Opponent Preview: Texas Tech

Opponent Preview: Texas Tech

SFA Athletics

NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)- Stephen F. Austin opens up the 90th season of Lumberjack football Saturday when the Lumberjacks take the field in Lubbock against Texas Tech. It will be the third time overall meeting between the two teams as the Red Raiders won 58-3 in 2011, followed by a 61-13 victory in 2015.

Television Information
Saturday's game at Jones AT&T Stadium will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net, kicking off at 7:07 p.m. Ron Thulin will handle the play-by-play duties with Gary Reasons handling the color commentary and Abby Hornacek on the sidelines. For cable viewers, the game can be seen on FOX Sports Southwest Plus, which is Suddenlink channel 39 (239 HD) in Nacogdoches and Lufkin. For DirecTV viewers, the game can be found on channel 676-1, channels 448 (SD) and 9518 (HD) on Dish and channels 754 (SD) and 1754 (HD) on AT&T U-Verse. The game will also be streamed online at FOX Sports Go as viewers will just need their user ID and password to log in and watch.

Five Storylines
• SFA's game at Texas Tech Saturday will be the Lumberjacks' 10th all-time against a current Big 12 member. In addition to its two games against the Red Raiders, the Lumberjacks have also played Baylor four times, TCU twice and Kansas State once. SFA is looking for its first-ever win against a Big 12 foe.

• Head coach Clint Conque and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton will be reunited on the sidelines for the first time since the 1999 season. The two first coached together 20 years ago when Conque served as Crowton's offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech in Crowton's first stint as a head coach.

• The last time SFA and Texas Tech squared off was in 2013 as there are eight current Lumberjacks who played in that last game. RB Joshawa West, S Patrick Martin, WR Justice Liggins, QB Hunter Taylor, FB Jabralon Allen, OL Anthony Pullins and Travis Wiggins and DEKedrick Harrison all saw playing time against the Red Raiders with West slated to be the only Lumberjack to start in both of those games.

• Saturday's game will be quite the collegiate welcome for a number of Lumberjacks. Of the 70 players traveling to Lubbock this weekend, 34 of them will be suiting up for SFA for the first time, including true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and transfers.

• The quarterback battle Saturday will be a reunion of sorts for starters Zach Conque (SFA) and Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech). The two were both among an elite group of collegiate quarterbacks invited to participate in the prestigious Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, Louisiana, this past summer, getting a chance to be mentored by members of the Manning Family.

Scouting the Red Raiders
2015 Record: 7-6 overall, 4-5 Big 12 (T-5th). Lost to LSU 56-27 in the 2015 Advocare V100 Texas Bowl
Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech, 2001). Fourth season at Texas Tech and overall (19-19, .500)
Key Offensive Players (2015 Statistics):
• #5 Patrick Mahomes (Jr., QB): 364-of-573 (63.5%) for 4,653 yards, 36 TDs, 15 INTs; 131 rushes for 456 yards (3.5 avg.), 10 TDs
• #4 Justin Stockton (Jr., RB): 61 rushes for 367 yards (6.0 avg.), 5 TDs; 22 catches for 341 yards (15.5 avg.), 6 TDs
• #6 Devin Lauderdale (Sr., WR): 43 catches for 639 yards (14.9 avg.), 4 TDs
• #12 Ian Sadler (Jr., WR): 42 catches for 596 yards (14.2 avg.), 3 TDs
• #2 Reginald Davis III (Sr., WR): 38 catches for 536 yards (14.1 avg.), 8 TDs
Key Defensive Players (2015 Statistics):
• #7 Jah'shawn Johnson (So., DB): 85 tackles (45 solo), 4.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 3 PBUs, 2 FF, 4 FR
• #2 Tevin Madison (Jr., DB): 67 tackles (46 solo), 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 INTS, 11 PBUs, 2 FF
• #15 Keenon Ward (Sr., DB): 60 tackles (40 solo), 1.5 TFL, 4 PBUs
• #34 D'Vonta Hinton (So., LB): 53 tackles (32 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 QBH, 1 FF
• #5 Gary Moore (Jr., DL): 13 tackles (9 solo), 4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 QBH
Synopsis: Texas Tech, coming off a 7-6 season in 2015, was one of the most potent offensive teams in the country, averaging 388.2 passing yards and 45.1 points per game. QB Patrick Mahomes returns after leading the Big 12 in passing yards (4,653) and three of his top receivers are also back as WRs Devin Lauderdale, Ian Sadler and Reginald Davis III combined for 1,771 yards and 15 touchdowns for Tech in 2015. Defensively, the Red Raiders were suspect at times, giving up 547.7 yards and 43.6 points per game, including 280.5 rushing yards per game. Texas Tech lost its two leading tacklers and top tackles for loss defender, but return DB Jah'Shawn Johnson, who finished with 85 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions. He is joined in the defensive backfield by Tevin Madison and Keenon Ward who combined for 127 tackles and a pair of picks, while LB D'Vonta Hinton is Tech's returning leader in tackles for loss, registering 5.5 with a pair of sacks in 2015.


On thoughts regarding Texas Tech:
" They have a prolific offense. Anytime Texas Tech is mentioned in a sentence, you think about the prolific offenses that they have had for two decades now. The history of their quarterback play, their receiver play, and certainly they've had some big time defense players. It's a power five Big 12 school. It will be an enormous challenge for our football team, but a great opportunity to compete on the big stage. It will be a lot of exposure for our players, our university and our program and an opportunity to see if we can start reaching our potential as a football team."

On how the big stadium will affect the younger athletes:
"First of all, 35 out of the 72 travelling are first-time travelers with the team. Eight or ten true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and a handful of transfers. You hope that they embrace that, and we certainly don't want them to go in there and be blinded. We'll walk through the stadium Friday, and we have literature out there and coaches to educate them. My approach to this type of game is the process. It's about travelling the right way, the details, mastering the aspects of this game that takes no special talent, our sideline organization and all the little things. Certainly the quality of play is very important. That we play clean, commit few fouls, don't turn the ball over, limit big plays even though they are very gifted at doing that, and move the ball. Get first downs, score points and play solid in the kicking game. And there are question marks at all three of those areas. But it's about this team taking a step to go see where we are and what needs to be adjusted. We can take a look at our personnel for the first time when the bullets are flying for a national TV audience. We're excited about the challenge even though we don't have quite the full roster to work with. It does give some of the young men a chance to step up and see where they are in their progress."

On how the defensive secondary will handle the pressure:
"They haven't met a pass play that they don't like in Lubbock, Texas, but the catalyst is Pat Mahomes, a two-sport athlete that has concentrated solely on football. He's mentioned in the top three or four Heisman contenders and rightly so. He's a very gifted young man from right here in East Texas at Whitehouse High School. They lost maybe their top three receivers, but the next that return all have as many catches as our leading receivers from last year. They're not void on experience, and their scramble rule is: everybody go deep. I don't ever see anybody going back to the quarterback; just going deep. There will be immense pressure on our secondary, but it all starts up front. If we can get the young man uncomfortable, off his spot and to a second read, those are the type of things you want as a coach. That being said, some of their more exotic plays have come off of scrambles. He is athletic and able to escape the pocket to give their young men a chance to make a play. But they have question marks, too. They're breaking in some offensive lineman and receivers with the exception of maybe one. It all starts with their catalyst, Mahomes, who will put a lot of pressure on our defense. The philosophy is: get Texas Tech on the ground, be able to play the next snap, and the next play not be extra point block. Doing those things whether we're bringing pressure or sitting back to keep things in front of us. They're going to catch some balls and make some runs, but let's make some tackles, get them on the ground, play the next snap, and make them have to earn it."

On how the senior class can instill a sense of confidence:
"We'll need them, especially the ones who have played there before. There are tortilla shells being thrown at you, and the fans are right up on top of you. I've been to Lubbock and to their stadium, but I've never competed against them at that arena. We're going to rely on our leadership. We're putting older guys with younger guys at the hotel and seating them accordingly in the plane. But I'm excited too because we've got some really talented young men. Alize Ward, redshirt freshman, who has obviously flashed here since the spring and throughout camp. Tamrick Pace, true freshman, at wide receiver. And we've got some young backups and some redshirt freshman sprinkled throughout the lineup. A couple of junior college corners we think are good players will be extremely tested. We have to realize that it's about us: our maturity and our senior leadership. Their football team beat the University of Arkansas last year and the University of Texas and lost pretty close in a bowl game to LSU. They're used to winning in Lubbock and they've had first round draft picks. They're excited and we're excited. It's an opportunity to grow as a football team and work through our processes. Certainly we want to stay healthy, as I'm sure they do, too. I really think that this can be a special group as we move through our schedule."

On what the focus will be this weekend:
"Certainly we want to be competitive and put ourselves in a chance to win the ballgame. We wouldn't be making the trip if we didn't think we could be competitive and make some noise. But ultimately, this game for us is more about our team than it is Texas Tech. We're looking to see how far we've come from spring practices through summer workouts and fall camp and see if what we've been trying to teach has taken root. With as many new players as we'll have with us, we want to make sure they understand how we do things on the road – how we travel, the attitude we want to portray, and how we represent SFA. One of the things I harp on them about often is excelling in the things that take no talent – lining up in the right position, being responsible and on time, being present in the moment. We obviously want to be competitive this weekend and have a chance to win the ballgame, but I'm also looking at more of the long term and making sure we're setting our program up for great things down the road."