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LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas Tech hasn't had much to be happy about during the final weeks of the past two seasons.
The Red Raiders are hoping to change that this year, but the prospect of repeating the past is hanging over a team on a three-game skid after starting 7-0.
Since 2011, the Red Raiders are 2-12 from game eight onward, including their current three-game skid. With No. 4 Baylor on the schedule this week and No. 23 Texas on Thanksgiving Day, reversing the trend won't be easy.
The players who've been on the team since 2011 might have a mental block, Texas Tech's defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said.
"I think some of it's been, 'Here we go again,'" said Wallerstedt, the fifth defensive coordinator at Texas Tech in five years. "The injuries, the finishes to some seasons here in the past, I think, has reared its head, and I think for 18-, 19-, 21-year-old kids, that's a sensitive deal."
The first part of Texas Tech's season was less challenging. The Red Raiders rose to No. 10 before falling 38-30 at Oklahoma. Then, at No. 15, they lost 52-34 at home to Oklahoma State. When they lost 49-26 to Kansas State at home last week they had dropped to No. 25.
There have been injuries on defense, and the Red Raiders have given up 277, 281 and 291 yards on the ground in their losses.
Things won't get easier Saturday in Dallas. The Bears are the Big 12's best rushing team, averaging 295.4 yards per game. More than half of Baylor's 60 offensive touchdowns (36) have come on the ground. Lache Seastrunk (111 yards per game) and Shock Linewood (89.3 ypg) are first and second in the conference in rushing.
Texas Tech, leading the conference in passing with 25 TDs and 408.2 yards per game, also is going up against the Big 12's leader in defending the pass. Baylor has allowed just eight touchdowns and 174 yards a game.
When they were 7-0, the Red Raiders ranked No. 16 in scoring defense (18.7 points per game), No. 24 in rushing defense (131.7 ypg) and 30th in total defense (358 ypg). After losses, Texas Tech has fallen to No. 69 in scoring defense (27.0 ppg), No. 74 in rushing defense (171.1 ypg) and No. 62 in total defense (389.1 ypg).
"We're looking at all angles," coach Kliff Kingsbury said about shoring up the rushing defense. "Personnel is one thing we've hit on, and schematically just have to get better. There is no easy answer. We've tried to rectify the last three weeks and haven't had an answer. So we'll try to figure it out this week."
Making it tougher for the Red Raiders is a question of who will start at quarterback. Two freshmen have started all the games, with Baker Mayfield starting the first five and Davis Webb the past five. Together they've combined for 16 interceptions; the team overall has 25 turnovers and is tied for fifth-worst in the nation.
Kingsbury doesn't know who will start against the Bears, who have picked off 11 passes this season.
"That's an interesting position to be in week 11 and still have that going on," he said. "We'll get them both reps and see how it goes this week and then trot one of them out there."