One of the reasons for Texas Tech’s 5-0 start this season has been the Red Raiders’ ability to rise up deep in their own end. Tech ranks tied for third in the nation in red-zone defense, yielding opponents two touchdowns and four field goals in 11 penetrations of the Red Raiders’ 20-yard line.
Apparently, that’s not by chance.
“One of our goals since the new coaching staff got in was, ‘sudden change — don’t let them score,’” defensive end Dartwan Bush said Tuesday. “That’s been our biggest concern other than takeaways.”
Who wins red-zone efficiency could be a key to Saturday’s game between No. 20 Tech and Iowa State at Jones AT&T Stadium. The Cyclones are tied for first in the nation in red-zone offense, having gotten points on all 13 of their penetrations.
The NCAA red-zone offense and defense rankings are based on percentage of scores to opportunities inside the 20. Touchdowns and field goals count the same for red-zone rankings purposes. Iowa State’s conversion rate is 1.000 (nine touchdowns and four field goals on 13 chances), but the Cyclones share the top spot with Connecticut, which has four TDs and five field goals in nine opportunities, and Maryland, which has nine TDs and eight field goals in 17 penetrations.
Tech’s red-zone defense rate is .545, having allowed six scores in 11 penetrations. However, only Iowa has given up fewer touchdowns in the red zone than Tech. The Hawkeyes have allowed one red-zone TD, the Red Raiders two.
Safety Tre Porter said it’s been an emphasis “every day — camp, spring training, everything.”
“It doesn’t matter how the ball gets in the red zone. Just make sure you finish hard,” Porter said. “Be stingy on the scoreboard. That’s our mentality.”
Baker Mayfield wasn’t on the field with the other Texas Tech quarterbacks when practice ended Tuesday. As the workout ended and media assembled for post-practice interviews, Michael Brewer, Davis Webb and Clayton Nicholas were in uniform with the quarterbacks group, but not Mayfield.
However, the Tech freshman was walking around after the workout, wearing a knee wrap, but moving easily enough.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t made available to the media Tuesday, and Tech has declined interview requests for Brewer this week. Kingsbury doesn’t permit freshmen, Mayfield and Webb among them, to do interviews.
Mayfield has started every game this season for 5-0 Tech, but left the Red Raiders’ 54-16 victory Saturday at Kansas with a knee injury. Kingsbury said on Monday a medical examination showed no structural damage to Mayfield’s knee, adding that he had no timetable for Mayfield’s return.
Compiled by Don Williams