The 2014 season has been overwhelmingly disappointing for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have lost six of their seven last games, and following a flat 34-13 defeat to Texas on Nov. 1, Tech moved to 1-11 in November games dating back to 2011.
But Saturday, the Red Raiders have the opportunity to land a win that could reverse that downward trend, and give them momentum for the rest of the season.
And for 2015.
Largely because their next opponent, Oklahoma, will be traveling to Lubbock as a vulnerable team.
The Sooners are still licking their wounds after getting gashed by Baylor 48-14 -- their second-worst loss in 16 years under Bob Stoops.
Leading receiver Sterling Shepard is still questionable with a groin strain. Quarterback Trevor Knight was unable to practice Monday after taking a brutal hit Saturday. The Sooners, who had playoff and Big 12 title expectations, seemingly have little left to play for, with those preseason goals already dashed. History is also on Tech's side, as Oklahoma has struggled over the years in Lubbock, having lost three of its last four there.
Yet, even with all that working in its favor, Tech will have to produce its best performance of the season to topple the Sooners. The Red Raiders have yet to play a crisp game this fall, with turnovers and penalties robbing them of any chance for victory in their six losses, which have resulted in losing margins of 21, 10, 32, 3, 55 and 21.
But while Oklahoma is coming off a trouncing, Tech is coming off a much-needed bye week. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said he hopes quarterbacks Davis Webb (ankle) and Patrick Mahomes (concussion) will be available. And the Red Raiders have had the benefit of an extra week to prepare for Oklahoma. They had to like what they saw on film. The Sooners struggled mightily in scheme and in personnel trying to defend Baylor’s five-wide set, which Tech is capable of employing as well.
None of that will matter, however, if Tech can’t slow Oklahoma’s power rushing attack. While the Sooners are averaging a Big 12-best 5.67 yards per carry, the Red Raiders have surrendered a Big 12-worst 246 per game on the ground.
“We have struggled against the run, that's no secret here,” Kingsbury said. “You know they've got a great front, great backs. The quarterbacks have done a good job running the football. So it will be a tough challenge. We tried to get ahead a little bit last week on scheme and things of that nature that OU's doing to try and help us with this week.
“We've got to man up and play better defense; that is the bottom line.”
If the Red Raiders can man up in the defensive trenches -- and avoid the catastrophic mistakes that have plagued them all year offensively -- they’ll have a chance Saturday to begin to turn their season around.
And begin to build momentum for 2015.