After a solid September start, Texas Tech (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) has drifted toward the bottom of the league’s defensive rankings in multiple categories heading into Saturday’s game against No. 12 Oklahoma State (7-0, 4-0).
Although the Red Raiders have collected more turnovers through eight games (17) than they did last season (15), the team’s lingering inability to stop the run has become a source of frustration to players heading into Saturday’s game in Lubbock (2:30 p.m., ESPN). Tech ranks last among Big 12 teams in rushing defense (281.5 yards per game) and has allowed a league-high 26 touchdowns.
Linebacker Micah Awe, a senior from Mansfield Summit who ranks second on the team in tackles (69), feels a personal responsibility for the struggles.
“I feel like that’s just on me, honestly,” Awe said during this week’s news conference in Lubbock. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I feel like if we can’t stop the run, it’s probably my fault and I take all the blame.”
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Although he acknowledged he’s only one player on the field, Awe holds himself to a higher standard as a team leader and the player with the most solo tackles (42) on the Tech roster.
“You always hear the greatest players make other players better around them, and I have super high expectations for myself,” Awe said. “We’ve just got to continue to work that way, and I’ve got to continue to get even that much better.”
In fairness to Awe and his teammates, Tech’s defensive numbers are a bit skewed because the Red Raiders already lost to the league’s three most explosive offensive teams. In those contests against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma, the Raiders allowed 60.3 points and 682.3 yards per game.
First-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs said he will brace for another run-heavy game plan from Oklahoma State this week.
“Why would you pass it? I would just hand it off every snap until we show we can stop it,” Gibbs said. “We’ll keep grinding. There’s no other way out of this.”
No. 5 TCU 52, West Virginia 35 (Thursday, 6:30 p.m., FS1): Frogs remain undefeated heading into November, when the real fun begins.
Texas 28, Iowa State 20 (Saturday, 6 p.m., FS1): Longhorns finally reach the .500 mark after a 1-4 start put heat on coaches, players.
No. 14 Oklahoma 71, Kansas 14 (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., FS1): Sooners’ offense rolling in high gear as it prepares to face a porous defense.
No. 12 Oklahoma State 45, Texas Tech 42 (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., ESPN): Cowboys’ defense does just enough to avoid an upset in Lubbock. But expect a close call from the Red Raiders.
Last week: 4-0