Four weeks ago, we were angry over a loss to fish bait. Three weeks ago, we were out of our heads over a second conference loss in a game that, barring 4 turnovers, should have been easily winnable. Two weeks ago, we were on cloud 9 after a surprise win at undefeated Oklahoma. Last week, we came crashing down in a demoralizing loss to Iowa State. A young team with some upcoming talent, plagued by injury and thin at key positions. Which ironically sounds a lot like the team we will be facing.
In Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the question is how to control becoming that which you do not wish to be...
Much like Tech, Texas is in the midst of changing schemes. Tech has a slight advantage in that we are in the second year of a modified offense and the first year of a different defense. Texas is in the first year of learning both.
Texas chalked this season up to rebuilding when they benched Garret Gilbert and started experimenting with Case McCoy and Davis Ash at quarterback. Ash has secured the starting spot, at least temporarily. Ash will be on a short leash tomorrow, with McCoy waiting in the wings. They will split time, but as much as I don't want to hear it, McCoy to Shipley is probably better for us as Tech fans to hear than to have David Ash in the game. Ash is a mobile quarterback, the kind that will give our defense fits if we are unable to contain him. McCoy is a better passer. Ash is getting most of the reps and gives Texas more options in their offense.
The UT pass defense is pretty good, with 8 forced fumbles and 7 interceptions. They are also averaging 2 sacks a game. The good news for Tech is that, despite David Ash's athleticism, their offense is not creating a lot of explosive plays. They have a stable of capable running backs, but the receiving corps is streaky with 2 plays hauling in over half of their receptions. The offense also has a tendency to turn the ball over, and Ash has thrown 5 picks in the last 3 games.
With all of this on the table, this may be Tech's best chance to go into DKR and come out with a win. With the Texas offense sputtering, it opens the door for Tech to stay in the game, if we can just accomplish a few of our own goals.
Key #1: 4 quarters of football
From the kickoff to the final tick, Tech has to come out playing 100%. Our offense has struggled to establish rhythm early in a number of games. We have to come out firing on all cylinders. As efficient as the Texas defense is, I don't expect us to score every possession. But we need to have quality possessions, protect the football, and be patient. Good things will start to happen if we don't come out flat. By the same token, Texas is a second half team. Should we happen to take the lead, we have to keep the pressure on. We're better at burning clock, but it's still not our game. Play to win, don't play not to lose.
Key #2: Will the real Seth Doege please stand up?
It's a lot of burden to put on 1 guy from Wolfforth. But, Doege has epitomized the Jekyll and Hyde personality of Texas Tech this year. The goal is not perfection. The goal is to not have 3+ turnovers in the game. Doege has to make good decisions, go through his reads, and avoid throwing the ball to the guys wearing @ss-wipe orange.
Key #3: Containment - it's not just for politicians anymore
I don't understand why this continues to be a problem for our defense, but it is killing me. I can see getting burned once, maybe twice in a game. But we continually crash inside, leaving giant swaths of open field for the discerning QB to take as a gift. We must contain first against the Texas offense. The option attack will kill us if we continue failing to contain. This is the first thing you learn as a defensive end: Job # 1 = contain. If it were up to me, the first time David Ash makes it outside of the tackle box, someone needs to take a seat. Make him beat you through the air, not with his feet.
These should be two pretty well matched teams. Let's hope the Hyde potion has worn off.