Before the game I mentioned to my brother-in-law, who is also a Texas Tech graduate, that I really wanted to lay it to the Mustangs, I thought that Texas Tech needed a statement game. I know, that's a silly statement for a game that was the first game of the season, but this was a nationally televised game that was the only game on the television. What a perfect opportunity to show the rest of America that our Red Raiders were far superior to anything the Mustangs could throw at Texas Tech.
I thought this team was focused and ready to play, but more than that, I thought the team played well and that sort of praise goes to one person and one person only.
Granted, there were some areas that I thought needed some work, but it's the first game and there's really no need to be so negative this early.
One thing about the defense that I think needs to be said. They made plays. It can be easy to complain about one player or another, but the bottom line is that this group collectively made plays all over the field. Marlon Williams fumble return, Chris Parker's pass break-ups, the two interceptions, the sacks, etc. That's just a lot of defense to talk about and I'd like to see that trend continue.
First, I have't had time to watch the game, so these thoughts are based on what I saw on Monday. Also, here's the official Texas Tech boxscore.
Let's get to some reviews:
Quarterback: Graham was sharp the entire game, in fact when I read about the early game ankle injury, I was shocked because I had no idea that he was injured. Perhaps the most important statistic was that there were no turnovers for Graham, but let's dig a little deeper. Graham had 7.10 yards per attempt and 14.75 attempts per touchdown. Comparing this with last year's season averages, yesterday he was down on yards per attempt (7.38 in 2006) and up in touchdowns per attempt (16.23). This could could one of two directions.
My first thought is that it seemed like Harrell and the offense took what the defense gave him. It seemed like the times that a receiver was actually down the field was few and far between and the offense really worked over the middle of the field. So on some level, Harrell took what the defense gave him and that good, but I would still love to see Graham take a few chances down the field. Let's look at these numbers again after UTEP and see if this average is up more than it was on Monday.
My next thought is that Graham is on a decent pace despite the fact that it's only one game and he threw 59 passes. The 14.75 attempts per touchdown tells me that Harrell was efficient and efficiency means wins.
Although we didn't get to see much of Taylor Potts, its obvious that he's got a much bigger arm than Harrell, but Potts probably has a much bigger arm than most collegiate quarterbacks. I love his potential and I think that Red Raider fans are blessed that he's going to be quarterbacking this team for his junior and senior years.
Running Back: Pretty small sample size to evaluate Woods and Lewis, although last year Woods averaged 12 carries a game so he was closer to his average than I thought while at the game. Let's consider some of the effective numbers. Woods averaged 4.5 yards a carry and Lewis averaged 5.5. Last year, Texas Tech averaged 4.71 yards per carry. That's not bad.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum Shannon Woods
In looking at the drive chart, Woods had 2 carries in the 1st drive, one carry in the first drive of the 2nd quarter, 2 carries in the next drive and then 5 carries in the 4th quarter. Point being that Coach Leach probably saw something (over 500 yards will tell you that) that led him to believe that he didn't need to rush as consistently.
Lewis was in the game in the second series and live, he looks like a pin-ball and it was almost shocking how much smaller he was than his teammates (except for Eric Morris, who looks equally small). Lewis started to run the ball the same series that Woods ran the ball, when Texas Tech was up 42-9.
Overall, I thought the running game was solid, but the sample size was small.
Receivers: There's just so much to say about the receivers that I'm sure that I'll forget one thing or another. Obviously, the play of Danny Amendola jumped out at me as he ran like a man on a mission. He was virtually unstoppable and outran the SMU secondary for his lone touchdown.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum Danny Amendola
Next, Michael Crabtree was amazing, and apparently I had nothing to worry about. I still want to take the time to watch him play on television, but at the game, there were moments where I was left speechless and all I could do is point at the video screen so we could all watch the replay. Yes, Coach Leach is right, there were times that he tried to be a little too cute, but he ran through tackles and defenders. Yes, he will break every conceivable record at Texas Tech.
Eric Morris was very good as was L.A. Reed and Lyle Leong. Perhaps the most worrisome of the bunch was Ed Britton's inability to catch the ball. Granted, there were some passes that I didn't think was his fault, but for the most part he could have been much better.
Offensive Line: I think Graham Harrell is still standing in the pocket without a SMU defender within 5 yards of him. Seriously, live, the amount of time Graham had was stupid. I tried to focus on Jake Johnson, Jr. and Rylan Reed for a good part of the game and they were incredibly effective. Reed is going to be a rock on the offensive line and Johnson seemed to have little trouble keeping up with smaller and quicker defenders. They gave Graham plenty of time to pick apart SMU and they opened up enough holes to create running lanes for Woods and Lewis.
I'll take a closer look once I've had the time to review the game, but I can say without hesitation, the line as a whole played very well and they did their job.
Defensive Line: This is really where I need to go back and look at the tape. In SMU's initial drive I was pretty nervous about Martin's ability to run the ball up the gut. For my money the most physically impressive player was Brandon Williams. The guy just looked like a football player and he played with some intensity. Not to be forgotten is Jake Ratliff who had an impressive game (at the game he seemed to tower over his opponents), Rajon Henley seemed to make plays. The one sack that Colby Whitlock stuck out in my mind as well.
From a statistical standpoint, this defensive line limited the Mustangs to 80 yards rushing, was able to contain Willis for the most part and managed 3 sacks to boot. That's not a bad day. I thought the line could have done a better job of really stuffing the run, but that's just being picky.
Linebackers: I thought the younger guys were quicker to the ball and better equipped to make plays. That's not to say that I thought Chad Hill and Paul Williams both had decent days. Although, Kellen Tillman still frustrates me to no end and as I would focus on him during the game I would notice that he was never really near the ball, but kinda-sorta around the ball.
I enjoyed watching Blake Collier, Daniel Howard and Marlon Williams and thought that Collier contributed the most. I'd love to see that kid see the field more.
Secondary: Chris Parker was a bad, bad man on Monday. Hands down I thought he was the player of the game and loved the way he went after receivers. He had 2 pass break-ups and they weren't just good plays, they were athletically impressive plays.
The fact that the SMU receivers were so quiet says alot about how the secondary played. Both Garcia and McBath supported the run well and McBath had two impressive pass break-ups. Marcus Bunton played well and the list goes on.
Marcus Bunton AP Photo/Matt Slocum
I say the same thing that I said at the beginning, the fact that this unit is making plays, making things happen, bodes well for this Texas Tech defense. I cannot remember the last time that I could say this with a straight face, this defense is on its way.
Special Teams: The one nice thing about watching a game live is that you can see how fast L.A. Reed is on special teams. He beats his own team down the field by at least 5 yards. If you're at a game, take the time to watch number 86 on any time of kick coverage or punt coverage. You won't be disappointed.
I though Jonathan LaCour's punts were a little flat, but he got the job done. He averaged 40 yards a punt, but I think he can do much better.
Alex Trlica did an excellent job of getting the ball consistently to the 5 yard line. That alone makes Trlica worth his weight in gold.
It still frustrates me that SMU averaged 38.2 yards a kickoff, but I have a feeling that we'll see significant improvement facing the Miners.