GAME NOTES: Kliff Kingsbury will make his debut on the sidelines as his Texas
Tech Red Raiders visit Lone Star State rival SMU Mustangs at Gerald J. Ford
Stadium to begin the 2013 season.
A former record-setting quarterback at TTU from 1998-2002, Kingsbury is making
his head coaching debut this season after serving as co-offensive coordinator
and quarterbacks coach at both Houston and Texas A&M the last four years. He
has mentored former UH standout Case Keenum, and was instrumental in helping
A&M's Johnny Manziel win the 2012 Heisman Trophy. He replaced Tommy
Tuberville, who left for Cincinnati prior to the team's 34-31 Meineke Car Care
Bowl win over Minnesota.
Kingsbury will go against a very experienced counterpart in June Jones, who
took the Mustangs to a bowl game for the fourth straight season in 2012. SMU
won two of its final three games, including an upset of Tulsa, to become bowl
eligible and then coasted to a 43-10 win over Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.
Jones is 31-34 in five seasons at SMU, but has a 107-75 career record overall,
which includes his nine-year stint at Hawaii.
TTU has won the last 14 meetings between these schools with the most recent
coming in 2008 when the Red Raiders completed a 43-7 rout of the Mustangs. SMU
is 16-32 in its history versus TTU.
Kingsbury has a sophomore quarterback with plenty of potential to be the next
great passer at TTU in Michael Brewer. He has some big shoes to fill as
replacing Seth Dodge's 4,205 yards and 39 touchdowns will be no easy task. The
Red Raiders had the second best passing offense in the nation in 2012 with
355.9 yards per game and finished 13th in total offense (495.9 ypg). Brewer
went 34-of-48 for 375 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in
Eric Ward is set to assume the role of go-to-guy after logging 82 grabs for a
team-high 1,053 yards and 12 TDs. Last season, Ward and Darrin Moore formed a
dynamic receiving duo. Moore's graduation opens up the door for Jakeem Grant
to become a much bigger contributor.
The TTU running game has played second fiddle to the high-flying aerial attack
in recent years, and that will likely continue with a former gun slinger
taking over control of the program. Still, the Red Raiders are fortunate to
have junior Kenny Williams back after he rushed for a team-best 824 yards and
crossed the goal line five times in 2012.
The Red Raiders' strength on defense last season was against the pass, the
team permitting an average of just 192 ypg to rank first in the Big 12 and
15th nationally. The effort against the run was not as great as opponents
racked up 175.3 yards per game on the ground.
TTU has eight starters back, but the school introduced Matt Wallerstedt as its
fifth defensive coordinator in as many years over the offseason. The new
leader of the defense will without a doubt utilize senior end Kerry Hyder, who
registered 56 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 14 stops behind the line of scrimmage
and four pass breakups in 2012.
Senior linebacker Will Smith has a strong chance of leading the squad in
tackles this season under a Wallerstedt, who was a four-year letterman and
All- American honorable mention playing the same position at Kansas State in
TTU's rookie coaching staff does not have an easy matchup to begin its tenure.
SMU is looking to continue its 2012 success it found in the C-USA as it
migrates to the American Athletic Conference. Former Texas Longhorns
quarterback Garrett Gilbert had an up-and-down first year as a starter at SMU.
He completed just 53 percent of his pass attempts last season, while having
the same amount of passing touchdowns as interceptions (15). Gilbert, who also
rushed for eight scores, will need to make strides as the Mustangs play their
first season of the post Zach Line era.
Line was one of the top rushers in the C-USA in his final three years. Another
former Longhorn, Traylon Shead, is expected to become the team's new
workhorse. The former four-star recruit didn't receive a single carry in two
year's at Texas. The 6-2, 230-pound tailback at one time held the Texas high
school state record for touchdowns.
In the receiving corps, Jeremy Johnson led SMU with 787 yards and five
touchdowns last season, ranking second on the team with 64 receptions. He will
be back, as will speedster Der'Rikk Thompson, who pulled in 41 balls for 535
yards a year ago.
SMU was solid against the run last year, ranking at the top of C-USA and 15th
nationally in rush defense (117.9 ypg). The Mustangs were atrocious against
passing attacks though, allowing 278.2 yards per contest. The key members of
the pass rush all need to be replaced as all three players with multiple sacks
in 2012 graduated.
Randall Joyner is the team's leading returning tackler (93) and can also be a
factor in coverage as he collected three interceptions. Stephon Sanders had 48
tackles, 5.5 of which went for a loss.
The Red Raiders have a more talented roster, but their offensive system relies
so heavily on the quarterback, one that is a first-time starter for their
opener. Brewer could have a very memorable day if he settles in and finds the
gaping holes in SMU's defense. This is also a very important game for Gilbert,
who was a blue chip prospect coming into college. The Mustang QB has all the
physical tools to continue his career in the professional ranks, but he needs
show an improvement in his throwing accuracy and decision making to draw
attention from NFL scouts.