How Will BYU Respond Against Texas Tech?

Oct 20, 2023, 12:26 PM | Updated: 1:58 pm

PROVO, Utah – Saturday is a critical game for BYU football against Texas Tech.

Beyond the fact that it’s a Big 12 game, Saturday’s clash between two programs that haven’t faced off against each other in 83 years is a “back against the wall” moment for both.

BYU struggled in all phases against TCU. It was a no-show performance that resulted in the Horned Frogs rolling to a 44-11 win over BYU.

The loss took away any of the good fortunes BYU built in September, leaving everyone wondering when BYU football will win again.

Texas Tech, once looked at as a preseason Big 12 contender, is struggling through a difficult schedule.

Pass-heavy attack for BYU football against Texas Tech?

They’ve got a chance against Texas Tech. But changes need to happen–especially on the offense.

BYU football offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick as he approached the media on Wednesday after practice, “This is really fun [talking to the media] when you suck on offense.”

He added regarding potential changes, “We’re looking at every option we have. Whether it’s players, every player we have in the program, every scheme you can think of that might have a chance. At this point in the season, it’s hard to put in completely new schemes. Those things usually don’t turn out well if you practice them for two or three days. We are constantly evaluating everything we do.”

BYU’s passing attack needs to find success against one of the biggest secondaries you’ll find in college football. Texas Tech boasts DBs that all stand at 6-foot-2 or taller. The passing attack struggled against TCU, but it’s had much more success than the ground attack.

BYU’s ground game is 129th nationally at 67.5 yards per game. There could be a jolt of energy given to that group if Aidan Robbins rejoins, but he hasn’t played since early September.

Texas Tech struggles to stop the run as they are 73rd nationally. The Red Raiders let K-State freshman QB Avery Johnson run wild for a five-touchdown performance last week.

But if I’m Roderick, go all-in on the passing game. The run-blocking schemes that BYU’s offense has incorporated have struggled all year. It’s hard to imagine much change. So that means lean in on Slovis’ arm to carry.

BYU/Texas Tech have rich histories passing the rock

From a nostalgia perspective, it’s a perfect game to execute that type of attack, as BYU and Texas Tech are synonymous with high-powered passing attacks in their past. LaVell Edwards was one of the innovators with old friend Spike Dykes installing an Air Raid attack that carried with Mike Leach in West Texas.

Slovis and the BYU offense need a fast start. A slow start that puts them in a hole could leave the staff asking if they need to put Jake Retzlaff in the game to provide a spark. Slovis has had a productive week of practice and is well-versed in facing adversity throughout his college career; Saturday will be a great test for him to show he’s ready to bounce back.

Third Down stop, anyone?

On defense, BYU’s stats are beginning to slip to levels they experienced last year. Particularly on third down. Last week, TCU converted more than 60% of their third down attempts. BYU now ranks 92nd nationally on third down. The good news is that if a team attempts a fourth down try on BYU, the Cougars have been stout allowing only 25% to convert. That’s good for fourth nationally.

BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill places the blame on himself for third-down struggles and wants a focus back on the basics.

“Well, obviously, I’ve got to put the players in a better position to make plays. Then we need to make plays. But it just comes back down to fundamentals and executing schemes the way we need to and me doing a better job of getting those players in better positions to make those plays. I’m always going to put that on me and my responsibility to get those guys out of those drives.”

Like TCU, Texas Tech could have a freshman quarterback starting in replace of an injured signal-caller. Red Raider QB Behren Morton is a game decision for tomorrow, so Jake Strong could get the call.

Tech’s run-and-shoot offense doesn’t change much if Strong gets the nod. But what’s different about Strong compared to Hoover is that he’s a true freshman. Hoover was a redshirt freshman with a full year to absorb playing QB at the collegiate level. Strong would only be playing in his second collegiate game ever and his first road game experience.

BYU’s pass rush has to show up to make things uneasy for Strong.

BYU football needs a pass rush

Defensive end Tyler Batty will be a key player to watch. Last week, Batty and the defensive line struggled to generate a rush as Hoover got the ball off at nearly a half-a-second clip. He didn’t blame any of the issues from last week on his cleats or field conditions.

During an ESPN All-Access mic’d up segment against TCU, Batty told teammate Isaiah Bagnah, “I thought the field was turf.” TCU’s playing surface at Amon G. Carter is grass. Based on his study of TCU’s playing surface watching film, Batty told KSL Sports he came to that conclusion about the field conditions on his own, not from coaches or staff. He added that he didn’t experience any slipping against TCU but noted that the performance was not good enough.

The Payson native, who has also been named to the AFCA Good Works Team, knows the playing surface in Provo is grass—two of Batty’s 3.5 sacks this season have come on the comfortable confines of LaVell Edwards Stadium. Generating that pass rush against Texas Tech will be critical.

If BYU doesn’t step up in this game, the remaining schedule will feel even more daunting for BYU, with two consecutive road games approaching and a clash with undefeated Oklahoma still left on the schedule.

It’s a big game that BYU has to play at their best to come away with a victory.

BYU vs. Texas Tech

Date: Saturday, October 21, 2023

Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium

Kickoff: 5 p.m. (MT)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) — Extended pregame coverage begins at Noon

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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How Will BYU Respond Against Texas Tech?