Arlington, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - With absolutely no room for error with regard to defending their Big 12 Conference championship, the fifth-ranked Baylor Bears face the Texas Tech Red Raiders at AT&T Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Baylor comes into the contest sporting a 9-1 record, 6-1 in conference, which has it tied with both TCU and Kansas State atop the Big 12 standings. All three teams have two games to play, so anything can happen. The Bears and Wildcats face each other next week in Waco, where coach Art Briles' club has won 15 straight games (tied for the longest active home winning streak in the country). Baylor hasn't lost in Waco since Oct. 13, 2012, versus TCU, and going back even further, the Bears have won 28 of their last 31 home games.
Getting back to this game, Baylor is seeking its fourth straight win since suffering its lone setback of the season at West Virginia on Oct. 18. The Bears, who beat visiting Oklahoma State last week, 49-28, have won 19 straight games played in the state of Texas, and are 30-3 in the Lone Star State over the last three-plus years.
Despite putting an end to a three-game losing streak last week at Iowa State (34-31), Texas Tech hasn't had the kind of season its fans, or anyone associated with the program, had envisioned at the outset. Second-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury's squad enters this fray three games under .500 overall (4-7), and it has won only two of its eight conference bouts. With no chance of playing in a bowl game, this is the Red Raiders' final game of the season.
Texas Tech narrowly leads the all-time series with Baylor, 36-35-1, but the Bears have won the last three meetings. Prior to that, the Red Raiders had won 15 in a row.
In last week's win over Oklahoma State, Baylor QB Bryce Petty had his streak of consecutive passes without an interception snapped at 120. He had multiple picks in a game for the first time in his career, as he finished with 262 yards and two TDs. Devin Chafin had a career-high three rushing scores, and finished with 106 yards, while Shock Linwood paced the team once again with his 113 yards and a score, as the Bears utilized the run as much as possible in an effort to combat the adverse weather conditions (rain). Petty even got in on the act, scoring on one of his five carries.
In all, the nation's top offense (584.5 ypg) amassed 579 yards against the Cowboys. Conversely, the BU defense surrendered 281 yards and two TDs through the air, but the unit was credited with three sacks, two of which were attributed to Shawn Oakman, and forced a pair of turnovers, both interceptions. Orion Stewart had one of the picks, and he was tied for the team lead with seven tackles. Bryce Hager and Taylor Young had seven as well.
"It all matters, but we just have to play good football," said coach Briles when asked about whether there is any scoreboard watching going on with so much riding on the last few weeks of the season.
"In the last five weeks, we play basically two games so that's why I wanted to get this game in. It was critical that our guys got to get on the field and play. We fought through some tough things early this year with our schedule and now we're set to where we can finish strongly."
Petty has connected on 58.3 percent of his passes for just shy of 2,700 yards, 23 TDs and only five INTs. Spreading the ball around has been his m.o., as 15 players have caught at least ball, including three with at least 40 grabs. That trio (Corey Coleman, KD Cannon and Antwan Goodley) have combined for 2,228 yards and 19 TDs. Jay Lee has also been highly productive, as his 31 catches have resulted in 513 yards and six scores. Linwood is close to going over 1,000 yards for the season, as he has 977 yards and 13 TDs on 198 carries.
The Bears aren't only an offensive machine, as the defense has been on point for most of the season, ranking first in the Big 12 in rushing defense (108.6 ypg) and total defense (329.7 ypg), while sitting second against the pass (221.1 ypg) and in scoring defense (21.7 ppg). Hager leads the team and ranks eighth in the conference in tackles with 80, while Stewart has tallied 62 to go along with four INTs.
In last week's win over Iowa State, DeAndre Washington ran for a career-high 186 yards and a TD, and in the process became the first Texas Tech running back since Ricky Williams in 1998 to gain 1,000 yards. Washington has 1,038 yards. It was also the most yards for a Red Raider since Shaud Williams had 230 yards against Colorado back in 1999. In addition, young signal caller Patrick Mahomes had a stellar outing in going 23-of-35 for 328 yards, four TDs and one INT. One of his connections went to Devin Lauderdale (two rec., 95 yards, two TDs) for an 82-yard TD reception, which was the longest for Texas Tech since 2008.
The Red Raiders rolled up a massive 600 yards of total offense, giving them 39 straight games with at least 325 yards -- the longest active streak in the nation. The Cyclones weren't that far off the pace, tallying 569 yards (265 rushing, 304 passing), doing so thanks to a seven-and-a-minute edge in time of possession. ISU was allowed entry to the red zone five times, and it came away with points each time, including four TDs. Tevin Madison logged a game-high 11 tackles, and the Red Raiders recorded three sacks as part of their eight TFL on the day.
Kingsbury praised his rookie quarterback for staying focused and leading the team to victory.
"He's got a lot of competitive spirit. He always thinks he's going to win and he thinks he's the best player every time he goes out there." He continued, "He extended a bunch of plays and I'm very proud of how he carried himself."
Texas Tech is averaging 29.1 ppg behind 485.2 ypg of total offense, while at the same time yielding 40.6 ppg with foes generating 510.4 ypg, so it's obvious that the defense is the primary reason the team will not be participating in a bowl game this season. Pete Robertson has been the one shining star on the defensive side of the ball, as he has 10 sacks as part of 76 total tackles, both of which lead the team.
Despite missing time with a leg injury, Davis Webb has been effective under center for Tech this season, hitting the mark on 61.2 percent of his passes for more than 2,500 yards, 24 TDs and 13 INTs. Mahomes is a 58.1 percent passer who has 949 yards, 10 TDs and three picks. Washington paces the rushing attack with his impressive rushing total, but has only two TDs -- the team totaling only eight scores on the ground all season. Jakeem Grant and Brad Marquez sit atop the team's receiving list with a combined 121 catches, 1,474 yards and 13 TDs.