Turnovers have been a major issue in Lubbock, Texas, for the past five seasons.
Texas Tech has committed 133 turnovers in 64 games during that span, worst in the Big 12 and 115th in the bowl subdivision. When Kliff Kingsbury took over the program before the 2013 season, he knew it was an issue that needed to be addressed.
Yet not much changed last season as the Red Raiders finished with 33 turnovers, which again was worst in the Big 12 and 119th among FBS teams.
After looking at those numbers, Kingsbury’s response to a question about what pleased him most about the Red Raiders’ spring practice is no surprise.
“Ball security on offense was a big emphasis, and it has been the past two years. Last year we weren’t very good at it,” Kingsbury said. “I thought they did a good job protecting it this spring.”
The tangible result of Texas Tech's ball-security struggles was a minus-51 points-off-turnovers margin in 2013. The Red Raiders’ 15 fumbles and 18 interceptions made life much more difficult for Kingsbury during his first season, as turnovers are directly tied to Texas Tech's five losses in 2013. A turnover margin of minus-9 in those games, including a minus-4 turnover margin in the fourth quarter alone, underscores the importance of Kingsbury changing the turnover trend in Lubbock.
Adding to the misery was Texas Tech's penalty troubles. It had the fourth-most penalties in the nation in Kingsbury’s first season with 103 total penalties and an average of 75.2 penalty yards per game. Penalties aren’t as big an issue as the turnovers, as the three teams with more penalties than the Red Raiders -- Baylor, UCLA and Oregon -- combined to win 32 games last season.
Kingsbury knows his team will have to be better in both respects if they hope to insert themselves into the Big 12 championship chase this fall.
“I think when you’re playing the alpha-level teams in this conference, you can’t have those penalties, you can’t have those turnovers,” Kingsbury said. “So we have to find a way to minimize those. As many plays as we [run], you’re going to have penalties but you can’t be at the bottom of the country. That’s unacceptable.”