Texas Tech got an important win Saturday at Colorado, but bigger tests await starting Saturday when the Red Raiders hit the road for the second week in a row.
On tap this week is Texas A&M at 83,000-seat Kyle Field stadium in College Station.
But before packing up for a big rivalry game against the Aggies are three days of practice, so the Tech coaching staff may be asking itself if the offense will show up on time.
A Tech win could revolve around the Red Raider offense hitting all cylinders at the beginning of Saturday’s ball game.
Things have only gelled together early once on offense since the Red Raiders crushed New Mexico on Sept. 11. In that game, quarterback Taylor Potts connected with receiver Austin Zouzalik on the fifth play of the game for a 55-yard touchdown pass en route to a 52-17 win.
The next week against Texas, the offense failed to get anything going on early and gave the Longhorns a 14-0 cushion before Tech defensive back Jarvis Phillip returned a Texas interception for a touchdown.
The game after Texas, in a 52-30 loss to Iowa State, the Red Raiders did not have an effective drive until the 45-second mark of the second quarter. By that point, Tech was down 24-0.
The exception came against Baylor when the Red Raiders scored 14 first-quarter points. The offense, however, fell back into its early game slump the following week against then-ranked No. 20 Oklahoma State.
Against the Cowboys, the Red Raiders allowed a 21-0 lead before scoring their first touchdown of the game at the 11:04 mark of the second quarter.
This past Saturday at Colorado, Tech punted three times in the first quarter, allowed a 7-0 deficit at the end of it and did not really come to life until the second half in a 27-24 Red Raider victory.
Saturday was the first time Tech got away with a poor first quarter performance thanks to a strong showing in the second half. At halftime, Tech had 94 yards of total offense, but when it was all said and done, the Red Raiders had 430 yards.
“We just shot ourselves so much in the foot early,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said after Sunday’s practice regarding the Colorado game.
“Our first three drives, it wasn’t as bad as (the Oklahoma State game); we had two first downs. We had a couple of dropped passes and missed assignments, but our energy was better.”
Tech (4-3, 2-3 in Big 12 Conference play) could be a scary team if its offense could get going early.
In the Iowa State and Oklahoma State losses, Tech averaged 454 yards despite slow starts. Tech ultimately outgained the Cyclones with 508 yards of offense despite seven minutes less with the ball.
The offense also outscored Oklahoma State 17-13 after the first quarter.
Maybe the offense will find its stride early, like it did in the New Mexico and Baylor games.
Then again, maybe it will be up to the defense to keep it close until the offense finds its rhythm, like it did against Colorado.
The good news for Red Raider fans is Tech has now found a way to win in both scenarios.
The better news is Brown said the offense is improving and is just a few bad breaks away from rolling all game long.
“If you were at the game last week against Oklahoma State, we were really flat,” Brown said. “This week, we were playing really, really hard and just making mistakes. But I feel like we’re running the ball well and taking what teams are giving us.”