Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury sees his players maturing this season and is eager to see how that translates to improved performance when the Red Raiders host third-ranked TCU in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
This is an early test against the team that scored a Big 12 record 82 points against them last season.
"I think I've seen more fight in them this year," Kingsbury said. "And they learned a lot from last year."
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The Red Raiders (3-0) have the fewest penalty yards per game in the Big 12 this season after ranking last in the league last year. The Red Raiders have also turned around their penchant for turnovers lost, sitting at No. 30 in the nation with only three in three games after 28 in 12 games last season to ranked 114th.
TCU coach Gary Patterson knows this isn't the same team the Horned Frogs (3-0) beat 82-27 at home last season — when Trevone Boykin threw a TCU-record seven touchdowns in the first three quarters.
The Red Raiders haven't trailed this season. TCU has been behind for less than 4 minutes.
"They're completely different. Our kids see that," Patterson said. "They understand they're a really good football team, really played well on offense and keep getting better on defense every week."
Here are some things to watch for when Texas Tech hosts TCU:
Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes and TCU's Boykin have put up strong numbers through three games. They are ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the passing-yard averages in the conference. Mahomes has thrown for nine TDs and 1,029 yards, while Boykin has thrown for 10 TDs and 985 yards. "They're going to see a whole other beast this week with what TCU does and the dynamic athletes they have," Kingsbury said of what his defense faces compared to Arkansas. Both QBs are threats to scramble: Mahomes is averaging 6.1 yards per rush and has four TDs; Boykin is averaging 4.6 yards per carry with two TDs.
TCU DEFENSIVE WOES
The Horned Frogs' defense faces one of the league's most prolific offenses without as many as seven expected starters. In addition to suspended DE Mike Tuaua, they lost a starter to a season-ending injury in each of the last two games, and have a couple of injured players who still haven't played. DT Davion Pierson has been dealing with concussion, but could play for first time against the Red Raiders. Kingsbury contends it's Patterson who makes the defense hum. "I know they've had some injuries, but you watch the film, and he has guys that they can plug in and they're making plays. They're always coached to do what they're supposed to do, so he's got them rolling right along."
The 82-27 TCU win last year can't be erased but TCU players say that game is not on their minds. "We're just worried about this Saturday," WR Ty Slanina said. Kingsbury, however, said that loss is motivation. "If you lose the game, you want to win it the next year, and that's basically where we're at," he said.
The two teams are strong once they get inside their opponents' 20-yard line. The Red Raiders have scored 10 TDs and three field goals on 14 trips, while the Horned Frogs have 14 TDs and one field goal on 18 trips.
Texas Tech senior WR Jakeem Grant is second in the conference in all-purpose yards, with a 175 ypg average. Should the game come to it, the Horned Frogs have senior kicker Jaden Oberkrom to turn to. He hit more than 81 percent of his field goal attempts in 2014 and has missed just one PAT going back to his freshman year. Texas Tech has question marks. Freshmen Clayton Hatfield and Michael Barden continue to get chances. Barden is one for three on FG tries.