The Kansas Jayhawks start the second half of the season today down in Lubbock, Texas, as they take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders. To help get ready for the game, I reached out to Jay Burrous over at Viva The Matadors, the SB Nation site that covers the Red Raiders. He answered a few questions for us.
RCT: There was a lot of chatter about Kliff Kingsbury being on the hot seat coming into this season, especially with how poorly the defense has played in recent years. Has the good start to the season quieted those rumblings, or is there still some concern about his ability to get the most out of this team?
VTM: I think we’re all still hesitant to fully believe in Kingsbury, but getting to seven or eight wins should be enough for this fanbase to quiet down. My only real concern is that Iowa State suddenly looks great, K-State is improving, and Baylor isn’t a gimme win. But, there’s no doubt that Tech fans want Kingsbury to succeed, and the evidence thus far has been encouraging.
RCT: Texas Tech is down to their third-string QB. How much does that change/limit what the offense can do moving forward?
VTM: Jett Duffey is the greatest, most exciting, but also terrible quarterback you’ve ever witnessed. He’ll miss a wide-open pass, but follow that up with a 30-yard scramble. Or, throw into quadruple coverage, but somehow manage to then fit a ball into the tightest of windows. Our offense is certainly hampered with him behind center, and it’s very frustrating most of the time.
Kingsbury relies a lot on this signal caller to make reads, adjust the play, and simply make good decisions. Duffey is more of a one-read and run guy - or, he’d rather go for the home-run when he’s got an easy single/double out there. But, there’s no doubt about it, he’s an elite talent in terms of physical ability. I’d expect him to run for over 100 yards if he starts, and you’ll likely see him go for 250-300 yards passing.
RCT: The defense seems to be playing better in recent weeks, but the overall stats for this team are pretty bad still. Is there some argument to be made that they have just been fortunate with the teams they’ve faced, or is there actually some marked improvement?
VTM: This defense struggles against good-to-elite quarterbacks, but thrives against below average signal callers. Will Grier was able to destroy us, D’Eriq King had a great game, and Jordan Ta’amu played pretty well. Meanwhile, “Corn-Dog” at Oklahoma State struggled, Shawn Robinson was awful, and the Lamar guy....well, he’s from Lamar. Overall though, this group is still eons further along than what they were even two or three years ago. David Gibbs has been nothing short of a miracle worker for this group.
RCT: What is going to be the key matchup for this game? What does Kansas have to do in order to keep the game close?
VTM: Obvious answer - but, turnovers will be huge, and Duffey has a tendency to pass them out. I think Pooka Williams needs to go for at least 180 yards on the ground, and your quarterbacks need to execute when they get opportunities. Should you guys rack up 400 yards of offense, win the turnover battle substantially, and limit us in the red-zone it’ll be a close game for sure. And, frankly, the scenario I just described has essentially been your recipe to wins this year.
RCT: Prediction Time! Does Texas Tech run away with this one, or is the Jayhawk defense good enough to disrupt the Red Raider offense enough to keep them within reach?
VTM: The fact we can lean on our running game gives me confidence this week. I think we’ll use all four of our running backs, and I expect us to do 300+ on the ground should Duffey start. Meanwhile, if Alan Bowman gets the nod I think he’ll rival his performance against Lamar/Houston through the air. I know this is weird to say, but the 2:30pm kick is also huge. Should this have been an 11am-er I’d be way more worried, but I think the crowd will turnout big this week and we roll by 25-30 points.
RCT: BONUS - It seems pretty certain that Kansas is going to be looking for a new coach and staff next season. Name one guy on the staff at Texas Tech who you think would excel on the new staff, either in their current role or in a new spot.
VTM: The easy answer would be David Gibbs, but I honestly believe the answer is Emmett Jones. Jones came to Lubbock from South Oak Cliff (a big-time school in Dallas), and everyone loves him. He’s been our ace recruiter, and I think he has the intangibles to be a successful head coach one day. His work with the wide receiver group this year has also been the most pleasant surprise of the season. Guys like Antoine Wesley and Ja’Deion High were fringe scholarship players, and now are both on pace for 1,000 yard seasons.
But, I don’t see you guys going after Jones now, but who knows what’ll happen in 5-6 years?
A big thanks to Jay for helping us out. Don’t forget to check out the questions I answered for him over at Viva The Matadors.