Texas-Texas Tech preview: Longhorns seeking answers defensively against high-powered offense

By Mary Scott McNabb

In the midst of their first losing streak in about a year, the Longhorns are still attempting to regain their identity. They gave up an average of 40 points the last two weeks, but will catch no breather this week as they travel to Lubbock for a prime-time matchup with Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech Raiders. Here’s what Texas must do to right the ship this week.

Texas vs. Texas Tech details

Date: Nov. 10, 2018

Location: Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

What channel is Texas vs. Texas Tech on?

Texas vs. Texas Tech will be broadcast on Fox. It can also be streamed live on FoxSportsGo.

How can I buy tickets to Texas vs. Texas Tech?

Click here to buy tickets to the Texas vs. Texas Tech game at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Texas vs. Texas Tech preview

Finding a pass rush

Charles Omenihu looked like one of the best pass rushers in the conference in the four weeks prior to West Virginia, as he led the country in sacks during that stretch. Yet last week, Omenihu and the Longhorn pass rush barely touched Will Grier, who torched the Texas defense so badly he re-entered his name into the Heisman conversation.

There’s been a formula to Texas’ biggest defensive statements this year: bring pressure, cover man-to-man and stay aggressive. However, injuries and inexperience on the back end have seemed to have forced Todd Orlando to abandon that in the last two weeks. In dropping seven or eight defensive backs, the Longhorns have been trying to get pressure with three rushers (which they haven’t) and daring opposing quarterbacks to beat them with their arm (which they have).

It’s on Orlando and the defensive front to fix this. They must dial up pressure to aid a secondary in which starters Brandon Jones and Devante Davis’ availability for Saturday are still in question.

Running back carousel

It seems as if each week, a different running back makes his case to be the feature back. Tre Watson showed up against West Virginia, running for 80 yards and scoring two total touchdowns in the best game of his Texas career. Freshman Keaontay Ingram, who has started the last two games after Watson held the starting job for most of the year, averaged only 2.3 yards per carry last week.

Texas Tech allowed Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to throw for 360 yards last week, an average day for the Heisman candidate. More importantly, however, was that Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon ran for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Tech has allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of the last two weeks, both of which were losses. Whoever it is next to Sam Ehlinger in the backfield, the Longhorns will be looking for a big day from the top back.

Shutting down the Air Raid

The front seven for Texas did not have a spectacular week last Saturday. Against Dana Holgorsen’s Air Raid offense, the defensive line was blown off the ball consistently, which allowed for gaping holes for runners to blow through and reach the second level.

This week’s “Air Raid” style of offense will look slightly different than Holgerson’s version. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury will use his offense to wear out a Texas defense that may be thin on bodies after injuries. A week ago, the Longhorns were constantly rotating on the defensive front. Against a no-huddle that is designed to spread out and exhaust a defense, they might not have the luxury. The Red Raiders run more than 85 offensive plays a game. 

It’s no simple task for Texas to slow down this high-octane offense. But whether they do or not will depend on the front seven. Playing assignment football in the run game and rallying to the football after short throws in the pass game will be crucial for a Longhorn defense that may be weary by the end.

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