Keys to the Game, Revisited - UT edition

The third game of the season.  There is a reason why we are usually still playing tune-up games against teams like New Mexico versus playing the #2 team in the country.  We still have a lot of kinks to work out. 

I’ve heard a number of people comment that they thought Texas looked over-rated.  I don’t think that is a fair assessment of a damn good football team, and it sells your Red Raiders short.  There is a reason why Texas usually schedules tune-up games in the 3rd week of the season, too.

In the end, it was probably worthwhile to move the game up in the schedule.  While I would have like to have the offense more in sync and a full compliment at DE, I am not sure that the outcome would have changed.  Tech showed up, proved that they have not fallen off the map performance-wise since last season, and playing stiff competition gave us the opportunity to really see the areas in which we need to improve.  Join me after the jump for a more detailed look.

I’ve re-watched the first half of the game.  I don’t know about you, but I have trouble focusing on everything at once in live action.  With the DVR, I can watch the same play multiple times and take a look at what each unit is doing.  This has really opened my eyes to what was actually happening on the field versus what I thought was happening.  It is time consuming, so I don’t know if I’ll be doing it every week, but worth while especially for this game.  I focused on the first half because I thought it typified what we did well defensively before being exhausted from being down 3 players, and on offense, we struggled to produce.

Last week, I laid out what I thought were the keys to the game for Tech.  Let’s take a look at how well Tech did in each of these areas.

Offensive Keys:

Key #1 O-line blocking – This is still a big area of concern for me, but after re-watching the game, I have come to the conclusion that it was not as bad as I thought on Saturday.  With only a couple of exceptions (most notably the hit by Kindle in the 4th quarter) Texas was not able to get pressure with just their front 4.  Those exceptions were when the DEs used a bull rush or a speed rush on our back-peddling tackles.  The other exceptions were a couple of flat out missed blocks by our guards who were releasing down field and failed to chip anyone on the way.  On one particular play, Texas loaded the weak side and left Brandon Carter looking around confused with nothing to do until the WLB ran by him.  In general, though, good job against the front 4. 

Where Texas Tech’s blocking fell short was any time Texas brought pressure.  Particularly effective for Texas was a little delayed blitz by the one of the LBs.  Texas just waited to see where Tech would double-team and then ran untouched through the giant gaping hole left.  Meanwhile, the Tech RBs were busy chipping the DTs on their way to the flat.  No one noticed the guy in burnt orange running by them.  Except Taylor Potts.  Recognition.  We need to do it.

The next key for the O-line was opening up running lanes for our backs.  We had a couple of good runs on draw plays, but many more where the back was met in the hole by a Texas LB.  Particularly disconcerting was a run into a 3 man defensive front that only picked up 1.5 yards.  We even pulled a guard (Carter) on a couple of plays, but the lead block did not help because penetration through the rest of the line got to the RB before our pulling guard could find someone to block.  -6 yards rushing is pitiful, though huge chunks were lost on only a couple of plays.  Props to the receivers for good down field blocking.

 

Key #2 Time of Possession -  Officially, we held the ball 30:34.  It doesn’t get much more even than that, though our TOP had more to do with the first half defense getting it back (and one returned punt) than the offense putting together sustained drives.  8 possession changes in the first half. Of our 3 sustained drives of the game (over 3 min), 2 resulted in points (opening FG and opening TD of 2nd half).  The 3rd, we fumbled the ball.  Which brings me to…

 

Key #3 No dropped or tipped passes – Only one INT for Potts that came late in the game, and we got it right back.  Though I didn’t expressly mention hanging onto the football, I think it applies here.  We had several fumbles, which might as well be drops or volleyball sets, 2 of which we lost, and one acrobatic catch that could have been picked off.  I don’t recall a lot of drops, but we need to hand on to the ball.  Turnover margin was -1.  That’s usually good for a touchdown for the bad guys.  

 

It wasn’t a key to the game on offense but is worth mentioning.  There were a number of plays where our receivers failed to recognize what the defense was doing (i.e. blitzing) and run hot routes for Potts to throw to, failed to find the seams between the coverage, or just seemed to be confused on which routes to run.  Most notable in the first half was a Corner blitz in which Britton did not seem to notice that his man had just left him to go for Potts.  Potts saw the blitz and started to throw the ball to Britton, but he wasn’t looking and was running his normal route.  This is typically a strength of the Tech offense, so I was a little surprised to see as many plays where it looked like our guys were not where they needed to be.  It wasn’t every play, but it seemed like once in every possession, something was amiss.  We don’t need Potts back there searching for an open man.  Read and throw.  It is what this offense is built around.  When it doesn’t happen, there are all sorts of things that can go wrong.

 

Defensive Keys:

 I couldn’t have been more impressed overall with our defense.  Early season games tend to favor the defense, IMO, because the offenses typically are still working out the kinks.  In general, we didn’t give Texas anything on offense.  Our front 7 played as well as I have seen.  Buckner took advantage of being covered by a LB on a couple of plays, but that is a product of the scheme we were running, not poor playing on anyone’s behalf.

 

Key #1 Contain McCoy - I’ll let the stat line speak for itself: 8 carries for 5 yards.  Obviously, the sack counts as one of those carries and was negative, but 7 carries for 12 yards counts as pretty good containment in my book.  He wasn’t able to scramble much to extend plays, and we sniffed out the draw plays pretty well.  This bodes well for us against Oklahoma State and Baylor.

 

Key #2 Let interior DL apply pressure   The one sack of the night was by Jones, who was lined up at DE at the time.  But there were a number of hurries and consistent pressure by our guys up front. Colby Whitlock’s stat line doesn’t look great, though he did have 1 tackle for a loss, but he was in Colt’s face, forcing him to move around.  8 tackles for loss as a group, 3 by Bronte Bird.  Enough said.

 

Key # 3 Blitz – We ran a number of blitzes in this game.  I am pretty sure that these are where Bird’s TFL’s came from.  I was very happy to see this and hope that the results are enough to convince Ruff that we need to do it a little more often.

 

Key #4 Don’t play too soft – we gave up a lot of short stuff to Shipley underneath, but the YAC were almost non-existent.  I credit our safeties for most of this.  At corner, we consistently lined up 8-10 yards off the ball and seemed to be back-peddling before the snap.  Again, few YAC due to sure tackling, but not much chance of a breakup on the 10 yard stop.  It also seemed that the Texas receivers would run until our corners started to turn, and as soon as they did, turn the hook.  Good route running by Texas.  Had McCoy been a little more accurate on Saturday, he would have done a lot of damage here.

Special Teams

Key # 1 Don’t give up the big play – Obviously, there was the punt return by Shipley, but I don’t blame that solely on the special teams.  We were punting from the back of our own end zone because of a false start, a ball that Potts had to throw away because Muckelroy was in his face, and a near interception where Lewis failed to look up with the blitz coming.  We had to get the punt off quickly.  This was a setup for failure no matter how you look at it because UT was going to get a short field.  Maybe that rugby punt could have come in handy here.

Our coverage was not as good on special teams as I anticipated.  Texas only started 1 drive from inside their 20.  In the second half, we kicked off 4 times (one onside), and Texas only started 1 drive from inside their 35. (on the opening kickoff of the half).

Overall, I think we executed well on 3.5 of the 8 listed (we got half of the blocking right).  I’ll build on these later this week as we look at the keys for the game for U of H.

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