IRVING -- Texas Tech starting safeties J.J. Gaines (shoulder) and Keenon Ward (head) both missed Saturday's season finale against Baylor, as did top backup Jalen Barnes (head).
Usual cornerback starter Justis Nelson, himself returning from injury, started at Ward’s free safety spot and Derrick Dixon made his second start in a row at strong safety.
Linebacker Sam Eguavoen said Nelson had a full week of practice at safety, the position at which he started his Tech career.
IRVING -- Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman rankled Texas Tech’s side late in the first half of Baylor's 48-46 victory Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Oakman and Bears end Brian Nance sandwiched Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes for a sack on a third-and-10 play. Then with Mahomes still on his back, Oakman put a knee in Mahomes’ face as players unpiled.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury pleaded his case to officials to no avail.
Texas Tech center Tony Morales is expected to make another comeback attempt, offensive line coach Lee Hays said, after missing this season with a knee injury.
“He’ll be here in the spring,” Hays said. “Looking forward to him practicing.”
Morales has been sidelined for the season each of the last four years with injuries suffered in the preseason. He will be a senior next year.
“Kid’s got heart,” Hays said.
Texas Tech interim defensive coordinator Mike Smith doesn’t know where Mike Mitchell will play next season.
He just knows the transfer from Ohio State will play — and expects him to play well.
“He’s going to be one of our best players on defense, obviously, but he’s going to be on the field,” Smith said Monday.
Smith recently started working Mitchell as a defensive end/outside linebacker. Mitchell spent the first two months practicing at inside linebacker. He might well end up there, considering Micah Awe will be the only returnee from a three-man rotation.
While Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington was rushing for a career-high 186 yards Saturday, freshman Justin Stockton had four carries for 4 yards. He kept up a pattern of either making big plays or not getting much at all.
Stockton’s broken nine runs of 15 yards-plus this season. But on 23 of his 48 carries, he’s gotten 2 or fewer yards, including 11 on which he’s been tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage.
It’s possible that no one from Texas Tech’s two-deep at safety during the first month of the season might be available for Saturday’s regular-season finale.
What a time to face the FBS’ highest-scoring offense, one that’s built on passing.
“It’s definitely a concern,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “We’ll see which one of those guys can get back and hopefully add some depth. When you go against a team with this type of firepower at (receiver) and you’re down some bodies at safety, it’s going to be a matchup problem.”
Texas Tech played most of Saturday’s game with an all-freshman secondary after free safety Keenon Ward was knocked out of the game with a head injury while making a tackle on the third play.
The Red Raiders already were without starting safety J.J. Gaines (shoulder) and cornerback Justis Nelson (head injury), who got hurt the week before. Ward’s injury left them with Tevin Madison and Nigel Bethel at cornerback and Jalen Barnes and Derrick Dixon at safety – all except Barnes being a true freshman.
Texas Tech recruited Jah’Shawn Johnson to play safety. And he’s going to, after the detour to cornerback that started his college career.
The freshman from Ennis has been switched to safety and joined that position group for meetings while he recovers from shoulder surgery, safeties coach Trey Haverty said Monday.
Johnson played the first four games at cornerback before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He made five tackles and an interception.
Twice on its first offensive series Saturday, Texas Tech was flagged for illegal procedure in third-and-short situations. Both times, the Red Raiders hadTylerScalzi lined up at tight end and at least once the Red Raiders gestured toward the Sooners.
“That was what I was told, was they were simulating a snap count,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “But that goes on, and you just have to be focused and sit in there. That’s inexcusable, whether they’re doing it or not.”
Texas Tech lost two starting defensive backs in its 42-30 loss Saturday with cornerback Justis Nelson suffering a head injury and not playing after the first series and strong safety J.J. Gaines leaving with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Nelson was held out for precautionary reasons. Nelson broke up a pass during his one series, his 14th of the season. He came into the game tied for second in the FBS in that category.