North Dakota Introduction
In only their second year of Division I competition, North Dakota faces a tall task in keeping the game close with a veteran team like Texas Tech. It’s a good barometer of talent for a team that went 6-4 last season and returns 30 letter winners from last year’s team.
North Dakota Passing
Jake Landry is in his first season as the starter for North Dakota after serving as the primary backup for the last two seasons. He has completed 17-31 passes (63) with one TD. He will be backed up by sophomore Brent Goska.
North Dakota Rushing
Catlin Solum paces the rushing attack for the Fighting Sioux. He had 29 carries for 120 yards last season (4 yards per carry) and one TD. He will be backed up by redshirt freshman Mitch Sutton.
North Dakota Receiving
Senior Ryan Konrath paces the receivers along with FB Marcus Tibesar. Sophomore receiver Chris Anderson and senior TE Noah Dombrovski will also start the game.
Texas Tech Introduction
The departure of Graham Harrell, the NCAA career leader in touchdown passes and Michael Crabtree, the 10th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, media pundits are picking Texas Tech to fall back to a middle-of-the-road football team. However, these guys haven’t followed Mike Leach and Texas Tech very long.
There was a time when losing top-tier talent would inevitably lead to a slip in wins. However, those days are over because Mike Leach has brought in talent from all over the place. Instead of rebuilding, Texas Tech is reloading. The quality depth that has been accumulating the last several years in Lubbock is going to surprise people this season.
Texas Tech Passing
Junior QB Taylor Potts takes over for Graham Harrell. Potts’ stronger arm, height, and overall athleticism has many college football insiders excited about his ability to make Tech fans move past Harrell’s legendary exploits.
However, it will be Potts’ mental approach to the game and quick decision making that will allow him to succeed. If Summer workouts are any indication of Potts’ preparedness, Big 12 defensive coordinators better get ready for a few sleepless nights. Potts’ poise, accuracy and leadership will give Mike Leach options that he’s not had with any of the other first year starters at Texas Tech. In spot duty last season, Potts completed 23-36 passes (64%) for 260 yards with two TDs and one INT.
Texas Tech Rushing
For perhaps the first time in Mike Leach’s tenure, his corps of running backs may be better than his receivers. Junior Baron Batch and his league-leading 6.7 yards-per-carry average return to headline the group. Redshirt freshman Harrison Jeffers, a speedster from Oklahoma, is a threat to torch the turf all the way to the endzone every time he touches the ball.
Reliable sophomore Aaron Crawford is also in the mix after recovering from an injury-plagued 2008 season. True freshman Eric Stephens rounds out the group. Stephens’ contributions will be heaviest in the return game this season, but it speaks to his quality of play that the coaching staff is not redshirting the youngster given the stable of backs ahead of him. Tech fans should expect great things from the running backs this season.
Texas Tech Receiving
Two-time Biletnikoff winner Michael Crabtree is gone. However, Texas Tech has a wealth of talented pass catchers eager to prove their worth. Detron Lewis, Alex Torres, Edward Britton and Cornelius Douglas figure to be the starters. Lubbock Coronado product Austin Zouzalik will spell Detron Lewis and purportedly has speed to burn. Jacoby Franks will back up Torres, sure-handed Lyle Leong will backup Britton and Adam James and Tramain Swindall will sub in for Douglas.
Many of these guys are relative unknowns to the casual observer. That won’t last long, though. Expect this group of receivers to contain more than a few household names by Texas Tech’s week three trip to Austin.
After navigating a turbulent off-season contract dispute, Mike Leach returns to the friendly confines of the football field with plenty of talent to help him prove that Texas Tech can win despite losing marquee names on offense and defense alike. Expect the offensive mastermind to continue his aerial assault and his trademark commentary on a variety of topics.
In the world of big-money collegiate athletics, games like this serve as a revenue booster for a school like North Dakota. Expect Mike Leach and his crew to play plenty of reserves and get some fine-tuning accomplished along the offensive and defensive lines. Although Michigan will sing a different tune after their experience with Appalachian State a few years ago, this Fighting Sioux team has very little chance in this game.
North Dakota: 17
Texas Tech 66