The long wait is almost over, it has been 280 days since we last saw the Red Raiders take the field for a football game.
Texas Tech's next opponent comes in as an FCS power in Eastern Washington University.
So here are my three keys to victory for Texas Tech to beat Eastern Washington and start the year (1-0).
Don’t Over Look Eastern Washington: This one is simple, the team can’t overlook Eastern Washington. Last year, the Eagles went (12-2) overall and went a perfect (8-0) in the Big Sky Conference. They also beat Washington State last year to open the season, stunning Mike Leaches football team (45-42). To wrap up their season, they made it to the final four in the FCS Playoffs. With a lot of players back from last year’s Eastern Washington’s squad, the team knows they can’t overlook the Eagles.
“Anytime you're ranked fourth in the country and in that league, you're doing something right, so they're a good team,” Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “They can play with a lot of teams in Division I football and we know that. We won't take them lightly. It's going to be a great challenge for some of those new guy’s up front early on, and we'll see how to handle it.”
Win the Turnover Battle: This was one of my keys pretty much every week last year, and here it is again. Simply stated, Texas Tech must win the season turnover battle and it all starts on Saturday against Eastern Washington. Last season Texas Tech finished 8th in the turnover margin in the Big XII Conference (With a -4-turnover margin). There were a couple games where turnovers plagued the Red Raiders, and they know they must win the turnover battle to win close games.
“Defensively trying to stop the run, first and foremost. Then we've got to create more turnovers,” Kingsbury said. “We've got to find a way. There will probably be a lot of plays in this game, and we've got to find a way to get the ball out. Got to find a way to turn them over somehow.”
Establish the Running Game: Last year, this was a part of the offense that the Red Raiders struggled to get going. As we all remember, there were many times last season where the team relied too much on the arm and legs of Patrick Mahomes. (Patrick Mahomes lead the team in rushes last season, with 131 attempts for 285 yards and 12 touchdowns.) So, this season coach Kingsbury and the team have made it clear, that the running game needs to be more of a priority. So, I would look for Justin Stockton, Desmond Nisby, and Demarcus Felton to get plenty of touches come game day.
“Offensively start fast, secure the football, and establish the run game,” Kliff Kingsbury said. “We weren't good enough by a long way last year running the football. Hopefully we've made some strides in that area.”
Final Thoughts: Another Key that I didn’t mention is the obvious, Quarterback Nic Shimonek has to play well. There has been a lot of hype this off season for the fifth-year senior quarterback, and if Tech wants to succeed this season he must play well. I would look for the offense to start out fast, so that he (Shimonek) can get into a rhythm and build some confidence.
"He is a tremendous player, and I think people will really be surprised at how well he plays and how seamless the transition will be at that position," Texas Tech head football coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
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