HOUSTON — Keenon Ward made a new friend Sunday.
And he carried little 2-year-old, Sissy, everywhere he went as the two toured the DePelchin Children’s Center, which serves as the largest and most comprehensive provider of children’s social and mental health services in the Houston area.
The Texas Tech safety even let her paint on his face.
Patrick Mahomes II said he’s so used to playing with the left knee brace he’s worn for the past eight games that he doesn’t notice it. He’s not even sure if he could have done better without it. He ran 484 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season and leads the FBS in total offense at 397.3 yards per game.
HOUSTON -- Texas Tech’s situation seems to be a perfect storm of how not to prepare for LSU star Leonard Fournette in Tuesday's Texas Bowl. Fournette’s all-America credentials versus Tech’s 125th ranked rushing defense is mismatch enough on paper, but the Red Raiders also are working with a piecemeal young defensive staff after Kliff Kingsbury fired three assistants last month.
Davis Webb’s future is expected to be determined shortly after the Texas Bowl. The Toledo Blade reported this month that the Tech quarterback will follow new head coach Mike Jinks from Tech to Bowling Green, though Tech’s made no acknowledgment along those lines.
Webb was the Holiday Bowl offensive MVP two years ago and the starter the first eight games last season, but Patrick Mahomes II has held the job the last 16 games.
HOUSTON -- Texas Tech’s last practice Sunday for the Texas Bowl took place at Houston Methodist Training Center, the Houston Texans’ indoor facility right next to NRG Stadium.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said, with rain possible, he didn’t want to take chances.
“It’s our perfect-play Thursday (equivalent),” he said, “and we wanted to make sure it was crisp and clean.”
HOUSTON — Kliff Kingsbury could only give a sideways smirk and a sarcastic remark.
“Nah, we are going to keep it real basic with only a month to prepare,” the Texas Tech coach dead-panned when asked if he had any trick plays planned for when his Red Raiders face LSU in the Texas Bowl on Tuesday. “We will just run our base offense and try to make a couple of first downs.
“You’ll just have to tune in to see.”
RICHMOND — Jared Kaster took the championship belt and passed it over to the Texas Tech “sideline.”
There was one more event to go — bale stacking, but the center was confident the Red Raiders had the Rodeo Bowl title in the bag.
What he didn’t see coming was the final two bales falling apart, letting LSU come away with the Rodeo Bowl championship on Saturday at the George Ranch Historical Center.
Tevin Madison grew up an Auburn Tigers fan, meaning LSU was his favorite team’s rival.
Not that Madison couldn’t appreciate guys on the other side who played his position at a high level — LSU cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne all being prime examples.
“Oh, I loved them, man,” said Madison, a Texas Tech cornerback who grew up in Alabama. “I wanted to be like Tyrann, to play everything. I tried to model my game like him in high school, so it’s exciting to be able to play LSU.”
Texas Tech tackle Emeka Okafor spent his first four years of college at the University of Houston, a school in a city where he still has a number of friends.
So when the Red Raiders learned they’d be spending bowl season in Houston, Okafor was in the market for whatever extra tickets he could get his hands on beyond his six complementaries.
That meant providing a service in return.
“That’s the great thing about teammates: They try to get something out of you if you want some tickets,” Okafor said in a good-natured way. “They want a favor or something out of you.”
Matt Brock and Brett Dewhurst have had their duties increase to include on-field coaching during Texas Tech’s preparation for next week’s Texas Bowl against LSU.
Brock is working with the defensive line, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Tuesday, and Dewhurst is assisting with the defensive backs. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs has said previously that graduate assistant Sam Fehoko has taken on a larger role, too.
Texas Tech punter Taylor Symmank says he’s about 85 percent healthy but hoping to be good to go when the Red Raiders face No. 22 LSU next week in the Texas Bowl.
Symmank averaged 44.7 yards per punt this season, but missed 41/2 games with what he described as strains of “a couple of different muscles in my hip flexor area.”
The missed time cost Symmank chances to showcase himself for NFL scouts, but he’s shown a strong leg in the past.
Jared Kaster couldn’t quite make sense of the recognition he received last week.
He knew it was favorable acknowledgment, though, and that provided satisfaction enough.
Washington Post and ViceSports.com writer Rivers McCown put the Texas Tech center on his 11-player “best college football offense of 2015, by the numbers” in the company of unanimous all-America linemen Spencer Drango from Baylor and Joshua Garnett from Stanford. The team was chosen based on advanced metrics, the kind of non-traditional statistics you have to search harder to find.
Texas Tech might have to score a lot to have a chance against LSU in the Texas Bowl.
That’s a reasonable expectation anyway, considering the perceived mismatch of the Tigers’ consensus all-America running back Leonard Fournette against Tech’s 125th-ranked rushing defense.
Maybe it’s set up for Patrick Mahomes II to have a good day, too, though.
LSU’s secondary, though it has two high-profile players, has been criticized this season for giving up big plays. Opponents have 17 pass plays of 30-plus yards this season, six for touchdowns.