THE RESULT | GETTING BETTER | Hey, it's the glass half-full-guy here. I know, you're probably getting tired of me being so positive when it would be so easy not to be. Too bad. Was it perfect? Heck no. Few teamsplay perfect games, especially this early in the season. Did the offense struggle at times? Yes, the offense did not score a touchdown on every possession. Did the defense struggle at times? Yes, the defense did not force negative points against New Mexico, which would have been an NCAA first. What Texas Tech did do is win convincingly. Football games aren't always pretty, but college football games never are. Ask Virginia Tech if they would have rather won 52-17 with all of the "flaws" on offense and defense. Perhaps this is why I love college football so much, is that it will never be perfect because the players themselves aren't perfect. If you're looking for perfect football, then perhaps you're watching the wrong sport.
Before we get to the storylines and MVP's, a quick shout-out to oldschoolraider and PlanoJeff, who met me at 2 Brother's in Plano to watch the game. The best part about how DTN has grown is that I'm getting to meet more and more people, and that's a good thing.
Storylines and MVP's after the jump.
THE STORYLINES |
THE WHITE HELMETS | If I'm behing honest, the white helmets don't bother me. Texas Tech has had a history of white helmets (one of my better posts and for the record, I'm all about a red helmet, but I'm in the minority I think), but I don't people telling me one thing and then doing another. I feel like that's what Tuberville did here:
"I’m a traditionalist," Tuberville said. "We’re going to where black helmets. But it’s awfully hot out here. Anything that can help get these guys heads cooler, that’s what it really is. I think the players are excited about wearing them out here. But the week of the first game we’ll get the black ones out and start wearing those. (The white ones) are more of our practice helmets and they do get beat up pretty good. When we walk out onto the field I hope we play sharp because we’re going to look pretty sharp."
He does leave himself some wiggle-room by saying that the white helmets are more of practice helmets, but I still don't like it. For those of you who haven't seen the white helmets, here's a LAJ photo album. Maybe he doesn't have control over what's being worn, I don't know, but if I had to guess, I'm thinking he does. Although I'll probably never get it, I'd love to hear an explanation.
HOW EFFICIENT IS THAT PASSING OFFENSE? | Walking away from the game, I couldn't help but think that the offense wasn't just that efficient. Taking a look at the drive summary there were 14 offensive possessions. The offense scored on 8 of those possessions. Of the 6 possessions where Texas Tech didn't score, 2 of them were at the end of the game where QB Steven Sheffield was in the game and went for it on 4th down deep in New Mexico territory (this was the drive where there were three incomplete passes for WR Eric Ward -- need to work on catching those footballs) and the last drive time ran out. So, Sheffield scored on 1 of 3 drives and Potts led the offense to 7 of 11 scoring drives. Looking at it that way, it doesn't seem all that bad. Despite this thought, I still think the offense was a bit uneven.
QB Taylor Potts completed only
56% of his passes (24/41) and had 7.6 yards per attempt (not bad by a spread offense standard, but not great either). I was looking at overall numbers, not Potts' numbers. He went 22/34 for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns for a 8.6 yards per attempt. That's actually pretty good. Potts didn't throw any interceptions, but he certainly could have in a couple of opportunities where Potts continues to try to force the ball into double and triple coverage. I don't know if this is Potts' bravado, thinking that he's more than capable of being able to fit the ball into a tight space, but he's not there yet. Not only that, I wrote down last night that there were 3 passes in a row where Potts threw behind his receiver.
Potts did some good things and we saw what having a healthy and 15 pounds heavier (?) IR Austin Zouzalik. Sure it was just one catch (55 yards), but son of a gun, he got out there and out-ran some folks. There really wasn't just one player that Potts focused on as there wasn't one player that had more than 5 receiptions. Lyle Leong and Jacoby Franks each had 5 receptions while Detron Lewis had 3, while Tramain Swindall, Darrin Moore, Alexander Torres each had 2.
TOO MUCH MAN-TO-MAN | In head coach Tommy Tuberville's post-game press conference he stated a couple of times that the Texas Tech defense tried to play too much man-to-man defense in the first half and played much more zone in the second half. There's no doubt that this was the case and the difference was noticable. Between halves, the Lobos had this yard 270 yards in the first half and 136 yards in the second half. A couple of keys here, the two touchdowns that New Mexico scored came on the heels of two huge plays. A 57 yard pass from B.R. Holbrook to Ty Kirk and the flukey 45 fumble return by Chris Hernandez after the Holbrook fumble. The first one is legitimate and the second seems cheap. This put the Lobos within two scores and with New Mexico getting the ball back first in the second half, I was admittedly nervous during halftime. But not only did New Mexico significantly slow down, but Texas Tech also had 3 turnovers in the second half.
I'm curious if DC Willis will begin to think that as much as he wants to play man-to-man press coverage, this team just may not be capable of doing that this year. And maybe this is a case where Willis is trying very much to force-feed the players how he wants to play, but there may only be so much that Willis can do. The defensive backs played almost exclusively zone coverage all of last year and I think that Willis was smart to move to a more simplistic standard 4-rush and zone defense base. There wasn't much doubt in my mind that New Mexico wouldn't play as well as they did in the first half offensively and it seemed as if the Lobos were prone to making mistakes and Texas Tech simply waited for the Lobos to let the game come to them.
REBIRTH OF THE RUNNING GAME | Want to know the last time that Texas Tech had more than 36 rushing carries? How about 2005 against TAMU where Texas Tech and Mike Leach had 37 carries in a 56-17 win against the Aggies.
The thing that came over me as I was watching the game was that I felt like RB Barom Batch was being replaced a bit by the quicker and faster Eric Stephens. There were a couple of plays where I thought that Batch looked more like himself, but they weren't often enough. Right now, this offensive line isn't able to really push around opponents and because of that Stephens is a better option. The splits are only a bit smaller, but the splits last year were half a yard bigger and perhaps that added bit of space allowed for Batch to be more effective. If the offensive line ever figures out how to get a consistent push on the defense, then Batch will be as good as any other option that Texas Tech has. The running backs overall had 35 carries (1 rush was considered a sack so there's 36 total) and without the sack, the offense rushed for 162 yards on 35 carries for a 4.62 YPC average. Throw in 4 touchdowns and a bunch of short fields and you've got a pretty productive day. It was really nice to see Harrison Jeffers continue to gain crazy yards when given the opportunity. Son of a gun, it's a crowded backfield. And it wouldn't surprise me to see Jeffers get carries next week as he's more shifty than Batch, and that may be imperative against UT.
And before you say that Leach never ran the ball this much, can we please stop. I know this is a novel idea, but is it possible to start judging Tuberville, Brown and Willis for what they're doing and not what Leach did? Look, I love Mike Leach, more than you'll ever know, but I'm still trying to figure out the point of saying, "Leach never ran the ball this much". Well, Leach isn't the head coach anymore and unless hell freezes over, he'll never be the head coach at Texas Tech in our lifetimes, although I am hoping that his head is cryogentically frozen so that our children's children can enjoy the quirky Leach along with Ted Williams. But I digress. Leach did run the ball and you can feel free to peruse to review Leach's running attempts here (Leach ran the ball 35 times against OU last year! Heresy!!). But this isn't the Leach offense, this is the Neal Brown offense. It's similar but it's not the same. We've known this for months. Someone please explain to me how this comparison is constructive.
MAKING PLAYS | The one thing that I continue to be impressed with his how the defense is making plays: 7 tackles for loss (Bront Bird 1; Brian Duncan 2; Kerry Hyder 1; Scott Smith 1; Lawrence Rumph 1; and Aundre Barr 1); 2 forced fumbles (Tyrone Sonier and Scott Smith); 2 interceptions (Will Ford and Jarvis Phillips); and 4 sacks (Duncan; Hyder, Smith and Rumph). It would have been nice if some of those plays resulted in turnovers. The defense is going to be a work in progress, as mentioned above. The more I think about it, what would we be saying if the offense was learning an entirely new system? Would we be as critical about how things are progressing? Would we be more more understanding? Ruffin McNeill did some fabulous things this year, but every time that Willis talked during the offseason, he mentioned how much the defense struggled in practices and in scrimmages. Before I knew who Willis was, I wasn't sure if this was coach-speak. Now, I'm quite positive that he was being honest. The transition from a soft cover-2 zone defense to an agressive man-to-man defense takes time. And it takes players who can play in that scheme. There's a reason why Willis went after and tried to sign 7 defensive backs in the 2010 recruiting class (some of them not qualifying) and he's going after 3 more in the 2011 class. You've got to have cover corners to make this work.
IMPROVEMENT ON SPECIAL TEAMS | Duh. The thing that struck me, and I thought it was a mistake the, but during Tuberville's post-game press conference on the radio, he gave credit to a special teams coach and called him out by name. I didn't stop to write down the name, but it caught me as a bit strange as Tuberville talked about how he was going to be in charge of the special teams. Then this morning, listening to the video of the post-game press conference, LB Jonathan Brydon gives credit to Coach Leonard. I was wondering if anyone else caught this or if I was dreaming. In any case, I'm not real sure where to start as there were so many individual players that made outstanding individual plays. Absolutely loved the fact that Aaron Crawford and Jonathan Brydon (and perhaps we give credit to the coach) for finding a weakness in the New Mexico offensive line during punts to allow for two blocked kicks. Outstanding. Eric Stephens had 175 yards on 4 kickoff returns, including a 93 yard romp. Stephens needs to figure out how to get into the endzone. PR Austin Zouzalik had a rough night returning punts. He was really good last year so I think we need to cut him some slack. Defensively, Texas Tech only allowed 23 yards a kick return, no punt returns. K Donnie Carona burried 4 of 9 kickoffs for a touchback while Jonathan LaCour continued his impressive ppunting job, including a rugby-style punt that pinned New Mexico deep. I like it.
- OLB Julius Howard was burned pretty badly on the Hernandez touchdown receiption. I'm sure he thought that Cody Davis was to help out, but Hernandez shouldn't have been that open. It was a nice throw, but being a former defensive back, I thought he should have covered better.
- ILB Bront Bird played better this week, but I think he's still a work in progress.
- The offensive line kept Potts and Sheffield pretty clean the entire game. Again, you'd still like to see bigger and wider running lanes. I also could have sworn that I heard on the radio post-game show that RT Chris Olson was injured and that Mickey Okafor saw quite a bit of time.
- I'm still really waiting for the other inside linebackers to make a difference. Sam Fehoko only had 1 assisted tackle while Cqulin Hubert had 3. Fehoko needs to step it uup.
- I mentioned it above, but sometimes you can forget how electric a player is and I felt that way about RB Harrison Jeffers. Damn, he's big and fast and shifty and he looks really good running the ball.
- The Texas Tech receivers were getting down the field. Other than Zouzalik's 55 yard TD reception, Lyle Leong had a 25 yard receiption, Jacoby Franks had a 30 yard reception and Detron Lewis had a 22 yard reception.
- Willis continues to play a ton of bodies on the defensive side of the ball, and since I can't go back and watch the tape, I have a hard time really watching each and every defensive snap. By my count, Willis had 22 or 23 players see significant time last night. It's not quite 25, but that's a lot. DT Colby Whitlock didn't record a tackle or an assisted tackle. I kow he's getting double-teamed, but he really needs to push through.
OFFENSIVE MVP | RB ERIC STEPHENS | When a football player has 264 yards of total offense in a game then I think it's safe to say that he might deserve to be the offensive MVP.
DEFENSIVE MVP | OLB BRIAN DUNCAN | Is it wrong of me to pick Duncan two games in a row? He is by far this team's best pass-rusher and for a team that is learning how to rush the passer from different positions, he's a God-send.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP | RB AARON CRAWFORD | It would be real easy to pick Stephens here as well, but Crawford's blocked punt tells you a little bit about Crawford as a person. His willingness to play as hard as he does special teams is refreshing, despite being maybe 4th on the running back depth chart. He could pout and be a disruption, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Blocked punts change games and I thought Crawford's put did this.