Texas Tech football: Without Alan Bowman, o-line must do what it couldn’t in 2018

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 11: Ta'Zhawn Henry #26 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 11, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 11: Ta'Zhawn Henry #26 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 11, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Now that the Texas Tech football team is facing up to two months without starting QB Alan Bowman, the offensive line has to pick up the slack in the running game, something it couldn’t do last year when Bowman was injured.

For the second-straight year, the Texas Tech football has to figure out how to proceed without starting QB Alan Bowman for a substantial portion of the schedule.  Last year, he missed four full games and parts of two others with a collapsed lung and now a left shoulder injury is going to sideline him for up to eight weeks.

But just because a team is without its starting QB, it doesn’t mean games can’t be won.  Throughout the history of college football, we’ve seen backup QBs lead their teams to great seasons.

The way that most teams are able to survive the loss of their top QB is by stepping up their play in the other areas of the game.  That begins on the ground where a strong rushing attack can be a backup QBs best friend.

Unfortunately, we’ve already seen this current incarnation of the Red Raider offensive line fail to carry the offense without Bowman.  When faced with having to make the ground game more of a focal point of the offense last year in Bowman’s absence, the Red Raider line was exposed as a unit incapable of dominating in the rushing department.  What’s most concerning is that four of this year’s starters (Jack Anderson, Terence Steele, Madison Akamononu, and Travis Bruffy) were starters a year ago when the line let the offense down.

Even with a dual-threat QB Jett Duffey running the show and providing extra yards on the ground, Tech’s rushing attack was almost non-existant without Bowman.  That’s certainly fresh in the mind of most Red Raider fans as we prepare for another extended look at life with a backup QB.

The first game Bowman missed in 2018 was the TCU contest in Ft. Worth, which Tech managed to win 17-14.  In that game, Tech ran for 151 yards and a touchdown with Duffey leading the way with  83 of those yards and the lone rushing score.

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Against Texas, the Red Raiders churned out 141 yards on the ground with Duffey accounting for 80 of those.  What’s more, Tech failed to find the endzone on the ground in its 41-34 loss at home.

A week later we witnessed one of the worst offensive showings in the modern era of the program.  In a 21-6 loss at Kansas State, Tech put up just 181 total yards, of which a mere 31 were rushing yards.

It is interesting to note that in this game, Duffey was playing with a hurt knee that would keep him out for the season finale.  With his rushing ability hampered, Tech’s leading rusher in 2018 put up -8 yards on ten carries.

Finally, in the 35-24 loss to Baylor in game 12, Tech put up just 100 yards on the ground.  That included a team-high 75 from Da’Leon Ward.

In all, Tech averaged just 105.7 yards per game on the ground in the four full games Bowman missed a year ago.  That was down from the 146 yards the team averaged in the other eight games, which included two 200-yard rushing days.

Some of that has to be put on the running backs, which as a group were underwhelming and less than dynamic in 2018.  Still, Demarcus Felton had a 130-yard game against Oklahoma State, and Ta’Zhawn Henry had 111 against Lamar proving that there were runners capable of picking up yards on the ground.

Still, in the five games when Duffey was running the show for at least two quarters, 48% of the team’s rushing yards came from its run-first backup QB.  But this year, it appears that traditional pocket passer Jackson Tyner, a grad transfer from Rice, will get the first shot at filling Bowman’s shoes.

That’s not to say that we won’t see Duffey but to expect him to have a similar type of impact on the ground game might be foolish this year.  And given how thin the QB situation is with both Bowman and true freshman Maverick McIvor out until at least November, Matt Wells and OC David Yost may be less inclined to put their QB in harm’s way as Kingsbury did last year when he had Bowman run the ball inside the 5-yard-line against Oklahoma, resulting in his second collapsed lung.

Now, it is time for all the offseason bluster that came from the Texas Tech football coaching staff this offseason about running the ball to come to fruition.

"“We’re going to run the football when we want to run it,”  Wells said in his introductory press conference in December.  “We’ll be a physical running team. You cannot win games in the month of November in this league if you don’t run the football in November, okay? I promise you that.”"

But in the season’s only true test thus far, the ground game was yet again an afterthought.  In Saturday’s 28-14 loss to Arizona, Tech ran the ball only 25 times for 104 yards while putting it in the air 55 times.  That came despite the fact that the Wildcats spent the game with a 3-man line which was inviting Tech to run the ball.

Armand Shyne led the way with a team-high in both carries (13) and yards (68).  But despite the fact that both he and Ta’Zhawn Henry averaged over 5.3 yards per carry, Tech did not seem to want to run the ball at all.

On Tech’s first TD drive, SaRodorick Thompson carried the ball on four of the six plays including his 1-yard TD run.  Then, Tech ran the ball on three of the seven plays in its only other TD drive of the game.  So on the only two successful drives of the night, Tech ran the ball on 53.8% of its plays.  On all other drives, the Red Raiders ran the ball only 26.8% of the time.

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Expect that to change drastically with Bowman out unless Tyner or Duffey show to be vastly improved passers over what they’ve been in their careers, (Tyner is a 48% passer and Duffey 68%).  And if Tech has any hope of being able to compete during the toughest stretch of its season, the offensive line must lead the way in the running game unlike it 2018 as it failed miserably when the Red Raiders needed it most.