Texas Tech can’t measure up to LSU; loses 56-27 in Texas Bowl

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Texas Tech had the opportunity to end 2015 by measuring itself against one of the most storied programs in college football, LSU, in the Texas Bowl. The result was a stark reminder that the Red Raiders still have quite a ways to go before they are ready to compete on a national level.

LSU proved to be the more talented and physical team in every facet of the 56-27 Tigers’ victory. As expected, LSU star running back Leonard Fournette had a huge game scoring five touchdowns (4 rushing and 1 receiving) and rushing for a Texas Bowl record 216 yards.

Given that the Texas Tech defense had been allowing an average of 231 yards per game, most people believed that Fournette could realistically reach 300 or more yards on the evening. But a spirited effort from defensive coordinator David Gibbs’ much-maligned unit kept Fournette reasonably corralled for the first three quarters of the game.

But eventually the Tech defense ran out of gas, as it has all season due to its lack of depth, only this time the offense could not bail the Red Raiders out.

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While Fournette was doing what he had done all season in leading the nation rushing, the LSU pass rush kept Texas Tech’s offense from doing what it had done all season. Coming into the game, Texas Tech’s offense was second in the nation in scoring and quarterback Pat Mahomes was first in the country in total offense per game at almost 400 yards.

But against the Tigers Mahomes was sacked six times and hit or hurried on almost 20 more plays. The fact that the sophomore quarterback was able to throw for 370 yards and 4 touchdowns (3 to senior receiver Jakeem Grant) was just short of a miracle.

Everything Texas Tech accomplished against the stellar LSU defense was due to Mahomes’ ability to elude the overpowering Tiger pass rush and make plays down field while scrambling. LSU shut down the Big 12’s leading rusher, Tech’s DeAndre Washington (37 yards on 10 carries) and put a clamp on every receiver other than Grant.

When Texas Tech had the ball, the game looked like it was two players versus eleven as Mahomes and Grant did everything they could to keep the offense moving. But aside from Grant, the next best performance from a Tech player labeled on the roster as a receiver was Cameron Batson’s 3 catches for 47 yards. Washington did catch 8 balls for 87 yards, most coming on broken plays where Mahomes was able to find him as an outlet just before being sacked.

And while the final numbers were simply disheartening in all areas of the game, Texas Tech received a reality check that might be exactly what this program needs as it heads into year four of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure.

That revelation is that the roster desperately needs more and significantly better talent at almost every position. Every Texas Tech fan or observer was well aware that the team needed more depth, especially on defense but most thought that the talent of the starting offense was good enough to compete with anyone.

Afterall, the Red Raiders did score 50 points or more in five games this season and came within two points in Austin of hitting that mark for the sixth time. But last night, even Tech’s all-American Le’Raven Clark was made to look second-rate…by a true freshman, LSU defensive end Arden Key.

The nation’s No. 24 recruit in the 2015 signing class made Texas Tech’s senior left tackle and NFL prospect look absolutely awful. The matchup was a microcosm of the entire game.

At almost every position, LSU had a better, stronger and faster athlete than Texas Tech. Forget the fact that Texas Tech was driving to even the score (actually to pull to within one point if Kingsbury did not go for two) late in the third when an unfortunate bounce off a Mahomes incompletion turned into the game-changing interception at the goal line. The truth is that Texas Tech was not equipped to beat an opponent like LSU.

Unless it is one of the three College Football Playoff games, bowl games are relatively meaningless. They usually are not rivalry games (though we came close to having one this year) and nothing more than pride and a big trophy are on the line.

Sure, a bowl win sends the program into the offseason with some warm and fuzzy feelings and a tick of momentum in the recruiting game but Texas Tech has completed 95% of its 2016 class by now (assuming that all current verbal commits stay with the Red Raiders until signing day in February).

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So what the Texas Bowl really was for Texas Tech was an opportunity to measure where the program stands against one of the standard-bearers in the game. This morning, Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury wake up knowing that this program, while headed in the right direction by simply qualifying for a bowl after a 4-8 2014 season, has miles to go if it wants to compete with the elite in the game.

That is a stark and painful reality that should drive every person in the program during the off season. Texas Tech must learn from this humbling lesson and use it as motivation to improve in the film room, on the recruiting trail and in the weight room. The latter of course being after all the bruises inflicted by Fournette and Key have finally healed.