By now, the recent struggles of the Texas Tech football program have been well-chronicled. Thus, there’s no reason to rehash the futility we’ve seen from the Red Raiders in the past decade.
What’s more, many believe that 2021 could be a turnaround season for Matt Wells’ program. That’s because it is widely thought that this year’s roster is the deepest and most talented Texas Tech roster since at least 2013 and perhaps since 2009, the last time the Red Raiders had a winning Big 12 record.
However, for this coming season to finally be the one that sees Tech end its decade-long slide into the abyss, the Red Raiders are going to have to improve in some key areas of the game. So let’s take a look at where the 2021 team must be better than the 2020 team was.
There was nothing special about the Red Raiders’ special teams last season. In fact, that aspect of the game cost the Red Raiders potential victories over Texas and TCU. Remember, the failed “sky kickoff” against UT set the stage for the Longhorns’ epic comeback in Lubbock? How about the failure to recover an onside later in that game. Then there was a missed field goal on second down late in the fourth quarter of the TCU game that prevented the Red Raiders from having any chance of a comeback win.
But also in that game in Fort Worth, Tech had two punts blocked and allowed the Frogs to start five drives inside the Tech 40 all because of special teams failings. Then there was the onside kick attempt that Tech allowed OK State to return for a game-changing touchdown in Stillwater.
But those three games were not isolated incidents of special teams incompetence from Texas Tech. Rather, all season Tech was atrocious in the kicking game.
For instance, the Red Raiders had four punts blocked on the season. That was the most in the Big 12 and fourth-most in the NCAA.
Additionally, the Red Raider kickers made just 56.2% of their field-goal attempts. That ranked 114th in the nation.
Wells’ team was also No. 112 in the nation in punt return defense. Allowing teams an average of 13.5 yards per punt return, Tech was second-to-last in the Big 12.
Another area where Tech was 112th in the nation was kickoff returns. Averaging just 17.1 yards per return, the Red Raiders rarely set themselves up with excellent field position after a kickoff.
The reality is that Tech doesn’t have the type of talent to overwhelm opponents the way teams like Alabama and Clemson can. Thus, the kicking game is even more critical for the Red Raiders as it is often where close games are decided.
In 2020, too often the failures of the kicking game cost Wells’ team dearly. That has to change in 2021 for the Red Raiders to have a rebound season.