Texas Tech aims for better season, starts vs Sam Houston St.
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has told one of his quarterbacks he'll start Saturday when the Red Raiders play Sam Houston State.
But fans won't learn if it's sophomore Patrick Mahomes or junior Davis Webb until one of them jogs out to take the first snap against the Bearkats, a Football Championship Subdivision team that shared the Southland Conference title last season.
Kingsbury said the starter for the program's 1,000th game is the one who's best for the team now.
''We listed them as `or' because we do feel like we have two starters and two guys that can win games and two guys that deserve to be the starter,'' the third-year coach said. ''But we can only play one, so we'll play one and see how it goes.''
The Red Raiders are looking for a win to start a possible rebound from last season when they finished 4-8 and won just two Big 12 games, their fewest since the conference began in 1996.
Sam Houston State, which finished 11-5 last season and lost in the semifinal to eventually FCS winner North Dakota State - for the third time in four seasons - returns 19 starters. Bearkats coach K.C. Keeler said he, too, isn't naming who will start at quarterback - junior Jared Johnson, who was the starter all last season, or sophomore Jeremiah Briscoe, a transfer for UAB.
''This is probably about as deep a team as I've had,'' he said. ''If we play well we have a shot.''
Texas Tech is eager to show off its defense under its eighth defensive coordinator since 2007. David Gibbs led Houston's defense to back-to-back top 25 finishes nationally in turnovers. He coached nine years in the NFL before moving to Houston for two seasons.
''We'll do some good things, we'll do some knucklehead things, and we'll grow from it,'' Gibbs said of his squad's first game under his guidance.
Here are some things to watch for when Texas Tech hosts Sam Houston State:
CAN TEXAS TECH STOP THE RUSH?: Texas Tech allowed about 260 yards rushing per game last season to finish near the bottom nationally. The Bearkats will be a good first test after they led the conference in rushing last season, averaging about 250 yards per game. Sam Houston State's up-tempo offense will be a challenge for the Red Raiders. ''I just think they're a different team than they were last year on the defensive side of the ball,'' Keeler said. ''There's a new attitude.''
BIG STAGE FOR BEARKATS: Sam Houston State likely won't be wowed by the Lubbock crowd, where the capacity is about 60,000. Last year they traveled to LSU where they played in front 100,000-plus fans in a loss. Sam Houston State is 29-3 against FBS teams since 2000.
UP-TEMPO OFFENSES: Keeler says he thinks there will be as many as 250 snaps in the game, which will be played in the afternoon in hot West Texas. ''I think we'll rotate more guys in there, so regardless of who is starting everybody's going to play,'' Gibbs said. ''I think you have to early in the season, especially against these spread offenses who go so fast. But it's going to be a challenge.''
TURNOVERS AND PENALTIES: Texas Tech wants to put last season's woes with turnovers behind it. They made too many and they didn't get many back. ''I'll take as many as they'll give me,'' Gibbs said of the upcoming game. The Red Raiders also really hurt themselves with penalties, finishing last in the nation in penalty yards per game (89.2).
RUN FIRST?: Kingsbury is sticking to his plan to run the ball more. DeAndre Washington, Justin Stockton and Quinton White - gained a combined 1,630 yards last season. ''It really comes down to just what's the best way that we can be most effective and help our team win the game and that's what we'll do,'' he said.