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Turnovers are Texas Tech's Achilles Heel in NC State Loss

Turnovers have plagued the Texas Tech Red Raiders to start the season, and it finally caught up to them in their loss at NC State.

Saturday was Texas Tech's first loss under head coach Joey McGuire, and it stung. On top of the 27-14 loss to NC State, the Red Raiders were dealt a devastating blow when linebacker Bryce Ramirez suffered a gruesome leg injury.

It was a night where seemingly nothing could go right for this Tech squad, and now it has the Texas Longhorns coming to Lubbock next weekend in another tough matchup. But if they want to take down their in-state rival, the Red Raiders are going to need to cut down on turnovers.

Texas Tech has lost the turnover battle in each of its first three games - including to (FCS) Murray State. Sophomore quarterback Donovan Smith has been electrifying at times, but he's also thrown five interceptions in two games as the starter. His backup, Behren Morton, also threw an interception last night and Tech finished the game with three interceptions and one lost fumble. 

Outside of that, the Red Raiders actually looked pretty decent. They outgained NC State on offense 353 yards to 270 yards, had five more first downs (TTU 20, NC ST 15), and less penalty yardage. But factor in those four giveaways and tack on three failed fourth down conversions, and the free possessions for NC State really start to add up. 

So many times it looked like Texas Tech was driving and could score, only to be foiled by a costly turnover. The ultimate gut punch came on a fourth-down try near the red zone when Smith was picked off by the Wolfpack's Aydan White, who returned it 84-yards for a touchdown. That's Texas Tech's identity right now, pretty talented but very sloppy.

One reason they throw so many picks is that the Red Raiders throw so much, period. Smith has attempted 94 passes over the course of his two starts, while Tech has only run the ball 99 times total all season, many of which have been quarterback keepers or scrambles by Smith. In fact, he's the Red Raiders' most used rusher by attempts (34 carries). 

Such a lackluster ground game has to play a factor in the high turnover rate. If teams aren't threatened by the run, then they don't have to defend it. That makes it very difficult for any quarterback to find open holes in a defense. A lot of this starts up front with Tech's offensive line, which needs to improve quickly. Solidifying that unit will make life easier for everyone, especially Smith.

The Red Raiders will host the Longhorns next week in their biggest game of the year. A sell-out crowd is expected at AT&T Jones Stadium for that battle and McGuire will have his team ready. But if they want to get back in the win column, they'll have to win the turnover battle at all costs. 

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