Texas Tech spokesman Blayne Beal announced Thursday that outside linebacker Chris Payne will be on the travel roster for Saturday’s game at Kansas State.
Payne, a senior from Columbia, South Carolina, hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 10, 2012, when Tech beat Kansas 41-34 in double overtime.
Payne was competing to start in the spring of 2013, but was academically ineligible for the 2013 season. He regained his eligibility in January, but suffered a torn Achilles tendon before spring practice and has been rehabbing since.
There’s no position on the Tech team with more depth and experience than guard, where four players have started: Alfredo Morales, James Polk, Baylen Brown and Dominique Robertson. And that’s not counting tackle Le’Raven Clark, who started a full season at guard.
Davis Webb looks good enough to be Texas Tech’s starting quarterback on Saturday, at least. There’s still no indication whether he will be.
Webb was suited up and in full pads, leaving the field with his teammates, when media were let in Tuesday to do post-practice interviews. Tech spokesman Blayne Beal confirmed that Webb did practice.
Texas Tech offensive coordinator Eric Morris said he counted nine dropped passes in Thursday’s loss at Oklahoma State.
“We dropped them at key times, too — some big third downs and some of our key players dropped some footballs,” Morris said. “It’s hard to win a game when you’re throwing it and you drop nine balls.”
One of the guilty parties was Jakeem Grant, who could have threatened the school single-game record for receptions. Grant caught a career-high 12 passes for 100 yards even after missing passes he could have caught on each of the Red Raiders’ first two series.
Sophomore wide receiver Dylan Cantrell made two eye-catching plays Thursday in his first career start for Texas Tech. He had a 33-yard gain making a one-handed catch while falling backward and a 17-yard gain to convert a second-and-17.
Those were his only receptions, though.
Now he just needs to be a more frequent threat.
Each of Texas Tech’s last two opponents has found an area to exploit in the defense and kept hammering away at it.
Arkansas kept running the football to beat the Red Raiders. Oklahoma State kept throwing it deep. The Cowboys hit six pass plays of 30-plus yards, and two more longer than 20, in Thursday’s 45-35 victory.
Most were on deep throws as opposed to short passes that receivers turned into big gains.
Last week, Texas Tech offensive coordinator Eric Morris bemoaned a lack of blocking from his outside receivers. They were much better at that Saturday at UTEP, he said.
The down side is the Red Raiders got zero catches from split ends D.J. Polite-Bray and Devin Lauderdale.
“They (the Miners) played press man a large majority of the game,” Morris said. “We’ve got to win on some of those deep balls.
The key player in Texas Tech’s game-ending stand Saturday to hold off UTEP had to be defensive end Branden Jackson. A long kickoff return with a facemask penalty thrown in gave the Miners possession at the Tech 33-yard line with 2:23 left, and Jackson showed up on three of the next four plays as the Red Raiders held on to win 30-26.
With Texas Tech’s noseguard 1-2 of Jackson Richards (ankle) and Rika Levi (knee) both missing Saturday’s game, defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt allocated their snaps to junior-college transfers Keland McElarth and Marcus Smith and sophomore Anthony Smith.
The results were mixed: UTEP rushed for 277 yards, but McElrath showed some playmaking and agility while getting credit for eight tackles and a quarterback pressure.
More than just the opponents have given Texas Tech trouble in the first two games of the season. The Red Raiders have also had issues with their own sideline organization.
In a 42-35 win against Central Arkansas, Tech twice had to spend timeouts on defense to get the right personnel in the game. Then in Saturday’s 30-26 victory at Texas-El Paso the Red Raiders were penalized on back-to-back plays: once for having two players in the game with the same number and then for sideline interference.