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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Scouting the Texas Tech Red Raiders

Fresh off a 48-17 drubbing from West Virginia, how do the Raiders match up with OU on film?

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

I think it’s fair to say that the Red Raiders have developed a reputation since Kliff Kingsbury took over.

Sure, they’re good for at least 40 points on any given Saturday, but they’re going to give up at least that many to any decent offense. Yeah, they’ve got one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, but even he can’t do all the work himself.

A quick glance at the stats confirms the narrative again this year—the Raiders are number two nationally in yards per game and 117th in yards allowed.


And yet, Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineers marched into Lubbock last week and found a way not only to rack up points on the Tech defense, but also to hold the Red Raiders to 17 points and 379 yards of total offense. The game definitely turned some heads, making West Virginia look like a Big 12 title contender and putting Tech’s bowl eligibility into doubt.

So how’d the Morgantown Couchburners pull it off?

Here’s what the film says:

On Offense

Patrick Mahomes is still the most important player on this team. He completes 71% of his passes and he’s accounted for 28 TDs this year, seven on the ground. As West Virginia demonstrated, though, his dominance is not inevitable.

First of all, pressure is key against Mahomes. He needs to be out of the pocket and uncomfortable because, like Baker, he has a knack for extending plays and finding wide receivers who keep working to get open once their route is run. WVU sacked him four times for 47 yards last week.

The Raiders really don’t have much of a running game to speak of, and not a single one of their backs is averaging over 50 yards a game. Demarcus Felton is the closest thing they have to a rushing threat, but he only went for 18 yards on five touches against the Mountaineers. The Raiders finished that game with just 32 net rushing yards and 91 gained.

No, their real weapons are outside—guys like Jonathan Giles and Keke Coutee.

The Raiders almost always line up with three or four guys wide, but they don’t do much stacking or bunching of receivers. Their Air Raid doesn’t look exactly like any we’ve seen so far this year, but that’s mostly because Tech doesn’t have the athletes of a TCU or the running backs of a Texas. They’re still good for lots of screen passes, curl routes and occasional shots downfield, so the OU secondary better come ready to play and, most importantly, to tackle.

My sense is that the Sooners won’t be able to stop Tech like WVU did, but they will have an opportunity to slow them down. Mike Stoops is going to blitz the Raiders from all angles, and if Obo Okoronkwo can get more than one sack that’ll really be a problem for TTU. With such a one-dimensional offense, Stoops can afford to be more creative—he can give young guys like Jordan Parker more help over the top, while also dialing up some safety and corner blitzes.

This will be another opportunity for new faces to make plays. Neville Gallimore can be disruptive, Will Sunderland can look for another pick, Kapri Doucet can try to get after Mahomes. It’s going to be fun—unless Mahomes regains his rhythm and starts torching the Sooners for 600+ yards.

On Defense

Ah, the defense. Tech is giving up 479.2 yards per game and, since Oklahoma is averaging over 525, there’s no real reason to think this week will be different. OU is down its most consistent running back, but it has an NFL-caliber guy waiting for 20+ touches and a promising freshman, Abdul Adams, ready to break out.

The Raiders usually run what is essentially a 4-2-5 defense, but they often stand up both DE/OLBs at the line of scrimmage to generate a pass rush. They also sometimes use a three-man front. Neither has been exceptionally effective—they’ve got 10 sacks on the year, and senior OLB Kris Williams will challenge Orlando Brown and try to add to his team-leading total of four.

Truth is, though, the Raiders were dominated at the line of scrimmage by West Virginia. They didn’t sack Skyler Howard once all day, and they gave up 332 yards on the ground—89 of which were to Howard himself.

Baker Mayfield can absolutely take advantage of this. If the Raiders are unable to pressure him, he’ll have all day to find receivers like Dede Westbrook. Plus, he can pick up some of those problematic middle-distance downs with his legs. He’s faster than Howard, if not as physical.

In the passing game, Tech looks most vulnerable up the middle. Quick slants, dropoffs, short curls, go routes—their linebackers aren’t much help in coverage, so any routes between five and 15 yards downfield are going to give Tech some serious problems.

Their guys also aren’t very big, so Joe Mixon will have the opportunity for some more hurdles, stiff-arms and athletic plays against them. Sadly, it’s the kind of defense Samaje Perine would thrive against, but the Sooners should be fine anyway.

OU can outsmart and out-physical this defense, which has only three picks and one forced fumble all season. The key will be ball protection and O-line play.

Tech is a desperate team, which is always cause for concern. If Oklahoma is serious about sticking in the top 15, though, then this is a win it needs to have.