The Texas Tech football team is set to play Arizona at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday in Tucson, Arizona for the Red Raiders’ third game of the season.
“Arizona will be the most talented team we’ve played so far,” head coach Matt Wells said. “Obviously their skill is really good. Khalil Tate has been there for several years. Very familiar with him. Dual-threat guy. Throws the all very well and when he pulls it and runs, he’s a threat to hit a home run every single time.”
The Red Raiders posted a 2-0 record this season, defeating Montana State and University of Texas at El Paso, according to Tech Athletics game notes. In Tech’s first two games, the Red Raider averaged 41.5 points per game while allowing just 5.5 points per game, ranking third in the NCAA in the category.
This season, Arizona has gone 1-1, defeating Northern Arizona and losing to Hawaii, according to Arizona Athletics. The Wildcats 11th in the nation in scoring offense as the team has scored 51.5 points per game. As Arizona ranks among the league leaders in scoring, the Wildcats have allowed 43 points per game.
On offense, the Red Raiders have found success in the passing game as they average 350 passing yards per game, ranking 13th in the FBS, according to the game notes. Sophomore quarterback Alan Bowman ranked ninth in the FBS after throwing for 696 yards in the first two games of the season. Along with the passing game, Tech has averaged 102 rushing yards per game.
Since Wells and offensive coordinator David Yost have installed the fast-paced offensive style two years, Wells said Bowman has called more of his own plays than any other quarterback they have coached.
“Alan (Bowman) is a very bright guy, very football smart guy, spends a lot of time in the film room,” Yost said. “We try and give him a little bit more freedom, but a little bit more options to choose as you’re at the line and everything and then put himself in the position to be successful. Over time we found that’s the, that’s a good way for the quarterback to kind of handle the offense. He’s done a really good job with that.”
Along with Bowman’s arm, the Red Raiders have a deep receiving core with nine wide receivers recording four or more receptions after the first two games of the season, according to Tech Athletics.
“As long as we have guys that merit playing time and they are playing at a high level, then we’ll continue to rotate a lot of those guys,” Wells said. “Obviously we’d like to, to keep them fresh, because of the pace that we play and how many reps we’d like to play on offense. It doesn’t matter to me who catches it. I’m not worried about that. The guys that are catching it are the guys that are getting open and they are making plays Monday through Friday and earning that right to play on Saturday.”
Arizona’s offense is balanced as the Wildcats have averaged 325 passing yards and 304.5 rushing yards per game this season, according to the game notes. The Wildcats’ dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate has led Arizona’s offense has he has thrown for 499 yards and rushed for 122 yards this season.
“(Tate’s) a threat to run it more than a lot of other quarterbacks,” Wells said. “He can flip it out on bubbles and mouths, he can pull it out of mesh reads, pure double option, pure triple. He’s a threat, plus run game is a major, major threat and it makes you as a defensive staff or coordinators, you have to rethink your pressures or packages, so you’re always sound against the option.”
Defensively, Tech has only allowed 210 yards per game while the Red Raiders rank second in the nation as they have only allowed four third-down conversions in 31 attempts, according to the game notes. The defense is led by senior linebacker Jordyn Brooks who leads the team with 22 total tackles, 10 solo tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
“Probably early in the down, early in the series, we’ve been getting TFL’s (tackles for loss) getting the chains, and it changes your second down calls and you’re trying to get half the call and all of a sudden you’ve got teams in third and medium,” Wells said regarding the defense’s success. “And now Coach Patterson has the whole playbook and that’s probably not the spot you want third and medium to really more long. We’ve gotten teams in long.”
The Wildcats’ defense has allowed 518.5 yards per game this season as Anthony Pandy has recorded 11 total tackles, eight solo tackles and two sacks this season, according to Arizona Athletics. Colin Schooler leads the Wildcats with 11 total tackles as Jalen Harris leads the defense with two and a half sacks in the team’s last two games.
“They have got a pretty solid d-line,” senior offensive lineman Madison Akamnonu said. “It’s going to be pretty fun running the ball against them. They have got some good hands over there, some speed off the ball, but we’ll be prepared for them.”
As the Red Raiders prepare to play their first Power Five team of the season, Akamnonu said he is treating it as he would any other team.
After playing Arizona, Tech will start conference play as the Red Raiders take on Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.
“This will be the biggest test of the year so far. It’s not even that close,” Wells said. “I think we’ve tackled well in space. I think we have our biggest challenge of the year Saturday night, tackling space. I’m excited to coach our guys and watch them doing that because this will be the biggest test we’ve had so far. We’ll have to play our best game of the year so far to win Saturday night.”