A few weeks ago, Travis Bruffy went through a learning lesson.
Bruffy, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive lineman, faced off against a top-tier defender in Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and struggled to keep in check throughout the game on the way to a 22-point loss.
The sophomore admitted it was a difficult task, and that he’s become a better lineman because of it, but must forget about the past on focus on the present which is a Big 12 home finale against No. 6 TCU.
Texas Tech’s success will likely revolve Bruffy, and his fellow offensive linemen, slowing down the Horned Frogs pass rush in an 11 a.m. Saturday contest at Jones AT&T Stadium.
The game is slated to be televised on FOX Sports 1.
“He played a premier pass rusher in the country and when you face those guys, as young player, you’re going to take your lumps,” Kingsbury said of Bruffy’s game against then No. 10 Oklahoma and Okoronko. “But he’s worked hard to get better as a player since that time. He’ll have his hands full again this week. But, I’ve been proud of his progress and he’ll keep growing as a player.”
The Red Raiders (5-5 overall, 2-5 Big 12) are looking to become bowl eligible with a victory, and, more importantly, send off their seniors with a win on senior day. Texas Tech is set to end its season with a 7 p.m. road game against Texas on Nov. 24.
On the other side of the field, the Horned Frogs (8-2, 5-2) have a chance — if they win out — to earn a spot in the revived Big 12 title game. Even with those stakes, TCU head coach Gary Patterson said his squad is still focused on the road game in Lubbock this weekend.
“For us, its just about Texas Tech,” Patterson said when asked about the Big 12 title game Monday during the Big 12 media teleconference. “None of the rest of that makes any difference if you can’t win the next two. It’s a really tough place to play, 11 o’clock ball game. So, for us, all it can be right now is just how to we find a way to win against Texas Tech coming off an emotional ball game. For us, that’s the only thing we’ve allowed ourselves to think about.”
Texas Tech brings in the seventh-best passing offense in the country, averaging 343.6 yards per game.
But senior wide receiver Cameron Batson is aware of how talented a defense the Red Raiders will play when TCU comes to town. The Horned Frogs have held each of its 2017 opponents below their season scoring, rushing and total offense averages.
“We know they’re athletic guys, they’re fast,” he said of TCU on Sunday. “Obviously, they watch a lot of film because they’re able to read the receiver’s routes pretty well. They play well together.”
Much of that can be attributed to the play of the front-seven, including defensive linemen Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen. The duo has combined for 74 total tackles, 18 for loss, 11.5 sacks and nine quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles.
“They’ve been a dominant force, there’s no doubt,” Kingsbury said. “They play well together, they’re very gap sound. Hard to move them and then they get great pass rush whenever you try to throw it. It’s going to be a huge challenge. … There’s as good as any front we’ve faced this season.”
Even with the threat of the pass, Patterson feels the Red Raiders offensive line has improved from a season ago. That development has helped the Texas Tech run materialize in the past three contests.
Running back Tre King has stepped up, accumulating 333 of his 571 yards in the pas four contests. The junior college transfer from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, along with the emergence of Justin Stockton, has been one of the reason the Red Raiders have improved their run attack (146.3 yards per game) by 40 yards from last season.
Stockton, who was held out due to a head injury against Baylor last weekend, is ranked 28th in the country with a 6.10 yards per carry average.
“You know that they’re running the ball better because they’re running for about 130 yards a game,” Patterson said. “Got a couple of bigger backs. (Tre) King has done a nice job from what I’ve seen on film. I watched last night and, you know, I’m still watching (Monday), game plan day. … It allows them to be more physical up front and also opens up things in the pass game.”
Texas Tech’s run attack, in Patterson’ view, has also allowed the offensive line to take on a new persona from a year ago.
“It seems to me that they’ve grown up. They were very young,” he said. “It’s kind of like our group. Every game you play, you get more experience. Looking at them, I think they’re more physical than they were a year before. … They’ve gotten a lot better.”
Coutee garners award
After returning a 92 yard kickoff for a touchdown, Texas Tech’s Keke Coutee was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday.
Coutee, who injured his knee against Kansas in the second game of conference play, was reinserted as a kickoff returner and provided a much-needed jolt to the Red Raiders early on in the contest. It was his 12th of his career and the first the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State on Sept. 30.
His opening kickoff returned for 92 yards marked the first career kickoff return for a score by Coutee and the first for a Red Raiders since 2015.
More so, Coutee recorded the first opening kickoff returned for a touchdown by a Texas Tech player since Lawrence Williams went 95 yards for a score against New Mexico back in 1973.
The 5-11, 180-pound wideout is also the third player in Big 12 history to return an opening kickoff for a touchdown.
Coutee wasn’t done in the awards department Monday.
The Lufkin native was also announced as one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award — handed out to the nation’s top wide receiver.
Coutee, who is averaging 125.5 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, is the first Red Raider to be named a semifinalist since Jace Amaro advanced the first round of voting back in 2013. Former Texas Tech wideout Michael Crabtree, now with the Oakland Raiders, was the first two-time Biletnikoff winner during the 2007-2008 seasons.
This season, Coutee has caught a team-high 71 passes for 1,064 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s averaging 106.4 yards per game — ranking him fifth in the nation. The speedy special teams ace is ranked fourth in receiving yards, ninth in receiving touchdown and receptions per game.
Colorado State’s Michael Gallup, who is also a semifinalist, averages 118 yards per contest.
West Virginia’s David Sills and Oklahoma State’s James Washington are two Big 12 players also on the list.