week, business picks up with the start of Big 12 action. It’s time for Tech to put together its first clean game of the year in terms of turnovers and mental miscues.

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Texas Tech’s defensive back Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (1) tackles Oregon’s running back Noah Whittington (6) during their non-conference football game, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, at Jones AT&T Stadium.

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Texas Tech needs to figure out how to generate turnovers again

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DeRuyter wants his defense to generate three takeaways each week.  That’s why “Take 3” is the mantra for that side of the ball.

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Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet this year.  In fact, the Red Raiders haven’t even taken the ball away three total times so far.

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After failing to manage even one takeaway against Oregon, the defense must be examining what isn’t working in that department.  There may be plenty of factors.

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The lack of a pass rush is likely tops among them.  We saw what Oregon’s pass rush was able to force Shough into last week but Tech has yet to have a game where its defense has had a similar impact.

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Of course, credit has to go to the Ducks as well.  They played a solid game and didn’t even come close to putting the ball in harm’s way.

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Tarleton shouldn’t be that type of team tonight.  The Texans turned the ball over three times in their opener against McNeese while fumbling once more, and then, they had two turnovers (one INT and one fumble lost) last week against North Alabama.

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Tech has to become a ball-hawking defense again starting tonight.  Perhaps senior safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson will find a way to make a big play as he’s done so often in his career.

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With six picks and three fumble recoveries to his name as a Red Raider, the man they call “Rabbit” is a playmaker and he could be the one who provides the spark for the Red Raiders when it comes to generating takeaways.  Keep an eye on this aspect of the game tonight because this is where the Red Raiders have to improve ahead of conference play.

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Prediction:

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This is a game that Tech should come into angry.  That would negate any element of surprise and take away the “trap game” worries.

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When you are 0-2, no game should be taken for granted and the Red Raiders will put forth a winning effort tonight.  Though nothing this team does against Tarleton will earn the Red Raiders any respect, this is a night where some confidence is regained and some mistakes are ironed out ahead of next week’s conference opener.

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Final score: Texas Tech 55 – Tarleton 17

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