THE RESULT | Whew | I caught some flack on the Twitter for tweeting out that the conservative play calls, the two runs right before the Jordan Davis catch, was bothersome. Someone then sent me the middle finger emoticon. That play call, the pass play, the one that I was pining for prior to that catch, was the epitome of the difference between Tuberville and Kingsbury. Tuberville absolutely would have run the ball between the tackles. If I were calling plays, I would have run the ball, but that's the biggest difference between the two coaches (and me). I'm incredibly conservative by nature and I would have run the ball because it's safe. Kingsbury won that game because he chose to pass the ball down the field and setting up this team for a touchdown. Here's what Kingsbury said on that play:
We talk about it all the time. Fortune favors the bold. We're not going to leave it up to anyone else. We knew it was up to him to make good throws, and today he did that.
Those two plays prior to the run felt like Kingsbury was about to play the odds, but ultimately he knew that he couldn't win that game if he did that. Go for the win and go for the score.
OFFENSIVE STAR OF THE GAME | Last week I went with the running backs and I could go with TE Jace Amaro, but I'll pick QB Davis Webb for the job he did. 36 of 50, 9.2 yards per attempt (yikes!), 2 touchdowns and no picks. Really a fantastic day for yet another true freshman.
DEFENSIVE STAR OF THE GAME | Since I gave it to three running backs, I'll give this to three linebackers, Will Smith 9 tackles, 1 TFL; Pete Robertson 9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FR; and Terrance Bullitt 8 tackles, 1 TFL. Just a fantastic effort from all of those guys. The rushing yards aren't going to look pretty, but
The Replacements | I know I'm not qualified enough to know who should play and who shouldn't play. CB Olaoluwa Falemi had 3 pass interference penalties and it was downright tough to watch. You felt bad for that guy. I thought they were pretty blatant and obvious and that stinks. SS Tanner Jacobson forced a fumble and led the team with 9 tackles and pretty much saved what could have been a 99 yard run by Charles Sims. I think that Jacobson has some tough things in coverage where he's not making the right play and WVU makes some really big pass plays. He had a rough go at it last week a bit as well I think. Stewart fumbles a kickoff return that, thankfully, only leads to a field goal. Falemi was replaced by Derrick Mays and Jacobson was replaced by Austin Stewart, who flipped from the outside linebacker spot back to his strong safety spot. Stewart was replaced on returns by Reginald Davis and even Bradley Marquez for one kickoff.
There's a line there where you know the player is getting beat up, with Falemi it was obvious because he had a handful of pass interference calls and he just couldn't turn around or really had an answer. With Jacobson, it was less obvious, but a handful of those long completions were right over the middle of the field. The coaches have to know what that line is to say that they continue to have confidence in the player, but have to do what's best for the good of the team. That point, sometime in the 3rd or 4th quarter, was it for the coaches. They just weren't working out for that game and it was tough to watch. But the good news is that those replacements, Stewart and Mays, play really well the rest of the way. Good enough to just allow one touchdown in the second half (I believe that Mays was in the game the second series of the second half).
This is the tough part for me, criticizing players and hopefully this is mundane enough not to be over the top. I will want to go back and watch the safety play again to make sure what I've been watching is correct, but I would expect that there will be additional changes here. I'm not sure where Stewart is more valuable, at OLB or safety. Maybe Gaines gets back and this isn't a problem.
Have You Heard This One Before | TE Jace Amaro was simply dominant and the most dominant player in the Big 12. I can write that and I absolutely believe it. I don't care if Amaro isn't on the Mackey Award watch list because it doesn't matter. We know that he's the most dominant receiver in college football because there isn't a cover in college football. That third down catch, late in the game was saving some just incredible and aside from blocking, the one thing that he's done a better job of doing is making the catch. I think he drobbed one catch yesterday, a pass to the flat, and other than that, I think he caught just about everything thrown to him.
How the Defense Won the Day | West Virginia's last touchdown happened in the second drive in the third quarter. WVU scored on their first drive heading out of the halftime and after that, it was this:
3 plays 4 yards
6 plays 18 yards
3 plays 1 yard
3 plays 6 yards
4 plays 6 yards
Texas Tech won this game, in large part because Kingsbury wasn't afraid to throw the damn ball, but also because someone turned on the light switch for the defense and they held WVU, on their last 5 drives, to 19 plays for 35 yards. I don't need to do the math there to tell you that this is a little over a yard a play. The Texas Tech defense shut WVU down, in large part because they couldn't pick on Falemi any more and Mays was stellar in those last few drives.
So yes, that defense, despite giving up a ton of yards all day, and they did, tightened up to give the offense a legitimate chance to make plays to win the game. Which they did. Everyone pulling together.
Rough Day for Runners? | The running game definitely took a step back, but WVU did a really great job of containment and tackling on the second level. Really, those linebackers were stellar at tackling on the second level and extending plays. There were times where it seemed that the running game was struggling and it seemed that maybe running the ball wasn't the best idea. As an offensive coordinator, I think you still have to poke and prod the defense, even if it seems like you're not going anywhere. It's the reason that Kenny Williams was able to rip off a 41 yard screen/pass play. Overall, the running backs ran for 96 yards on 27 carries . . . but had 12 catches for 146 yards. That's good for just over 12 yards a catch. When those receivers are running vertical routes, the running backs have a lot of open space underneath. This may be the toughest thing for a defense to figure out how to handle, which is covering down the field, but with a quarterback that can find running backs in the flat make this offense an incredibly tough defense to cover. In case you're keeping track at home, that's 242 yards on 39 touches for 6 yards touch. Kingsbury will take that all day.
Winning Despite Yourself, Part II | Texas Tech lost the turnover battle, again (it doesn't matter that some Trickett passes should have been picked off, they weren't) 2-1 and gave WVU a gift at the 17 with a kickoff return and fumbled the ball at the WVU 1 yard line. Much like last week, the final score should have been different. It wasn't and maybe this is a team that's going to make mistakes that they have to overcome, but son of a gun, those mistakes seem like the type of mistakes that they don't have to make. I had no problem with calling for Webb to essentially run the quarterback draw on that play, but he has to know, and Kingsbury acknowledged after the game, that he was mad and that just can't happen. Webb has to slide on that play. He's not built like Mayfield (A quick aside, there was a cool moment on the sideline after that play where Baker Mayfield asked Webb if he was okay. I think they are all in this together.) and can just muscle through the goal line. He's just not built that way. And the kickoff fumble is really just inexcusable. I was a bit surprised when Stewart was the initial returner, a defensive guy that doesn't have the ball in his hands all that much, but you have to trust Haverty on this a bit. Well, that didn't last all that long and before the game had ended, Marquez and Davis were returning kickoffs. They even had communication issues on one kickoff and more than anything else, there needs to be some consistency here.
Third Downs | One of my biggest criticisms of Webb has been his ability to convert third downs. I tend to think that third down conversion is one of the most important, but one of those things you don't really think about until someone tells you, but Webb was really good on third downs, converting 9 of 15 for the day. That's just stellar and that will make this offense that much better. Defensively, the third downs was a bit strange. West Virginia converted 7 of 17 third downs, which is 41% and much better than their season average of just 30% or so. In the first half, when it seemed like WVU was capitalizing on penalties and bad play on Texas Tech's part for third downs, they were 5 of 9, but in that second half, WVU reverted to what they've been for most of the year, which they converted just 2 of 8 for the second half.
Special Teams Goodness | We're not going to focus on the fumble, but I wanted to mention some of the good things on special teams. That tackle by John White was just spectacular. White is a walk-on from Bremond, and was a quarterback and lienbacker for his high school team as a senior. White was first team All-State as a quarterback and the 1-A defensive MVP his senior year. His last game as a high schooler, White had 320 yards passing and 32 tackles. Not big enough. Not fast enough for anyone else, but I'm happy as heck White's playing for Texas Tech.
Kenny Williams had three tackles on special teams. That's right, your starting running back is also on kickoff coverage and had 3 tackles yesterday.
After a bad week, and getting replaced, Ryan Erxleben has been really good, finishing the day with an average of 45 yards a punt. And on the kickoff, after being injured for a week and having a rough go at it in the kickoff department, Kramer Fyfe returned and his ability to kick kickoffs into the opponents endzone, about 4 yards deep is about as perfect that you could ask from a kicker. It's just far enough where there's indecision on the returner and where the coverage unit can make a play and pin the offense deep.
Ryan Bustin was perfect, again.
That 52 yard return for Reginald Davis was a game-changer. Just a huge play.
- Kerry Hyder and Branden Jackson had pretty good days. Hyder finished with 6 tackles and 1 TFL, while Jackson also finished with 6 tackles and 0.5 TFL (sharing with Stewart). Jackson Richards and Dennell Wesley aren't really getting the press that they got early in the year, but they are really doing yoeman's work in the interior. They really are doing a pretty good job of controlling the line.
- Not having IR Jakeem Grant, SS J.J. Gaines and DE Dartwan Bush really showed how it can affect the team, especially from a depth perspective. Without Gaines for two weeks in a row, you get a walk-on at safety that struggles a bit, and without Bush in teh lineup, you have to hope that Demetrious Alston can step up his play. Grant's absence caused all sorts of problems on special teams and his presence on offense is certainly felt. So, Texas Tech was without 3 starters and it was tough.
- CB Bruce Jones said after the game that Falemi knew that he had a rough game and Jones switched to the field cornerback spot, which is Falemi's spot, pushing Mays to the boundary spot. At the FCB spot, the cornerback has to cover more space, and I think that's a natural fit for Jones. Mays was really good yesterday, but he's also had issues turning and looking for the ball. It's the reason why Neboh played in front of him last year. It's not a real easy thing to do and that sense of when to turn is probably the toughest thing to learn as a cornerback. It's the reason why true freshmen have a hard time playing. It's something that can take years to master and I hope that Theirry Nguema, Jeremy Reynolds and La'Darius Newbold are all taking in this year. They're up next.
- The offensive line didn't allow a sack and I don't think they had a penalty called on them the entire game. I didn't notice them and that's a great thing.
- That touchdown by Kenny Williams on the 1 yard line with Amaro on the line and FB Omar Ontiveros was a thing of beauty from a blocking perspective. Ontiveros just clocked the linebacker that was supposed to crash and it was as a well executed play that I can recall. Just beautiful.
- As much credit that the defense gets for shoring up in the second half, they sure did allow some rushing yards. Too many. Texas Tech is set to play teams that can run the ball and this is an area that just has to be better. Dreamius Smith and Charles Sims ran for 166 yards on 31 carries. This is just going to have to be better in the next month, but this was the biggest blemish on the rush defense all year. They've been good 6 out of 7 games. They can be better.
- Aside from Amaro receiving, there's no doubt that a guy like Bradley Marquez is really a special athelte as he had 8 catches for 112 yards. I'm still concerned that WR Eric Ward isn't getting the touches that I hoped he would prior to the year. Without Grant, it sure doesn't help, and aside from Jordan Davis' 27 yard catch that helped seal the game, the inside receivers (other than Amaro) were really quiet. I think as a group, they really missed Grant's explosiveness.
- I aksed after the game if Holgorsen shook hands with Kingsbury and he absolutely did and I coulnd't have been more wrong. They hugged and smiled. I'm glad that I was wrong about that. I really like Holgo.