Recess is over. Conference play starts this weekend. And this year, the Big 12 is no country for old men.
After 3 games, we are starting to get a better picture of who Texas Tech is as a football team. I'll start with the defense. The 4-2-5 is predicated on stopping the run. So far, our Red Raiders have struggled to do this. In the post game comments, the staff indicates that we had people out of position. I haven't had the opportunity to re-watch the game (and at this point probably won't) to see if out-of-position was the root cause, but what I saw the first time through was a lot of failure to contain and/or string out the play. Our defensive ends were routinely getting caught inside instead of containing and stringing out the play to give the LBs and Safeties time to get there.When this happens, it leaves guys trying to make plays in a lot of open space. Plays in space are good if you're on offense, but not what you want to see happen if you're on defense.
On offense, we are executing pretty well, but we have some limitations. If Doege had as big an arm as he does heart, we'd have Dan Marino. But, for as clutch a player as he is, I think Seth Doege will struggle as we move deeper into conference play. Don't get me wrong. I love the kid and the way he plays with determination, but at a listed 6'1", Doege is a little on the short side for an FBS QB. As such, Doege is going to struggle at times to find throwing lanes against Big XII defenses and will be forced to use his feet to move around and hope to get a clear lane. We also saw him struggle last week to make the required throws against a faster defense when he had to move more, the windows were smaller and he had less time in the pocket.. Several times he threw the ball at the receiver's feet, or the ball was just slow getting there. I'll be holding my breath on any sideline throws more than 8 yards down field.
Although he completed 68% of his passes, Doege checked down alot, averaging only 5.8 YPC. Doege was making good decisions. He was forced to check down due to the coverage and receivers struggling to get open once Moore went out. But he is going to have to make the tough throw sooner rather than later, and the receivers are going to have to make a play on the ball.
Eric Stephens is providing a bright spot in the running game, and the offensive line is doing a better job up front than 2009-2010. If Stephens continues to hang on to the ball, it will force teams to account for him and play honest. Combined, this will help us as defenses will not be able to just pin their ears back and pass rush as they did much of the last 2 years.
If the Tech defense is struggling, the Kansas defense is on life support. Much will depend on what they have done with a buy week, and KU should return some injured players to their lineup. On offense, Kansas boasts a pretty strong rushing attack, with a stable of running backs. They could easily play a lot of keep away, control the clock, and grind out points. This concerns me late in the game.
Both Kansas and Texas Tech need to scrap together all the wins they can, facing a tough Big XII schedule. I don't want to call this one a must win for us, but a loss would put Tech way behind the 8 ball in terms of getting to a bowl game. With this in mind, I find myself asking, "What's the most you ever lost on a coin flip?" On to this weeks keys.
Key #1: Stop the Run
It is time for the 4-2-5 to do what it was designed to do. Stop the run early in the series and force 3rd and long. Tech needs to break serve early in this game and give themselves the opportunity to play with a lead. It starts with stopping the run. With the film that they have on us, it will be no surprise if the game plan for KU is try to run it 50+ times. We have to stop the run and get the defense off the field as much as possible in the first half to ensure there is gas left in the tank in the 2nd.
Key #2: Get separation
Nevada gave the rest of the teams on our schedule a good look at what it takes to slow down the Tech passing game. We need the receivers to work to get off the line quickly, run great routes and create space. I don't want our RBs leading the team in receptions. Get open, then make something happen
Key #3: Tackle in space
We need to avoid these one on one situations as much as possible, but when they occur hit hard and, for the love of God, hold on until help comes.
I like Tech and the over in this one, but that doesn't mean I won't be pacing the floor in the 4th.