Matchups | SFA Lumberjacks vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the matchups between the visiting Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks as they are the first opponent for Kliff Kingsbury and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at home.

Texas Tech Pass Offense vs. SFA Pass Defense

The most striking thing to me during Texas Tech's win against SMU was the dramatic difference that TE Jace Amaro makes in regards to the entire team. I just happened to be sitting in the endzone, about 20 rows up and the attention that he received was immediate, he still caught passes, still produced and still trucked over Mustangs. If I had to give you two reasons as to why the Texas Tech offense struggled initially, it would be initial butterflies for a freshman quarterback and Amaro not being in the lineup.

There will not be a week that goes by where Amaro is in the lineup where it will not be a significant advantage. His impact is really special. I'm not saying that Amaro's impact was the sole reason for Texas Tech's second half success, but it's a part of it and I think we'd be remiss not to at least mention it.

Of course the national story was the play of true freshman QB Baker Mayfield. The short passes to start the game were most likely intentional as HC Kliff Kingsbury probably wanted to establish a bit of rhythm for the freshman and get him going. Kingsbury said after the game that Mayfield has to work on making sure that some of those tipped passes and near interceptiosn get cleaned up. Those will eventually cost Mayfield and Texas Tech, but they didn't on Friday night. I think the reasoning to starting Mayfield was that he had a high completion percentage (he completed 72% on Friday night) and he didn't turn the ball over (it's true, he didn't have any turnovers, but he could have). Still, given everything that's happened with this program, this was a solid win and I'm not going to complain a bit about Mayfield performance.

The offensive line did a decent job of protecting Mayfield, but they can and hopefully will be better. Someone had mentioned that the problem was the right side of the line and I think that's been the case all spring and fall. I'm guessing that the staff never wanted to put Beau Carpenter at tackle because he's just not athletic enough to hold that spot, while Rashad Fortenberry is more athletic, but he's just not consistent. If you needed a reason why a freshman will play, this is it. OL coach Lee Hays has to figure it out and not be afraid to flip things around. Maybe it's Trey Keenon or Matt Wilson that needs to be out there and give them a shot.

The pass defense for SFA was suspect, 70th in the nation in FCS teams, but we really don't know if there was any improvement because SFA's week 1 opponent, Weber St., just ran the ball all over SFA. To the tune of over 300 yards rushing and Weber St. only had 118 yards passing on 29 attempts. I don't know anything about Weber St., but I'm guessing that they are probably better running the ball than they are passing as they had two quarterbacks that eventually played. As an aside, SFA did have two interceptions.

VERDICT: Texas Tech

Texas Tech Rush Offense vs. SFA Rush Defense

Should. Should. There should be a signifant advantage here, especially when SFA gives up 315 yards on 56 carries for 5.6 yards a carry to Weber St., but I think Texas Tech still has some significant holes to fill here and I think it really needs to happen from a possible lineup change as mentioned above. There needs to be some sort of shuffle as the lineup was decent because of the overall size and lack of pass rush from SMU, but I don't think that's going to last all year. This team has two games to figure out a competent pass protection and run blocking scheme. I'm pretty sure I saw some man and zone blocking and neither was effective.

Texas Tech should have a significant advantage here, but from what Texas Tech showed on Friday night, I really need to see it first.

SFA obviously has some work to do along the defensive line and at linebacker. The combination of Malcolm Mattox, Shayvio Hatten, Donald Bryant, Nick Bryant, Darren Robinson and Oratv Hypolite didn't work against Weber St. N. Bryant and Hypolite led the team with 10 and 9 tackles respectively, but Weber St. seemingly ran all over SFA. I also thought it was interesting that SFA only converted 5 of 18 on third down, which means that SFA sufficiently held Weber St. in certain situations, but Weber St. still had 15 rushing first downs. Statistically, SFA out-gained Weber St., but it didn't show up on the field (we'll get to some additional reasons shortly).

VERDICT: Texas Tech

Texas Tech Pass Defense vs. SFA Pass Offense

Texas Tech’s pass defense was exploited by SMU’s ability to drag players underneath in crossing patterns, which is incredibly effective and tough to cover, and Garrett Gilbert is crazy effective rolling and throwing to his right. I don’t have the pass break-down, just what I observed, but SMU should only roll Gilbert to his right because he’s just incredibly rolling on that direction. So some of SMU’s success was due to Gilbert, who isn’t terrible, but at this point of his career, he’s a guy that is going to throw for a bunch of yards, but seems to have shrunk a bit in the big moments. Gilbert doesn’t get all of the blame, some of his receivers dropped balls too, and that’s problematic.

The pass defense was resilient, and I think that’s a good way to describe them. They didn’t back down and part of the reason why I think that Bruce Jones has the chance to be one of the better playmakers on the team is because Jones is such a terrific open field tackler. Jones wasn’t the only thing to be excited about, I really liked the athleticism of this group in addition to the open field tackles. That’s something that will serve this group pretty well moving forward. I think that Texas Tech was gifted some good opportunities and there were times where SMU had driven down the field, but lost prime field position due to a penalty or just a bad play. That won’t happen all of the time, being able to take advantage of bad plays from the opponent, but I really do like Tre Porter, J.J. Gaines, Keenon Ward, Ola Falemi, and Bruce Jones getting a bunch of the snaps here and I also really like the depth.

SFA’s pass offense is prolific and they are really good. You can expect to see an offense similar to Texas Tech’s in terms of run to pass ratio. Senior QB Brad Attaway threw for 450 yards and 4 touchdowns, but he also threw 3 interceptions. The mistakes are there and I suppose I would have expected that Attaway would throw for a better completion percentage, 59% against Weber St., but maybe that’s asking too much. Receivers Mike Brooks and DJ Ward each caught 9 passes and were fantastic. Brooks is a diminutive receiver, 5-9/175, while Ward is a bit bigger, 6-0/178. Brooks caught those 9 passes and had 166 receiving yards while Ward had 132 yards.

Based on athletes alone, I do like Texas Tech significantly, but this will be a good test for a Texas Tech defense that is fairly resigned to giving up chunks of yards at some point, but they want to keep those points off the board.

VERDICT: Texas Tech

Texas Tech Rush Defense vs. SFA Rush Offense

The Texas Tech defense was okay and as mentioned the other morning after the game, a majority of the SMU rushing yards, 102 total yards rushing and 51 by Gilbert on just 3 carries, came off of one drive in the second half. That means that other than those 3 carries for 51 yards, Texas Tech held SMU to 1.8 yards a carry. That’s some pretty salty work, and Texas Tech did a terrific job of adjusting to what SMU did with Gilbert and those long runs really didn’t happen again. So overall, I’m really happy and SMU was actually a pretty decent running team last year.

SFA actually had a pretty decent day running the ball, running for 114 yards on 26 carries. Not great, but not awful considering the Lumberjacks had over 500 yards in total offense. Like Texas Tech, they just don’t really rely on their rushing offense. RB Gus Johnson was the workhorse getting 24 of those 26 carries and I’d expect much of the same thing.

This should be a pretty easy battle to win, especially because I think Texas Tech has a pretty significant advantage up front. DT Kerry Hyder was my defensive player of the game against SMU and I really liked the play of the line in general. Seeing Jackson Richards with that added weight and playing inside was a really nice surprise, one that I wasn’t expecting. I think that Richards is going to help significantly next year in some form or fashion and I’m glad to see him part of the rotation this year. And I haven’t even talked about the linebacker play, which was fantastic I thought. Pete Robertson, Will Smith and Micah Awe were just terrific. Throw in some really nice plays by Terrance Bullitt and you have a really athletic group. Bullitt was caught covering that SMU receiver for the 51 yard bomb, but I’ll take that matchup most of the time and having him in that role is a pretty nice advantage to have.

VERDICT: Texas Tech

Texas Tech Special Teams vs. SFA Special Teams

SFA didn’t lose to Weber St. because of their lack of offense or poor defense. Neither was perfect, but it seemed to be a combination of big plays, a 71 yard interception return for a touchdown and those special teams. Oh, those special teams. A 100 yard kickoff return and a PAT that was blocked is all I really need to know that this should be an area that can be exploited. SFA also only had 2 kickoff returns for 14.5 yards per return. That’s not going to cut it and that’s putting your offense in a bad spot. Meanwhile, for Texas Tech, the special teams weren’t completely lights out as Jakeem Grant never really got going on kickoffs, but he should on Saturday. The coverage units were pretty good, as the kickoff return allowed 16.5 yards a return and the punt returns unit allowed 3.5 yards per return.

VERDICT: Texas Tech

Texas Tech Coaching vs. SFA Coaching

I have a soft spot for coaches that do well at lower divisions or at high school and then get the call. SFA head coach J.C. Harper has been at SFA for seven years and has adapted, initially a defensive guy, has fully embraced the spread and attack offenses that are a part of the college landscape. Harper is a two-time winner of the Southland Conference coach of the year and took a team from 0-11 to respectability. I think that coaches that do that can really coach because that’s not an accident.

I’ll go more into this tomorrow, but I just absolutely love what Kingsbury is doing as a head coach and there may not be a more fun time to watch a coach grow into what we think and hope he will become than this opportunity now. I’m giving a slight edge to Kingsbury here, but I like throwing some respect to coaches at smaller schools, and I’m doing that here.

VERDICT: Texas Tech

Summary

5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5
TTU Pass Offense vs. SFA Pass Defense
TTU SFA
TTU Rush Offense vs. SFA Rush Defense
TTU SFA
TTU Pass Defense vs. SFA Pass Offense
TTU SFA
TTU Rush Defense vs. SFA Rush Offense
TTU SFA
TTU Special Teams vs. SFA Special Teams
TTU SFA
TTU Coaching vs. SFA Coaching
TTU SFA
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