The Texas Tech Red Raiders are rolling into town this week for a matchup that has some fans of the Oklahoma Sooners feeling a bit nervous. Here to help us get to know the Raiders is Jay Burrous of Viva The Matadors. We talk about football, tortillas and other stuff to get you pumped up for this weekend. Enjoy!
Texas Tech's offense has been its usual high-powered self for most of the season, but Iowa State was able to hold Tech to 336 yards last Saturday. What did Iowa State do to keep the Red Raiders in check?
I'll give Tech tons of credit for their first 5.5 games, we moved the ball extremely well on several solid defenses. Since that point, we've been plagued with major inconsistencies. Specifically, the past six quarters we've been outscored 60-20, which is unbelievable. The recipe to stop us has been to rush three guys, drop eight.
People don't usually think of the running game when they think of Texas Tech, but Justin Stockton has rushed for nearly 500 yards on 6.5 yards per carry this season. What makes him so prolific?
Up until this year, Stockton has always had elite straight line speed, but couldn't run between the tackles. It appears as if the light finally went on though, and he's been running extremely hard. His play against Houston likely won us that game, and he had almost 200 yards of offense against Kansas on the road. So no doubt about it, Stockton has had a quietly great season. Unfortunately, he left the ISU game in the first quarter with a concussion. My understanding is that he's unlikely to play on Saturday, which is a major blow to this offense. Without his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, and make defenses pay for clogging the middle - this offense will be a shell of itself.
Coming into the season, Kliff Kingsbury was definitely on the hot seat. However, it cooled after a solid start and some improvement on the defensive side. After the loss to Iowa State, does his seat seem warm again?
There were plenty of fans that called for Kingsbury to be fired after being humiliated against Iowa State. Honestly, I'm not to that point yet because if we were to beat Oklahoma then the perception would be that we're trending well again. The reality is that we likely won't win.
Texas Tech's defense isn't perfect, but David Gibbs has done a decent job with that group in 2017. What's changed since last year?
He's done an outstanding job recruiting, and bringing in quality FCS/FBS transfers. We likely have the most underrated defensive tackle and linebacker combo in the conference, and all of these guys were handpicked by Gibbs. So far this season, we've done an great job limiting the big plays, stopping the run, and forcing turnovers. Guys like Mych Thomas, Jordyn Brooks, Eli Howard, and Broderick Washington have really come into their own this year. I think Oklahoma is the last great offense we'll face this season, so it's likely this group winds up a top 70 or 80 group nationally. Which is about 50-60 spots better than they were last year. It's been nothing short of a miracle.
Dakota Allen (of Last Chance U fame) has been a standout at linebacker this season. In what ways does it seem that he improved during his time between his two seasons at Texas Tech?
He doesn't do anything poorly, but also isn't outstanding at any one skill either. Week in and week out - you'll rarely see him make the wrong read, or be in the wrong place. I think two years ago he'd make the freshman mistake, but you're really not seeing that anymore. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the #3 linebacker in the nation from a grade perspective. He's likely trending well enough that he could leave for the NFL Draft if he can maintain his level of play.
In what ways is Nik Shimonek different from some of Texas Tech's past QBs (with the obvious exception of Patrick Mahomes)? How would you describe his skill set?
Shimonek's reputation entering the season was that he worked extremely hard, and was well respected by his teammates. There have been a few games this year where you've really seen this leadership side to him too. Talent-wise, he can make all the throws, and posses the aptitude to do the job well. Where he struggles is with staying in the pocket and letting the play develop. He also doesn't have the playmaking ability that Mahomes had, but few players do. At his best, he's stringing several throws together and getting into a rhythm. If he can't make his first few throws, he's generally been average. Lately, he's used his feet a bit more to get first downs if the defense sags off too much, but that's definitely not his preference.
Do you prefer flour tortillas of corn tortillas? Why?
I got this same question from the Iowa State guys, actually. I'm a flour guy, because I'm under the impression that an elite flour tortilla can make up for a lot of shortcomings. Corn is fine too, though.
Aside from Buddy Holly, who is the greatest Lubbock resident of all time?
I could make a compelling case that Michael Crabtree is this guy, but probably Waylon Jennings or Mac Davis. When we had Game Day visit Lubbock for the 2008 Texas game, I believe Bob Knight still called Lubbock home.
Editor’s note: Had I remembered that Waylon Jennings was a former Lubbock resident, the question would’ve involved him as well. I feel great shame.
Mike Leach is currently in quite a dispute with Texas Tech at the moment, which can be pretty entertaining for those who aren't affiliated with the school. How do fans down there feel about Mike Leach at this point?
Tech fans still love the guy for the most part, and it's hard not to. We haven't been the same since he left, and he hasn't tried to alienate himself to anyone but the University. I think prior to the ISU game he even organized a protest/rally outside of the stadium. I didn't walk over there to see what happened, but the fact that I heard about it tells you that he still has some clout in Lubbock. At this point, I wish Tech would pay him the money and lift the "Mike Leach Curse." I didn't think there was a curse, but it's starting to feel that way lately.
Who do you have winning the World Series, and why?
I'm a Rangers fan, but I'm still taking the Astros in 6 games. Why? I'm not entirely sure. The Dodgers have a better lineup, and the best rotation in baseball. But, it's hard not to love Altuve and that whole group of players. They remind me a lot of the 2011 Rangers, which is sort of bittersweet. We'll see what Darvish can do in Game 3, because the rest of the series hinges on his execution there.
Who would win in a fight -- Mike Leach or Tommy Tuberville?
Tuberville blew up on the sideline a few times, and I'll admit it was a little terrifying. I don't think Leach has it in him to throw down and whoop Tubby.
What's the best beer brewed in Texas today?
There's a small brewery in Austin called Lazarus that does an unreal IPA, and I'm not even an IPA guy. Otherwise, maybe Pearl Snap by Austin Beer Works.
What does Texas Tech have to do to beat the spread of pull off an upset on Saturday?
I'm not rooting for injury, but Baker Mayfield likely has to get hurt, and then Murray has to turn the ball over a lot. Until proven otherwise, I don't think our offense can muster up enough to win. We're also TERRIBLE in the kicking game, so it's imperative that we make our extra points and the gimme fields goals. Past that, I think a special teams touchdown would be a requirement too. In summary, we'll need a lot of help if we want to win this game.
How do you see this one shaking out? What's your final score prediction?
I think we'll limit you guys to less than 150 on the ground, but Mayfield will throw for over 400. Due to our offensive struggles, I don't see us scoring enough to make this a shootout so I'm calling 52-28 Oklahoma. I'd love to be wrong, and to see the same group that played the first half of the WVU game, but I worry that team is long gone. Plus, Mayfield has one final opportunity to dominate Kingsbury - anything short of a spectacular performance from him would be surprising.