The Result :: Beyond Frustrating: First off, a really patient game by Houston and the Cougars deserve credit for taking what the defense gave them. One of my reasons why Texas Tech would lose this game was that if Houston was willing to be patient, and they didn't seem to get settled until the 4th quarter, then the bend but don't break defense was susceptible to giving up yards and points. Houston is a very good team. Their defense still needs work (pot, meet kettle) and is undersized, but Sumlin is a damn fine coach and I'd be proud to have him on my sideline.
On to our beloved Red Raiders. Let's all just take a step back and consider a couple of plays and player situations before we start benching everyone. Part of the reason I have a tough time posting, even during games is that I'm a tad emotion, that is if you consider emotional me being on the verge of vomit during a game. It's my personality, I'm trying to be better not getting so worked up. I'd also say that I tend not to post after games because sometimes, we need a night to let things settle. For those ready to bench QB Taylor Potts that's fine, you're entitled to your opinion, but if you want to bench Potts for his mistakes, then you had better be ready to bench just about the entire team for their mistakes up and down the field. Yes, a quarterback's play has a direct correlation on the rest of the team, but Potts wasn't the only player that made bad decisions. That's not to say that there wasn't good plays and players improved, but the truth of the matter is that no player is without fault. No player played perfect.
And despite the tough game, this is what Leach had to say after the game about Potts:
"I thought he played really well. He had the focus and the tempo. Sometime he played a little bit tentatively. The numbers suggest he played really well, but he could have played a little bit better. But, the biggest thing is the last two games he's played in two of the toughest situations of any quarterback I've ever had. This being his fourth game, he's probably performed as good as anybody I've had. The best thing he can do is circle the wagons, expect good things to happen, and approach it with great tempo. We we're a little inconsistent on that."
That's the funny thing about this maturation process, is that we all have these expectations of where this team is headed, but the truth is that sometimes, these things take a while to take hold. Last Sunday, Potts was a tough S.O.B. who earned everyone's praise for picking his team back up and leading them down the field. It's funny how one game can change your perception as to whether or not Potts is still even capable of leading this team against New Mexico seems a bit much and I'm not ready to concede that Potts is an awful quarterback who can't get it done.
Personally, I'm not ready to give up on this team or these players. Was it a gut-punching loss? Damn straight, but there's a lot of football left to be played and despite this loss, the Big 12 South is far from over. Benching players who have played very well thus far seems like an over-reaction at this point.
If it were me, I'd say that it never should have come down to a Hail Mary at the end of the game and Potts having to lead his team without any timeouts.
4th and 1 from the UH 1, Part I: At the time, I wasn't sure who to blame for that abysmal call. The game was being played closely both both teams, sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor and although a touchdown would have been icing on the cake, sometimes you just have to take the points.
Here's two quotes that Mike Leach had after the game about that 4th and 1 call:
On the fourth-and-goal QB sneak:
"I called the play but there was a slight variation, but that doesn't change the fact. At that point in the game it was a better thing to do then send of the field goal team."
On the fourth-and-one:
"We needed to score and had a half of a yard, but in hindsight, I should have called for a field goal."
Potts didn't make that call.
It was Leach.
I'm a bit confused by his statement that during the game it was the right call, and that's how Leach always tends to roll, but the score that time was TTU 28, UH 23 with about 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter. If Leach goes for the field goal, then Houston has to score twice in order to win the game. By going for the touchdown, Leach put his team in a situation that they had to protect their endzone, again putting the defense in a tight situation. Getting that field goal would have meant that Houston would have been on the heels a bit more, needing to score twice. And for the record, I understand that statistically, it is an advantage to go for it in most situations, but this field goal puts UH on their heels as opposed to the Texas Tech defense having to absolutely make a stop.
That's not smart football.
4th and 1 from the UH 1, Part II: Leach admitted that he called the quarterback sneak, but isn't there inherently a bigger problem here. Prior to this point, the running game had found some daylight and the group was having success against a poor Houston rush defense. I get that the QB sneak is one of Leach's favorite plays in a short yardage situation, but why not give it to the guys who got you there? For two straight plays, the Cougars had gotten underneath the Texas Tech offensive line and I would have loved to have seen one of two things happen on one of those 4 downs. Last year, the slant inside was a huge part of the redzone offense and it seems as if this year's team lacks that option. It would have been nice to see Detron Lewis over-power a receiver in that situation, but what I would have truly liked was to have seen the offensive line give one additional shot the the running backs that were instrumental in this game, perhaps over the top of the line.
Alas, as stated above, the quarterback sneak was Leach's call. He's the one living with that decision.
Keenum Rushing: Houston QB Case Keenum keyed the last two drives (one of those drives being an interception) in part because he had completed passes all night long, but the other part of it is that his wheels is what put Texas Tech on edge. It occured to me during those last two drives that McNeill really needed to just rush 3 and leave one guy, probably Bront Bird or Marlon Williams to read if and where Keenum might run. Keenum seemed dead-set on looking down the field, but if it was open, that he had the green light to take off down the field. Keenum bailed Houston out of one crucial 3rd down situation and one 4th down situation. I don't know if Bird and Williams are fast enough to keep pace with Keenum, but it just seemed that rather than give Keenum an escape route for a first down and eventually a touchdown, that having one player dedicated to containing Keenum seemed like a good idea.
Return of the Running Game: Silver lining, folks. The running backs and the offensive line were huge on Saturday as they opened up enough rushing lanes for 191 yards on 28 carries. Baron Batch looked like his old self, while Harrison Jeffers demonstrated how explosive he can be and Eric Stephens, despite an awful fumble, was still very solid. Perhaps it was the offensive line, where offensive line coach Moore, tried another offensive line combination, perhaps the combination he started with at the first of the year, with Terry McDaniel at LT, Chris Olson at LG, Shawn Byrnes at C, Brandon Carter at RG and Marlon Winn at RT. I'm going to have to go back and watch the game, but I think Leach leaned on the right side of his line, which is why Moore put the Carter-Winn combination back together a few weeks ago. The thinking was that if there was some continuity along the line, that perhaps it would eventually open up some running lanes. This makes me wish that McDaniel was starting from the beginning as I thought he was very solid in his first start. I think there's still work to be done. As far as the actual backs themselves, I hope like hell the running backs watch Baron Batch find those lanes inside the line. Not everything needs to be bounced outside.
Timeout Mismanagement: Perhaps this irks me more than just about anything else. The first timeout of the second half came with 7:51 left in the 3rd quarter and Houston is on the Texas Tech 3 yard line. I understand that McNeill is trying to save a touchdown here, perhaps one of his come-to-Jesus timeouts where he reads them the riot act, or perhaps he wanted to get in a different package of players, but what's the cost-benefit of calling this time-out so early in the 2nd half, especially where the teams appeared to be going back and forth quite a bit.
The 2nd time-out of the half was at the Texas Tech 21 yard line, 2nd and 1 with 0:56 left in the 3rd quarter. Again, the same question applies here. What's the point? On the very next play, Keenum had a simple draw play for 17 yards and an easy first and goal from the Texas Tech 4.
The third time-out was during the ill-fated 4 downs from the Houston 7 where Potts couldn't punch it in on the quarterback sneak (referenced above). In this case, the play clock was about to expire and had Potts not called the time-out, then Texas Tech is backed up to their own 9 yard line. For some reason, I seem to recall that there was some confusion as to which personnel package was to be used on that next play.
There's got to be something to be said about the team figuring it out and if there's anything to take away with the way that Bob Knight managed a game is that he'd let his players play the way they've been coached and would not call a timeout to set up plays. It just seems strange that with TV timeouts and everything else, that McNeill would needs these timeouts continually over each game.
The Offensive MVP :: Baron Batch: Despite the loss, I think it's good to look back and discuss the good that happened, not just all of the bad. Baron Batch looked like the Baron Batch of 2008. To be honest, I was shocked to see him run so well after three weeks of running poorly. Running over defenders, knocking off helmets, and getting yards after first contact. I think I may speak for the group here, but let's hope this continues the rest of the way.
The Defensive Co-MVP's :: Daniel Howard and Cody Davis: Neither player had perfect games, in fact, Howard took responsibility for the final drive where Keenum scored:
On the last drive:
"I put that on my back. I had opportunities to stop the drive. That's my fault."
Leaders take responsibility and I can apprecaite that, but the truth is that Howard didn't come off the field and he was consistently the best pass-rusher on the field. Howard finished with 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
I know, Davis had some trouble down the field, and there was one play where Davis failed to look back on the ball, but Davis was in on 15 tackles last night (as was Brian Duncan) and Davis did the one thing that he was supposed to do, which is not give up a long touchdown. Yep, yards were gained and passes were completed but Davis is playing better than a redshirt freshman should play. He's not the most athletic free-safety I've ever seen, but he does his job well and whenever he gets a chance he'll take one for the team and try to lay out a receiver, let the receiver know he's there.
The Special Teams MVP :: Ryan Erxleben: This is the second week in a row that Erxleben has earned this honor, but it's the second week in a row that he's been forced into action to dig the offense out of some holes and the second week that special teams hasn't been anything to write home about. In his second game of his young college career, Erxleben averaged 46.4 yards a punt and looked good doing it.