Texas Tech and UTEP had the same goal going into their season openers: ball security.
The Miners succeeded, with their defense and special teams forcing three turnovers in a 31-24 win over New Mexico, while Red Raiders quarterback Davis Webb threw two interceptions -- one that nearly led to a TD -- in a tougher-than-expected 42-35 win over Central Arkansas.
"We always want to be on the plus end of turnovers," UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. "If we can stay on that end of the gig, it betters our chances of having a winning season."
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Texas Tech (1-0) has forced just four turnovers in their past four games, dating to Nov. 16. In that same span they've turned the ball over 10 times, four of those interceptions. Coach Kliff Kingsbury has made reducing turnovers and penalties a priority this season. "Embarrassing" was how he characterized the performance last week.
"The whole deal just wasn't good across the board, so we'll get that straightened out this week," he said of Webb's two interceptions and the 15 penalties for 115 yards in the win over the Bears last weekend.
The Miners (1-0) will start senior QB Jameill Showers, who was at Texas A&M during the 2012-13 season when Kingsbury was offensive coordinator for the Aggies.
Here are some things to watch Saturday night:
QUICK START: Both UTEP and Texas Tech got off to slow starts and had to overcome early deficits to win their openers. The Red Raiders offense wasn't too sharp early, something they aim to change. "We need to start faster and probably the most obvious thing is to cut down on the penalties and the mistakes like that that put us in bad situations," WR Bradley Marquez said.
TIME OF POSSESSION: The Red Raiders watched as FCS' Central Arkansas put together drives of 18, 12, 14 and 15 plays that chewed up a lot of time (33:36 for the Bears and 26:24 for Texas Tech. That wearied Texas Tech's defense, which gave up 406 total yards. UTEP needs to keep the Red Raiders' uptempo offense off the field.. "We've got our work cut out for us," Kugler said. "We've got to make our calls quickly because they will catch out off guard if you're not ready."
TEXAS TECH WRs: Webb hit 11 different receivers last week. The outside receivers were expected to be more active this week. They were led by Marquez, who had career highs in receptions (11), yards receiving (184) and longest reception (70 yards). "Without him, we wouldn't have won that game," Kingsbury said. "Lot of guys were floundering around, and he stepped up and made plays."
UTEP RUSHING: RB Aaron Jones had career highs in yards (237 yards for a 10.8-yard average) and TDs (3) in the Miners win. He was one of six FBS players to rush for more than 200 yards last week. The Red Raiders defense is young, so gave Jones could have another big game. "I want the ball in Aaron Jones' hands as much as we can possibly do, not only as a running back but also as a receiver," Kugler said.
QUARTERBACK MATCHUP: Miners QB Showers, back after missing the final five games last season because of a right shoulder injury, is a dual threat, which could wreak havoc for the Red Raiders defense. He threw for 116 yards and a TD in the Miners' opener. Webb, who threw two interceptions in the first half last week -- he had nine all of last season -- rallied for 452 yards and four touchdowns. It was his second straight four-touchdown game.