Texas Tech, Baylor chase improvement
In a weird season when goals seem to change on a weekly basis, Texas Tech and Baylor square off Saturday with the most basic, fundamental aspiration of all.
Just get better.
Neither team has been able to generate sustained momentum this season, so when the Red Raiders host the Bears in Lubbock, Texas, finding a foothold that will carry the winner the rest of the way and perhaps serve as a segue to 2021 is high on the priority list.
For Texas Tech (2-5, 1-5 Big 12), there is still a chance to finish at .500 in the abbreviated season. To reach that modest goal would require a much different and more consistent level of play.
Last week, the Red Raiders had a chance to head in that direction in a road game against TCU, another Big 12 team struggling to establish an identity. Instead, early offensive struggles and the Horned Frogs’ nothing-fancy, big-play offense doomed Texas Tech in a 34-18 loss.
Baylor was left even more frustrated in a 38-31 defeat against 17th-ranked Iowa State after the Bears (1-4, 1-4) squandered a 24-10 third-quarter lead.
In a game when Baylor did almost everything right — passed for more yards than the Cyclones (295-164), outgained them in total yards (366-362) and forced four turnovers — the end result was frustrating.
“One of the things that I talked about with the team at the end of the game was that really anything that we’ve asked them to do, they’ve been able to accomplish,” first-year Bears coach Dave Aranda said. “To see them stay in the fight shows the character of the team. To make a run at the end and to not get it is very disappointing. It’s a gut punch.”
Second-half offense was a major culprit in the fade. On Baylor’s first five possessions after the break, the Bears managed only 20 yards and that gave Iowa State time to produce touchdowns on four consecutive series to surge in front.
“It’s disappointing to struggle like we did in the second half, but it did feel like we kind of let the outside affect the inside, in terms of one side of the ball affecting the next,” Aranda said.
Making matters worse for the Bears, leading rusher Craig Williams and leading tackler Terrel Bernard have both been ruled out for the rest of the season with injuries.
Texas Tech will take any edge it can get. The Red Raiders have struggled to get in sync on offense and stay there all season. Last week, recently installed starting quarterback Henry Colombi was under heavy early pressure. The Frogs sacked him five times in the first half, and although he settled in and passed for 234 yards, most of that came on two long pass plays (60 yards to Ja’Lynn Polk, 57 to Erik Ezukanma) that came after TCU built 14- and then 17-point leads.
In three starts since taking over for Alan Bowman, Colombi has done some things well, but Red Raiders coach Matt Wells wants to see more from the graduate transfer.
“We need him to be the reason we’re having some success,” Wells said. “In our offense, the quarterback has to be more consistent than he has been the last two weeks.”
The Texas Tech defense has been solid much of the season and was in good shape last week until Frogs quarterback Max Dugan wiggled loose for long second-half TD runs of 48 and 81 yards.
Baylor presents a different challenge with senior quarterback Charlie Brewer at the controls. He is accounting for 225 yards a game through the air and may be a bigger focal point with Williams out of action.
“They’re led by a quarterback who is a four-year starter who has won a lot of games and has played a lot of good football,” Wells said.
Whatever the game plan might be for the Red Raiders, their approach and the intangibles of recovering from another tough setback might trump anything else.
“We’re going to continue to get off the mat and fight and go find a way to win,” Wells said.
–Field Level Media