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No defending Texas Tech’s defense in 68-55 loss

Kevin French/Icon Sportswire

Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage had eight touchdowns – let’s just call it the Ballage Barrage – as the Sun Devils shredded Texas Tech for a 68-55 victory Saturday night in Tempe.

Ballage, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior, set an NCAA record for most TDs against a “major-college opponent.” In 1990, Illinois’ Howard Griffith scored eight touchdowns against Southern Illinois. Ballage, often running from the “wildcat,” had 13 carries for 137 yards and seven TDs; he caught two passes for 48 yards and a TD.

Feel free to snicker or insert your own punchline here. Maybe something along the lines of, “Does the Red Raiders’ defense qualify as ‘major college?’”

Here’s Ralph D. Russo, the college football writer for the Associated Press:  “Do Kalen Ballage’s FBS record-tying eight touchdowns for Arizona State need an asterisk because they came against Texas Tech’s woeful defense?”

Texas Tech had one of the worst defenses in FBS last season, and it appears nothing has changed. It might even be worse. Here are four reasons to back that up:

  • Arizona State totaled 652 yards, and it was diabolically balanced. The Sun Devils had 351 through the air and 301 on the ground, averaging 5.7 per rushing attempt.
  • Since 2013, Texas Tech’s defense has given up 51.5 points per game in losses and 25.6 points per game in victories.
  • Texas Tech’s men’s basketball team had 13 games last season when it allowed 68 or fewer points.
  • In its last 12 games, Texas Tech has lost three times despite scoring 50 or more points.

“We’re a better team than we were. I know that,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We didn’t play like it tonight. We’ve got get some things straightened out and I think we’ll be better the rest of the year.”

The Red Raiders (1-1) “limited” Arizona State to nine points in the first quarter but then were scorched for 28 points in the second quarter. The Sun Devils led 37-34 at halftime and Texas Tech took a brief lead when it scored on its first possession of the second half.

The defense was then unable to stop Ballage and the Arizona State offense, which scored on seven of its first eight possessions after halftime – six touchdowns and a field goal.

Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II threw two second-half interceptions as he tried to keep his team in striking distance. He finished 38-of-53 for 540 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed 11 times for 44 yards; his 584 yards of total offense ranks sixth all-time at Texas Tech for a single game.

It’s all stat-sheet stuffing without something beyond a big-time quarterback. The Red Raiders’ running game provided no balance, gaining just 72 yards. Texas Tech didn’t force a turnover, ending a 10-game streak in which the Red Raiders had forced at least one turnover.

Defensive coordinator David Gibbs’ scheme is dependent on turnovers, so that’s another negative on a losing night. But only Kingsbury can answer for his defensive coach — Texas Tech has a new policy that prohibits assistants from doing interviews.

Not that much can be said.

In one game, Ballage’s “great eight” nearly matched his career TD total (9), but opposing offensive players tend to have that level of success against Texas Tech. Until the Red Raiders solve their defensive woes, either by a coaching change or better recruiting, the program will have a difficult time rising above .500 …

… and giving up fewer than 500 yards per night.

No defending Texas Tech’s defense in 68-55 loss

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