October 17, 2021

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Texas Tech’s run game, improved defense look to lead them to victory over rival Texas

Here are three key takeaways after members of the Texas Tech football program spoke to the media in anticipation of their Week 4 rivalry matchup against Texas:

The rivalry

Texas is always one of the biggest games on Texas Tech’s schedule, but there’s added intensity this season. Last season, the Red Raiders led the Longhorns by 15 points with three minutes left. With victory on their fingertips, everything was suddenly flipped upside down. Texas Tech ended up completely collapsing, losing the game 63-56 in overtime on their home field. Last year’s breakdown and Chris Beard’s move to Austin have seemed to add extra fuel to the fire.

“There’s a lot of particular feelings around Lubbock and West Texas in terms of this game,” head coach Matt Wells said on Tuesday.

Beyond the emotions in the community, members of the roster did not mince words when asked about the game.

“Texas is our rival,” wide receiver Erik Ezukanma said.

“It’s going to be awesome to go into Austin, give them a fight, and smack them in the mouth a little bit.”

In addition to their past, the future perspective of Texas joining the SEC is also at hand. As the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal has reported on, Texas Tech Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt is planning on Texas-Texas Tech continuing as an annual matchup.

“It’d be great for Lubbock,” Wells said on continuing the series against Texas.

“I’d be for it.”

A newfound identity

The Texas Tech defense was met with a lot of optimism throughout the offseason, and so far it’s showing why. The Red Raiders are allowing just 4.0 yards per opponent play, the lowest they’ve allowed through the first three games of the season since 2012. The forced turnovers have surely helped Texas Tech establish good defensive numbers. This year’s Red Raider defense already has as many interceptions (5) through three games that they had all of last season. But another useful skill has been improved tackling.

“I think we’re becoming a better tackling team,” Wells said.

“That’s something in a game like this that will be pretty prevalent. At the end of the game, you’ll back and say ‘They tackled well in space’ or ‘they didn’t.’”

The tackles are not only helping contain opponents in the run game, but they are also preventing big plays.

“What we’ve been practicing is working out on gameday,” linebacker Riko Jeffers said.

“Our yards per carry are really low right now and yards after the catch are extremely low as well.”

Winning on the ground

After all the talk of Texas Tech returning to an Air Raid style offense, the Red Raiders have found great success in the run game early. The 591 rushing yards they’ve accumulated are the most through the first three weeks of a season since 2012. They’ve put up those numbers with their starting running back — SaRodorick Thompson — only having four rushes as he continues to heal from shoulder surgery.

“It’ll be imperative to run the ball,” Wells said.

“I think you gotta run the ball to win on the road in this league.”

As Texas Tech looks to tap into their run game, they’ll have to contain one of the nation’s best rushers. Longhorn running back Bijan Robinson already has 299 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry and is also a threat in the passing game, bringing in 91 receiving yards and a touchdown through three weeks.

“I think No. 5 is one of the best in the country,” Wells said on Robinson.

“I think he’s legit.”

The Texas Tech defense has contained the run well through three weeks, but they face a challenge on Saturday.

Find more Texas Tech coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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