What a conflicting game. On so many levels this game was really entertaining. Michael Crabtree is absolutely incredible. I've never seen a kid with as much talent and affect a team as much. And it's not so much that he catches passes, but he really changes the game. The defense, well, it was a C+. I don't want to be too hard on these kids, but damn't they're frustrating, or is the scheme frustrating (I know, I'm telling you something you already know). Let's get to the grades:
Quarterback: Another outstanding day. Harrell was accurate completing 75.6% of his passes, had a whopping 11.18 yards per attempt (Harrell was averaging near 7 before yesterday) and an incredible 6.16 attempts for each touchdown (he was averaging 15 attempts for every touchdown before yesterday). Statistically, Harrell had an outstanding day and there were a few passes that he would like to have back, but over a 3 game period, he's only turned the ball over twice by interception, which means that he's throwing an interception once every 80 attempts.
The one caveat here is that he's playing against inferior talent and this is the same Rice team that gave up over 400 yards passing to Baylor. I don't want to go crazy high-fiving each other because Harrell's results were expected, at least from me.
Despite my somewhat conservative approach, Harrell is putting up some amazing numbers, even for Texas Tech quarterbacks. Later this week, we'll project out some of his stats and see where he might fit among some of the Red Raider quarterbacks before him, but it's easy to say that Harrell is doing just fine.
Tyler Potts also got into the game, and I got to see one series with Potts at quarterback before the wife demanded that I feed her. I relented because I knew that I DVR'ed the rest of the game and I could pick it up later. Wouldn't you know it, my DVR froze shortly after I left so I didn't get to see as much Potts as I would have liked. Potts has a cannon for an arm and his arm strength is impressive, but he still has to work on the touch passes that a part of this offense and his internal clock that tells him that he needs to get rid of the ball. Give Potts time and he's going to be great.
Running Back: I'm not sure there's much to say here. Woods and Lewis both had 7 carries, but Woods had 6.6 yards a carry while Lewis only averaged 3.7 yards a carry. Both had a rushing touchdown near the goal line. That says something about these running backs and this offensive line, that we may not have been able to say in years past. Woods and Lewis also each had 10 yards receiving as Woods had 5 receptions and Lewis only had 2.
Receivers: Superlatives escape me. We will begin to see much on Crabtree's assault on the NCAA record book and what he is going is absolutely amazing. But as I said above, it's not just the passes, it's how he's changing the game. That first drive where Harrell came out of the gate and completed a pass to Crabtree for 41 yards. Tech then gets in a slight hole and loses 13. No problem, just complete another pass to Crabtree for 32 and then another just for the hell of it for 14. It was that easy.
I'm so used to seeing the team pick up yards in 4 to 8 yard gains and that's how Crabtree is changing things. He's changing the way that Harrell and Leach run this offense and it's incredible to watch.
Example. It's the 3rd quarter and Texas Tech is at Rice's 9 yard line and looking to score. It's 4th down and 3, Harrell completes a short inside pass to Crabtree and Michael turns back outside and out-muscles his way into the endzone.
The only part that bothered me about the rest of the group is that there wasn't one receiver that really stood out. Perhaps the most impressive catch was Grant Walker's touchdown grab of 38 yards to go up 14-0.
Amendola contributed 4 catches for 39 yards, but they were certainly quiet yards. L.A. Reed had an impressive catch for 34 yards that he brought down to the 2 yard line before Woods punched in the TD. Lyle Leong can still catch everything thrown within 3 yards of him. Leong is amazing and I absolutely love his talent. Britton, Reese, Morris, Brinker, Woods and Crawford each contributed marginally. Britton did a great job of coming back for a ball for Potts, helped gain a number of yards. Eric Morris scored on a 10 yard out that was thrown before he even turned around to look for the ball.
Crabtree's performance alone gets this group an A, but Leach & Co. are going to have to rely on more that Mr. Crabtree in order to survive the Big 12 South.
Running Backs: The running backs rushed for a total of 22 times for 131 yards. Shannon Woods was explosive for his 9 carries where he garnered 75 yards and a touchdown. Woods had touchdowns rushing and receiving and I thought he ran with a purpose all day long.
Kobey Lewis ran well again and averaged 4.0 yards a carry and scored a touchdown.
I was a little shocked that the staff felt it necessary that burning the redshirt season for Aaron Crawford. Crawford was inserted in the game with Potts and I thought there were two interesting things about Crawford. He is big and he is fast. I don't know if the coaches have something more planned for him, but this is something to watch the for the remainder of the season.
Offensive Line: I thought these guys, once again did an excellent job. They gave up only one sack and that sack occurred while Tyler Potts was in the game. I thought the middle of the line was incredible. I don't recall mentioning even thinking about their performance all day, which means that they did their job well.
I am becoming a little more concerned about the play of Jake Johnson at right tackle. It seemed that he is big enough and just quick enough to push his defender to the outside, but there will come a time where Johnson won't be able to do that. I'd imagine that once we get into conference play Johnson could run into a little trouble with guys who are more talented than the most recent group of opponents.
It was nice to see Marlon Winn give Johnson a spell during the 2nd half, I thought that was smart for Moore to get some kids more experience. I like having options on the offensive line and Winn can provide a different type of option at right tackle other than Johnson.
Just in case you're keeping track, you had your 5 starters (Johnson, Brandon Carter, Shawn Byrnes, Louis Vasquez and Rylan Reed), Winn, Landon Burge (a redshirt sophomore), Chris Olson, Stephen Hamby and Justin Keown all play on Saturday.
Defensive Line: I'm conflicted with this position. Here's the defensive ends' performances:
- Brandon Williams had 4 tackles and 1 sack, and seemed like a quiet day.
- Sandy Riley had 2 tackles and seemed like he was in the Rice backfield quite a bit on Saturday.
- Daniel Howard has 2 tackles and 1 sack and thought he was a force most of the game, especially that hit that caused a fumble.
- Jake Ratliff and Tyler Yenzer also saw time as did Brandon Sharpe, who saw his first action of the year.
The defensive tackles weren't bad either:
- Colby Whitlock was all over the place and although they only credit him for 2 tackles, I swear he was in on at least 2 sacks, and he's only a freshman.
- Richard Jones had 2 tackles while Brian Jones had 1 sack.
- Clint Stoffels and Rajon Henley each finished with 2 tackles a piece and Stoffels had 1 sack.
Collectively, this group finished with 16 tackles and 4 sacks. That's not a bad day's work for this group that ended up limiting Rice to only 99 yards rushing. That's so much more production from this group than we're accustomed to and that's a good thing. Not only that, 11 guys received playing time, which means that it's not just one or two guys contributing, but a number of them.
Do I think they could have played better? Sure, there isn't a perfect performance, but this unit has improved over the course of three games.
Linebackers: Frustrating. Before we get to the bad, let's get to the good. Statistically, Paul Williams had an excellent day with 10 tackles, 2 for a loss, and 1 sack. Marlon Williams had 6 tackles while Brian Duncan had 5 tackles and 1 tackle for a loss. Chad Hill also finished with 4 tackles for the day.
Tillman, I'm still trying to figure out why he starts. I'd love to know the number of plays he played, while only registering 2 tackles.
There was some bad. I'm going to blame scheme for this one, but in reviewing the game it seemed like the game plan was to have the linebackers cover the inside receivers. So as I initially watched the game I thought that the linebackers just weren't doing their job that they weren't stuffing the run and the Rice receivers were getting 7 or 8 yards a catch.
But was it their play or what they were told to do? Sort of a chicken or the egg argument? The linebackers can only be to blame for not being in the right spots, but when you're instructed to line up so far off the line of scrimmage, whether you're covering the inside receiver or lining up normally, it seemed like the game plan was to give all game long, but not to break (I know, this is the game plan for every game, but it seemed particularly evident on Saturday). Thus, for example, Tillman, who I criticized for not being effective, was taken out of the game by his own coordinator. Genius.
So why wasn't there a change? It wasn't necessary. Setencich thinks that the offense will outscore the defense more games than not, so as long as his unit gets a stop or two then it's a win. Setencich could afford to let the offense carry him all game long. I think this is what Leach meant by the defense was soft, they were giving up huge chunks of yards in the 1st half, but that was the plan. So now I think we need to differentiate between the players and the scheme, because I think the kids played hard, but the scheme didn't allow them to do the things that they needed to do for us to consider them to be effective.
Grade: Players - B; Scheme - D
Secondary: Bottom line, this group has to get better in man coverage. Seeing Wall get smoked by Dillard infuriated me, but it wasn't that he was beat. That happens, it's that he didn't even look back for the ball, or was even able to make a play on the ball. That's not acceptable. These defensive backs are supposed to be the backbone of the defense.
Joe Garcia was solid with 5 tackles and he missed one tackle, but somehow caused a fumble. McBath finished with 4 tackles.
Although I haven't reviewed the entire game, the defensive backs were giving up 7 or 8 yard cushions on the Rice receivers all game long. As I said above, there wasn't a need to press and potentially get beat, let the offense carry the load. I don't blame these kids again, I blame the scheme. The few missed tackles (I think there was 1 at the beginning of the game) I blame on the kids, but the fact that they were forced to play so far back and in zone coverage the entire game just isn't their fault.
Players - C; Scheme - D
Special Teams: Trlica averaged almost 60 yards a kickoff. Trlica also hit his only field goal of the day for 39 yards. LaCour only had to punt once and it only went 35 yards. L.A. Reed and Ed Britton seem to be the ones returning kickoffs. Reed averaged 22 yards a kickoff while Britton averaged 15.5. I'd like to see a little more from the kickoffs, but that's just being picks. Rice's longest kickoff return consisted of 22 yards and kept Rice in check most of the night.