Texas hosts Texas Tech, fighting for bowl as injuries mount
Nov. 25, 2015
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Very little has gone right for the Texas Longhorns this season, so why not a few more complications to make a late-season bowl push that much harder?
Already struggling to keep up with the weekly scoring frenzy in the Big 12, Texas (4-6, 3-4 Big 12) heads into Thursday night's matchup against Texas Tech (6-5, 3-5) with the Longhorns expecting to be without two of their best rushers and a starting offensive lineman.
D'Onta Foreman, who has provided the only real punch in the Texas offense in recent weeks, had pinkie surgery after the loss to West Virginia. Senior tailback Johnathan Gray has had nagging turf toe problems that could sideline him for his final home game.
And coach Charlie Strong said freshman guard Patrick Vahe, a key member of an improving offensive line, also will likely miss the game with a knee injury.
With Texas needing to win its final two games to become bowl eligible, Strong didn't need more bad news in an already disappointing season.
"The (Foreman) injury is going to hurt us," Strong said. "We've got other guys who have got to step in and play."
The Longhorns lost Foreman just in time to play one of the worst rush defenses in the country, too. Texas Tech surrenders 260 rushing yards per game — only five teams give up more in the Bowl Subdivision —and Texas runs for 214 per game, 24th in the country.
If Texas can't control the clock with a grinding ground game, Texas Tech's high-powered offense could run wild behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Red Raiders' 46-point average ranks second nationally, and Mahomes is only nine passing yards shy of 4,000 this season.
The Red Raiders have already qualified for a bowl. A win Thursday night would prevent a second-consecutive losing season for third-year coach Kliff Kingsbury. A Texas loss would guarantee a second-consecutive losing season for Strong. That hasn't happened at Texas since 1988-89.
Texas Tech hasn't won in Austin since 1997. A year ago in Lubbock, the Longhorns knocked Mahomes out of the game in the first half.
"We want to keep Pat as clean as possible," Red Raiders center Jaren Kaster said. "We're really kind of taking what happened last year (personal), like we can't let this happen again."
A few things to watch when Texas plays Texas Tech:
TEXAS RUNNING BACKS
With all the injuries, the ball probably goes to freshmen Chris Warren and Kirk Johnson, who have combined for 23 carries for 100 yards and no touchdowns. Both were highly touted recruits who have been waiting their turn.
He got his first career start against the Longhorns last year and it didn't last long as a crushing hit in the second quarter sidelined him for the rest of the game. Mahomes has been slicing up defenses this season with 3,911 yards passing and 31 touchdowns. He'll be on the lookout for Texas' two hardest tacklers, linebackers Peter Jinkens and Malik Jefferson
Mahomes could have his way with a talented but inexperienced Texas secondary. The Longhorns have four freshmen in their two-deep lineup at cornerback and safety. Add the linebackers and that's eight freshmen trying to cover the Red Raiders.
RED RAIDERS RUNNING
Lost among Mahomes' staggering numbers is Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington's 1,282 yards rushing. Get him loose in space and big things happen. Washington has 12 rushing touchdowns and a team-high seven receiving TDs.