Texas Tech keys to victory in the Texas Bowl


Just hours prior to kickoff between Texas Tech and LSU in the Texas Bowl, the anticipation for the 2015 finale is at its apex. The Red Raiders come into the game as decided underdogs as they face one of the most storied programs in college football history.

So what must Texas Tech do if it is to pull off the upset of the Tigers? Continue reading to see our keys to the game for the Red Raiders.

Win first down on defense

Conventional wisdom places the utmost importance on how a defense performs on third down but against LSU, Texas Tech must be solid on first down.

LSU is a team that wants to stay ahead of the chains and stay out of third-and-long situations because its pass offense has been inconsistent and below average this season. Texas Tech must play strong on first (and second down) to stay out of third-and-short situations.

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With two big running backs in Leonard Fournette (230 pounds) and Derrius Guice (222 pounds), LSU will likely have little trouble converting on third-and-short. Therefore, Texas Tech must put the Tigers in passing situations on third down by winning on first down.

Unleash DeAndre Washington

The narrative of this game seems to be the Texas Tech passing game versus the LSU ground game but Texas Tech’s running game may be just as important as the Tigers’.

LSU’s secondary has been suspect to the big play in 2015 so expect to see the Tigers play a nickel or dime defense to keep the Texas Tech receivers in front of them. If this is the case, DeAndre Washington should have room to run.

Texas Tech’s strong offensive line must win the battle at the line of scrimmage and allow Washington to get to the second level of the defense. If Washington does find success on the ground, LSU will be forced to help against the run with its safeties leaving the Texas Tech receivers in one-on-one situations, which would favor the Red Raiders.

Win the turnover battle

There is nothing revolutionary about the importance of winning the turnover battle but this aspect of the game might be more important than ever against LSU.

If the Tigers are able to run the ball as expected, this game could resemble the Arkansas game in that the number of possessions Texas Tech has on offense could be limited to under ten. If this is the case, the Red Raiders cannot afford to give the ball away because scoring opportunities may be precious. Furthermore, Texas Tech simply cannot put its defense in short field situations and expect to win the game.

Defensively, Texas Tech must be opportunistic. Knowing that it will be highly difficult for the Red Raiders to stop the LSU running game, if LSU fumbles, has a tipped pass or makes a bad throw, Texas Tech must capitalize and come away with the ball.

David Gibbs has built his reputation on coaching defenses that cause turnovers and the Texas Tech defense improved drastically in that area this season. If Texas Tech is to pull off the upset in the Texas Bowl, the defense will likely have to collect multiple takeaways against the Tigers.

Make special teams plays

In each of Texas Tech’s previous two bowl games, it has had a kickoff return for a touchdown. In 2012’s Texas Bowl against Minnesota, Jakeem Grant returned a kickoff for a score the first time Texas Tech touched the ball. The next year in the Holiday Bowl, Reginald Davis returned a kickoff for a touchdown answering an Arizona State touchdown that made the game a 7-point game.

When an underdog pulls off an upset, special teams are usually a huge part of the equation. The Red Raiders need to make some kind of momentum-changing play in the game. Whether it is a blocked punt, kickoff return or the recovery of a muffed punt Texas Tech has to win this aspect of the game.

In addition, the Red Raiders must not allow the Tigers to make special teams plays. As difficult as it will be for Texas Tech’s defense to stop the LSU ground game, Tech will have no chance to win if LSU is able to make big plays in the kicking game.

Receive production from the wide receivers

To say that the Texas Tech outside receivers have been inconsistent this year is being kind. The Red Raiders’ offense has been built around the play of the inside receivers and DeAndre Washington. Anything the wide receivers have done have been a bonus for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

Tonight, starting wide receiver Devin Lauderdale will not play due to suspension meaning that Texas Tech will be even less potent on the outside. Reginald Davis, who led the Red Raiders in touchdown receptions with seven, must be a factor tonight. Likewise, Tony Brown and Ja’Deion High must contribute something to the offense in Lauderdale’s stead.

If the outside receivers are not a factor, LSU will be able to bracket Jakeem Grant and Ian Sadler with safety help making the Texas Tech offense far less potent. This scenario played out when Texas Tech played at West Virginia and Grant was held to eight yards receiving.

Having success on the outside will open up the offense for Grant and will soften the LSU defense allowing DeAndre Washington to have running room.