FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2020, file photo, Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells runs off the field at the end of the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State in Ames, iowa. Third-year coach Matt Wells knew something had to change after a pair of four-win seasons with offenses not nearly up to par with what's expected from Tech fans So Wells hired Sonny Cumbie as the new offensive coordinator. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2020, file photo, Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells runs off the field at the end of the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State in Ames, iowa. Third-year coach Matt Wells knew something had to change after a pair of four-win seasons with offenses not nearly up to par with what's expected from Tech fans So Wells hired Sonny Cumbie as the new offensive coordinator. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
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HOUSTON (AP) — As Texas Tech coach Matt Wells enters his third season with the Red Raiders, his team is coming off what he believes is its best preseason camp since he arrived.

It won’t take long to see if that produces positive results as Texas Tech travels to Houston to play the Cougars on Saturday night at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans.

Wells said he is optimistic about the season because of his team's experience. Texas Tech returns 44 lettermen, including 14 on offense and 15 on defense, who have started at some point in the past.

“The thing that gives me confidence is the amount of games played by the guys that we’re playing with on both sides of the ball whether here at Texas Tech or at other schools,” Wells said. “I would say that we have an older presence. We have a veteran team. A lot of guys have played in big games, in Division I games.”

Texas Tech is coming off consecutive losing seasons after finishing 4-8 in 2019 and 4-6 in the pandemic-shortened 2020.

Wells believes the Cougars should give the Red Raiders a challenge to start the season and prepare for their Big 12 schedule.

“They have really good skill,” Wells said. “I think their speed. They have two really good tight ends I anticipate those guys being really good players. They have a quarterback who is a veteran. I think all of that, but it’s game one, and you have two more non-league games to get ready for the stretch of the Big 12. They all play a part of it, but Houston and their talent level is big out of the gate for us.”

HOUSTON LOOKING FOR REBOUND

Houston coach Dana Holgorsen is entering his third season with the Cougars and knows both teams will be looking to set a tone for the season in the opener. Houston has had two straight losing seasons under Holgorsen, going 4-8 in 2019 and 3-5 last season when it had several games canceled because of the pandemic.

“Doesn’t matter who you’re playing game one, but then you throw a Big 12 Texas school in there, we’re obviously going to be juiced and excited,” Holgorsen said. “They are going to be excited to play, and they’re going to play hard.

“I view both of these programs in the same spot as far as coach Wells is going into his third year, we’re going into our third year," he continued. “We haven’t had as much success as each program is used to having.”

NEW QUARTERBACK

Transfer Tyler Shough will start at quarterback for Texas Tech. Shough came to the Red Raiders from Oregon, where he threw for 1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 63.5% of his passes in seven starts last season.

“We recruited Tyler for who he is and how smart he is and the kind of football junkie that he is,” Wells said. “Starting in the Pac-12 last year for the first time, he was seeing new things and new teams because they have different coordinators at the programs than the year before when he was a backup to (Jordan) Herbert.”

COUGARS’ DEPTH

Houston returns 16 players who started at least four games last season – eight on offense and eight on defense – and Holgorsen feels much better about his team because like Texas Tech, he has more depth and veteran players. Houston added eight transfers during the offseason, including receiver Kesean Carter from Texas Tech.

“We have competition, and we have a lot of guys who have started games that may not get the starting nod, but that gives us experience,” Holgorsen said.

TEXAS TECH DEFENSE

The Red Raiders allowed at least 30 points in each of their six losses last season and allowed at least 50 points in three of those defeats. Texas Tech returns eight players on defense and added transfers safety Marquis Waters from Duke, cornerback Malik Dunlap from NC State, cornerback Rayshad Williams from UCLA and linebacker Jesiah Pierre from Florida to pair with linebackers Colin Schooler and Riko Jeffers. Schooler, Jeffers and Waters each have recorded more than 200 tackles so far in their careers.

SAME TUNE

Houston quarterback Clayton Tune will start against Texas Tech after starting all eight games last season. Tune threw for 2,048 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. He has started games in each of the last three seasons compiling 4,376 yards and 34 touchdowns on 57.7% passing.

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