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Arizona vs Texas Tech: First look at the Red Raiders

Non-conference Power Five action returns to Tucson

arizona-wildcats-texas-tech-red-raiders-preview-big-12-pac-12-bowman-wells Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona improved its record to 1-1 on the season with an offensively dominating performance over NAU. The Wildcats look to keep things rolling when they play host to high-scoring Texas Tech in Week 3.

Kickoff is schedule for Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 pm PT and will be televised on ESPN.

Here’s a quick look at the Red Raiders:

First look

2019 record: 2-0 (def. Montana State 45-10; def. UTEP 38-3)

Key offensive players: Alan Bowman (QB), Armand Shyne (RB), T.J. Vasher (WR), Jack Anderson (OG)

Key defensive players: Eli Howard (DE), Jordyn Brooks (LB), Adrian Frye (Safety), Zechariah McPhearson (CB)

Texas Tech’s offense appears to have picked up right where former head coach Kliff Kingsbury left it. New coach Matt Wells has this team doing everything you’d want to see through two games.

Quarterback Alan Bowman has been putting up video game numbers. Through two games, he has 696 yards and five touchdowns while completing 71.4 percent of his passes.

Receiver T.J. Vasher currently leads the team in catches, yards and TDs with 12, 150 and two, respectively. Dalton Rigdon and Xavier White have also eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards so far.

The Red Raiders have shown reasonable balance between the running and passing games. Within the running game, there has been balance between Utah transfer Armand Shyne, Ta’Zhawn Henry and SaRodorick Thompson.

Shyne and Henry both have 19 carries while Thompson has 15. Where these three begin to distinguish themselves is in the passing game. Henry has 10 receptions, Thompson has six and Shyne only has two.

The Red Raiders haven’t really been challenged thus far in the season so it’s unclear to say who is the lead back. Based on the early numbers and last season’s production, albeit with Utah, it’s probably safe to assume Shyne holds that title. However, his utilization in the passing game (or lack thereof) may suggest otherwise.

Defensively they’ve been pretty impressive as well but Arizona will be by far their biggest test of the early season. Texas Tech is currently holding opponents to just 6.5 points per game and 210 total yards per contest. Again it’s hard to truly evaluate this performance because the first two opponents—Montana State and UTEP—have won six of their last 38 games.

A few defensive names to know for Saturday’s matchup are defensive end Eli Howard, linebacker Jordyn Brooks, safety Adrian Frye and cornerback Zechariah McPhearson.

Howard is a second year starter and provides a level of experience that the line needs. In 2018, he recorded only 3.5 sacks but also had nine quarterback hurries. He didn’t get to the quarterback as often as he wanted but he was still a disruptive force in the backfield.

Brooks and Frye both received Big-12 honorable mention in 2018. Like Howard, they also provide experience and stability within their respective position groups.

McPhearson transferred from Penn State where he played all 13 games for the Nittany Lions in 2018. He has been named a starter for the Red Raiders and is strong in man coverage. He will likely be tested early on Saturday.

Arizona’s defense has shown nothing through two games to make me think it will be able to slow down this Texas Tech offense. However, Khalil Tate has looked sharp, which suggests we’re likely being set up for a shoot out.