Texas Tech returned to a bowl game after a one-year hiatus with a 7-5 regular-season record.
The Red Raiders have made bowl appearances in two of three seasons under Kliff Kingsbury, and should have plenty of optimism with Patrick Mahomes returning as one of America’s top quarterbacks in 2016.
Let’s take a closer look at Kingsbury’s third season in Lubbock with Texas Tech’s season report card:
The Red Raiders had one of the nation’s top offenses. Texas Tech finished seventh nationally at 2.98 points per drive and 6.95 yards per play. Not only was Kingsbury’s offense one of the nation’s most efficient units, it featured star power in Mahomes, running back DeAndre Washington, tackle Le'Raven Clark and receiver Jakeem Grant. Kingsbury’s ability to get the best out of his top talents was one reason the Red Raiders' offense was second to none in 2015.
The numbers are ugly.
The Red Raiders finished No. 122 among FBS teams at 2.89 points per drive and 6.91 yards per play allowed. The only reason Tech for any semblance of hope was fleeting moments of quality defense and an improvement forcing turnovers, one of the focuses of new defensive coordinator David Gibbs. Tech’s 25 takeaways was 10 more than last season's output and a sign of Gibbs' initial impact. Nonetheless, Gibbs faces a difficult task to get his side of the football to a level that will transform the Red Raiders into championship contenders.
Special Teams: B
Grant was a dynamic threat on special teams with two kick returns for touchdowns, but the Red Raiders' return game wasn’t as explosive as the offense. Tech averaged 20.23 yards per kick return and 6.29 yards per punt return. Kicker Clayton Hatfield was one of the conference’s better kickers, converting 14 of 16 field goals, and punter Taylor Symmank was solid.
It’s obvious Kingsbury is starting to get a foothold on the demands of being a head coach in the Big 12. The Red Raiders were much improved after a disappointing 2014. And, despite major defensive struggles, Tech was good enough to strike fear in every Big 12 team. Outside of West Virginia, there really isn’t a game the Red Raiders should look back upon as a game it gave away, and even the loss to the Mountaineers was simply a hard-fought battle between two quality teams ending in a road loss for Tech.
Tech had some great moments -- a road win at Arkansas, Mahomes going toe-to-toe with TCU’s Trevone Boykin -- and some disappointing times, like getting overwhelmed by Baylor, Oklahoma and LSU. But, overall, Tech took a step forward in 2015 by returning to a bowl game. If Gibbs can improve the defense and push that side of the ball into the middle of the Big 12 pack next season, it’s not crazy to think the Red Raiders could make a run at a conference title.