THE RESULT | BLAME GAME | Everyone likes to assign blame. It's part of sports. Its one of the things in your life where something goes wrong and you know that it's not your fault, but it's somebody's fault. Perhaps the one thing that I get tired of more than anything else are the comments about Leach this or Leach that. Again, I'm not going to censor them (I will ask though, that if you're going to take the time to write a FanPost, please don't have the FanPost just be "words words words words words words words". I hate that.), but I also struggle to find the usefulness of those comments. I don't know if it's because I've resigned myself to knowing that he ain't ever coming back. I also know that Tuberville didn't fire Leach. Other folks did. Neal Brown didn't fire Leach. Other folks did. James Willis didn't fire Leach. Other folks did.
It's probably just an unfortunate consequence of taking a job where the predecessor was admired for what he did for Texas Tech, but Tuberville didn't tell Leach not to show up for the Alamo Bowl.
But to my larger point, if you're unhappy with the situation, then truly do something about it. Critiquing here on DTN is great and all, but what are you really doing to change the culture? Are you letting people know, whether it be by letter or by email or by not spending your hard earned cash? Your words don't mean much if your actions aren't backing them up. On the other hand, I don't think that there will be a day where I'm not supporting the red and black. There are certain actions of the administration that I don't support, but this is one of the few things that I truly have a passion for in life. I'd just be lying to you if I told you that I could walk away from Texas Tech athletics, because I know for me it's a lie.
I read MGoBlog, like a lot of college football fans, and one of the things that always struck me was Brian Cook's fairly staunch defense of Rich Rodriguez through the entire coaching transition. Cook preached patience and finally, after what seems like an eternity, Michigan fans are finally being rewarded with winning football. As I sat at the computer last night, trying to figure out what I was going to write about this morning, those numerous posts from MGoBlog over the past two years reminded me of this situation. On one hand, I think I know what Tuberville and Willis and Brown want to do offensively and defensively, just like Michigan fans knew what Rodriguez wanted to do offensively, but it was going to take him some time to put in the right system and the right players.
I'm the type of fan that likes to believe that good things will eventually happen and I get that this probably makes me look foolish more times than not. I don't know whether or not I need to have faith in what Tuberville is doing. I know the thought of believing in this right now seems pretty bleak and I'm not sure where I fall on this question. I feel like I still need more evidence to make an informed decision. I suppose the other part of it is that I know that no one that has a say is going to admit that a mistake was made, especially after four games and most likely not until after 3 years. I keep thinking that there's a part of me that knows, no matter what, I'm going to have to write about this for the next 3 years and hope like hell it turns around, otherwise, finding positives on Saturday mornings will be tough to repeat.
So what's next? I have no idea. If anything, I like to think that DTN and other good blogs aren't necessarily just a place where writers get out all of their pent-up anger or elation, but someday, when I'm long gone, DTN will not only just be a place where fans have poured their heart out over one of the teams that they obsess over, but rather, it will tell a story. This story has many twists and turns that have yet to be seen, but they will in due time. So as you're writing a FanPost or making a comment, remember that it isn't in a vacuum, but you're adding to the story. As a long-suffering Texas Rangers fan, I have seen more downs and ups for the past decade. You don't stop being a fan, at least I don't, because I've never thought that you get to pick your team, your team picks you because of location. I can't give up on this team because that's just not how I'm wired. I'll respect your opinion if you feel differently, but that's not something that I can do.
Enough rambling. On to the game.
Storylines and MVP's after the jump.
BOOM OR BUST DEFENSE | Whether you like it or not, unless a team has exceptional athletes, there's essentially two theories that a defense can have in terms of basic philosophy. The first is the idea that you can bend, but not break and essentially wait for the offense to make a mistake. The second theory is to press the offense with pressure with the thought that your defense will make big plays, but that usually means that there will be holes in that defense. Texas Tech has chosen the latter method and I'm still fine with that, despite the fact that yesterday wasn't a good day by any means.
It was obvious that Willis wasn't going to respect QB Austen Arnaud's arm no matter what. That meant that Willis was essentially going to bring the house each and every play and simply dare Arnaud to beat Texas Tech deep. Arnaud did beat Texas Tech deep and he found those one-on-one situations and exploited them. There's not much analysis here, other than the fact that the cornerbacks are very young and they'll get better at looking back for the ball. Being a ball-hawking cornerback takes more than a spring and fall practice session.
One of the things that I cautioned this team about last week was not just sending the defensive ends straight up the field, which I thought would create running lanes for Arnaud. This was partly true, because Arnaud did run for a few yards, but more than that, it created fairly significant lanes for RB Alexander Robinson and Shontre Johnson. Willis needs to find a happy medium between just sending Scott Smith and Brian Duncan up the field and containment. Of course, this also means that the inside linebackers are getting blocked and pushed out of the way. That has to be better.
At the end of the day, I'm still philosophically okay with what Willis is trying to do because I think it's a better way to play defense, and at the very least, it's a different way to play defense than what we've seen over the past 10 years. I mentioned this last week, when Willis was getting quite a bit of love from most of you, that he would have his bad days too. Yesterday was a bad day.
POTTS IMPROVED | For all of the complaining that we do about QB Taylor Potts, he wasn't the reason why Texas Tech didn't win that game yesterday. Did he lead his team on a scoring drive on every single drive? No, but last night wasn't about Potts vs. Sheffield. That's not to say that I still think that Sheffield is the better option.
If you can find fault in anything, it's that the offense looked uncomfortable and unable to make plays the entire first half. Potts can take some blame, but it just seemed to me that this was more about the receivers not being able to hold onto the ball (I missed watching quite a bit of that first quarter, so someone correct me if I'm wrong). Potts' numbers can certainly improve. Only 67% completion percentage (should be closer to 70%) and only 6.08 yards/attempt (should be over 7). But the offense looked much better and it played with purpose, but that offense needs to play with purpose for an entire game, not just for a half.
And to further add fire to the flames, I was reminded by something that Ryan Hyatt wrote on Friday:
Keep in mind though, Tech fans, that two different coaching staffs have come to the same conclusion and that’s that Potts gives you a better chance to win than Sheffield. Those that think Leach would be staring Sticks this year need only look at who started the Alamo Bowl. After all of last season, after everything he’d seen and with both QB’s cleared to play, Mike Leach went with Potts. The planning was done and the game-plan set before he was suspended. You can read a lot into that decision and maybe, just maybe some Tech fans will remember that and it will help them understand why Potts is the starter. Then again, probably not.
I have no idea what Leach would have done in 2011. You have no idea what he would have done in 2011. And I feel like I've been the only one writing it, but Leach did choose Potts and he chose him over and over and over again. We can only go on what we know, and thinking that we can all climb into the mind of Leach and make an actual prediction about what he would or wouldn't have done seems crazy.
WHY IS NO ONE COMPLAINING ABOUT THE WIDE SPLITS? | So last week, I tried to campaign that the wide splits weren't the reason for the problem. That offensive performance is directly related to executing plays correctly. I even found video from 2008 where you could tell where the legendary [sarc]10 yard splits[/sarc] were something that happened very early in Leach's career, but he even eventually went back to more normal splits, maybe 3 feet at the most (yes, it's true, go watch highlights from the 2008 TT vs. OU game). I actually thought that the offensive line played really well last night. Didn't give up a sack and created enough space for 131 yards on 25 carries for Baron Batch and Eric Stephens. We also saw the return of the receiver bubble-screen with Alexander Torres, something that Michael Crabtree made famous. We also saw a shovel pass to Batch for a fairly big gain and a few screens that were actually effective.
The reason why no one is really complaining about the line splits or the running game or the pass blocking is because it all looked okay for the most part. And I really thought that the offense found rhythm in the second half. Something I haven't seen in quite some time. And to reiterate, it's about execution.
TURNOVERS AND THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS | I thought the biggest killer last night was the defense's ability to give ISU chance after chance on third downs. ISU was 10 of 18 on third downs and that was absolutely brutal. ISU's ability to convert was the back-breaker for the defense. The big plays that the defense gave up were awful, but giving up 10 third down conversions is what breaks a team's back. In previous weeks, the all-or-nothing attitude of this Texas Tech defense worked because it eventually forced a turnover. Last night, Texas Tech lost the turnover battle 3-1. Detron Lewis' pass-catch that wasn't and Austin Zouzalik's dropped punt gave ISU a short field on two separate occassions. So not only did Texas Tech turn the ball over, but it also gifted ISU a very short field. After Zouzalik's punt fumble, ISU scored a touchdown in two plays. After Lewis' fumble, ISU scored a touchdown in 7 plays. Texas Tech had ISU in a 3rd and 8 situation and gave up a 27 yard touchdown to ISU TE Collin Franklin. That's the killer: turnover; short field for opponent; force a 3rd down, but give up 27 yard touchdown.
- Since I was watching on the computer, it was difficult for me to see who played well defensively because I couldn't see numbers. From my memory, it seemed as if DT Myles Wade saw more time than I can recall, but I didn't hear Donald Langley's name at all.
- WR Lyle Leong continues to be one of the best receivers in the Big 12: 9 catches, 125 yards and 3 TD's. Apparently he's the only one allowed to catch a touchdown.
- RB's Baron Batch and Eric Stephens touched the ball a lot more this game and I liked it. They combined had 22 carries for 120 yards rushing and 10 catches for 79 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. That's 32 touches for 199 yards for a 6.2 average. If Tuberville says this week that he was happy with the running game, then I think the reason why is that he had production from his running backs. If you're going to make comparisons between Leach and Brown, Texas Tech was most successful when the running backs ate up a ton of yardage.
- The kickoff coverage helped give ISU favorable field position too often. ISU's starting field position off of kickoffs was the 20, 47, 37, 24, 33, 47 and 20. There's a lot of defensive backs and receivers on those coverage units. Maybe it's time to use some linebackers and bigger players because this is too inconsistent. ISU's starting field position was their own 43. Texas Tech's was their own 29.
- The time of possession wasn't so lopsided to make me think that the defense didn't have much left in the tank in the second half. Other than the first quarter, where Texas Tech only held onto the ball for 4:13 and ISU had the ball for 10:47, it was pretty even for the rest of the game. If the defense can't recover from being on the field for 10 minutes in the first quarter, then we got big problems with depth.
- I highlighted this article on Saturday morning, from Football Outsiders' Bill Connelly who said that there were four truths that go into teams winning and losing in his compilation of data. Texas Tech violated all four of these truths:
LAJ's Don Williams has an interesting editorial this morning, writing that it's going to get worse before it gets better.
Yes, I know. Mike Leach was quoted this summer as saying 2010 was going to be his best team yet. Only two reactions to that are plausible. One, the Pirate was deluded. Two — and this is probably closer to the truth — Leach knew his old program was in for a difficult transition year. Bitter over his firing, he thought floating the idea that 2010 would be glorious would fan the flames at administration when it turned out to be considerably less.
As an admitted Leach-admirer, I've always thought that Leach's comments about 2010 were off-base. I never thought that this team was better than the 2008 team and I think the talent level on that 2008 team was pretty special. Williams takes a lot of heat, espcially in the 4 or 5 comments that I read on his story for being in with the administration, but even if we go position by position, I still think the 2008 team was far superior to anything that's on the field in 2010. If anyone can go position-by-position and prove Leach right, I'd love to see it.
Can't stomach MVP's this morning.