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September 30, 2013The bye week blues were tough to get through considering the No. 20 Red Raiders' promising 4-0 start to the year. It's a double-edged sword though. Things are about to get more dangerous on a weekly basis.
Tech has eight games to go in the regular season. All eight are against Big 12 opponents. Seven of those games come before another week off.
Say what you want about the Kansas Jayhawks. They have their own complexities Texas Tech will have to work through Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.
You can't underestimate a team coached by offensive guru Charlie Weis, a coach Kliff Kingsbury is very familiar with from his playing days on the New England Patriots roster. Weis, the offensive coordinator during that time frame, lobbied to take Kingsbury in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
"The first thing that jumps out is his work ethic," Kingsbury recalled during Monday's press conference. "He'd spend the night up at the office and was up there at all hours. Obviously, a great quarterback mentor having worked with Tom Brady. Always had great game plans. I thought he was one of the best game planners I've ever been around on a week to week basis. Learned a lot of X's and O's, and it was a really positive experience up there."
Weis is still at the front end of rebuilding the Kansas program in his second year, but the Jayhawks got a cornerstone win against Louisiana Tech in their last game. It snapped a 22-game losing streak against FBS opponents.
The squad almost snapped an already lengthy streak a season ago in Lubbock. Kansas took the Red Raiders to overtime in a game that largely sealed Tommy Tuberville's negative perception in the eyes of Tech's fan base.
Tuberville resigned less than a month later to take the Cincinnati job.
Considering the perfect start through four games, Kingsbury has unanimous support. It's up to the new head coach and staff to avoid a similar letdown.
No one wants the pretender label.
The challenge is Kansas has improved considerably from last season while the nation now expects the Red Raiders to win at least the first three games of October on the way to a projected perfect fist half to the season.
Kingsbury's mantra to his squad has always been taking it one game at a time. It's this viewpoint that is supposed to get Tech -- a solid favorite -- past a Jayhawk squad still perceived behind the rest of the conference.
"We attack each and every week," Kingsbury said. "We're not good enough to look ahead like that. I think you saw with Oklahoma State what can happen with this conference each and every week. So we're just trying to get better each week."
On top of the fact Kansas has improved, the game will be the Red Raiders' second road game and first out-of-state game.
The routine is a bit different as well. The game will kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday while Tech has only played night games thus far.
"It's a little different than what we're accustomed to," receiver Bradley Marquez said. "We've had these 6 o'clock games these last four games and we've just gotten into a routine. They'll change it up a little bit. But I think we're more mature as a team now where we can overcome that and have that not affect us this time around."
The Tech delegation said its biggest strength entering the game is its maturity.
Kingsbury reported he was pleased with the effort in practice during the bye week, a sentiment shared by Marquez.
"I think the biggest thing is team chemistry," Marquez said. "All the way from our spring workouts to fall camp, everything else in between. It just feels different around here. It's more family, and we're just excited about everything."
Who are the 2013 Red Raiders?
The answers will continue to be revealed Saturday.
"If you're not excited to play eight Big 12 games, then you're in the wrong business," Kingsbury said.
Quarterback drama defused for now
Tech's quarterback situation is always a key topic on Mondays.
The answers, however, are pretty much the same on a weekly basis.
Michael Brewer is on the right track to be cleared for full practice, but Baker Mayfield is Kingsbury's preferred quarterback at the present moment.
"We're 4 0 with him as a starter, and that's really where we're at," the head coach said. "We'll let him cut it loose and see. I think he's healthy for the first time in about three weeks, completely healthy, and has looked really sharp in practice. So we're excited to see him play."
Brewer is much closer than he used to be in adding another chapter to the quarterback saga of 2013 though.
"He's good," Kingsbury said. "He's not officially cleared yet, but we're going to start working him back into some drills and see how it goes."
Will the running game come along?
The Red Raiders have not been very impressive running the football this season, so part of the bye week agenda was to figure out how to improve it.
They're going to need it to come through at some point this season.
Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie sees a lot of potential in a phase of the game that features some of the squad's best athletes.
"I've watched it a few times, our inside zone, we're not that far off. We're really not," he said. "Our O-line is getting better at it. I think it's just getting everybody on the same page with our backs and O-line. We're really close, and I think the biggest thing is to just stay patient with it and understand throughout the course of the game we're going to have some plays that our no gainers or one or two yarders.
"But it's really hard to tackle Kenny Williams for four quarters. And DeAndre Washington. We're really close and hopefully we can get it going this week. We're going to keep trying."
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