Reason #1: Running All Of The Time
I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned this reason for quite a while now, but it's just been such a revelation to see multiple runners provide a real option on offense. The most interesting part of the equation is that I never expected Baron Batch to supplant Shannon Woods in one game like he did against Nebraska. Of course it's great having two options and really there's three options if Crawford ever gets healthy (I would expect Crawford to stay injured the rest of the season so long as Batch and Woods are running well, he might get his redshirt season). In any event, we've talked about the running game ad naseum and now the only part of the running game that lacks consistence is short-yardage and I'm thinking that we see an improvement as the season continues in those situations.
Reason #2: This Is Only Part Of The Journey
As much as we tend to look at the TAMU game as a "big" game, and it is, I think this team keeps two things in mind. Just like last week, the motto was Respect Everyone, Fear No One, and the Aggies certainly fall in that category. The team must be cautioned about the trap of losing a team that you shouldn't and thus far, this team hasn't. It's been close, but good teams find a way, even if it may seem lucky, it happens. Secondly, despite the natural hype surrounding this game, the players need to keep in mind the bigger picture, which is that this team is playing for something it's never played for before. This game, as significant as it may seem is a step in that series of goals. Big 12 Championship and a BCS bowl birth.
Reason #3: Multiple Threats
There's always been in year's past a defined group of four receivers that dominated the quarterback's attention. This year is different. There are 14 different receivers who have made a catch, not including Stephen Hamby, 10 guys who have 5 catches or more. As a group, they are averaging over 12 yards per reception, which is an improvement over 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004. It's not just guys catching short passes for 4 or 5 yard gains, it's guys making catches down the field, breaking tackles and jumping over defenders. Think about it like this, against Kansas State, Texas Tech's 9th best receiver, by yardage, had 3 touchdown passes. Against Nebraska, Texas Tech's 3rd best receiver, again by yardage, had 2 catches for 16 yards, but ran in what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. Against Nebraska, Texas Tech's leading receiver, blocked and created space to make sure that this run happened. Again, there's a lot of pieces to the puzzle here, but the bottom line is that there's a lot of talent on the receiving end of the field.
Reason #4: Dixon Is Making Plays
McKinner Dixon proved it on Saturday and I think he's going to prove it again multiple times as the season moves forward. I wasn't real sure what to expect from Dixon when he announced he was transferring to Texas Tech, not to mention the grade issue, but after that mess was cleared up, Dixon has been a breath of fresh air on the defensive line. I say defensive line because Dixon is playing some defensive tackle, much like Sesay (see below), and Dixon was playing defensive tackle when he forced Ganz into his lone interception. Dixon has earned 1 sack each game, sans the Massachusetts game, and along side Brandon Williams, are the most active duo of defensive ends Texas Tech has had in quite some time.
Reason #5: All Of The Defensive Tackles Are Back
Rajon Henley was noticeably absent from Saturday's game against Nebraska . As mentioned above, this forced Dixon to see time at defensive tackle, wich forced McNeill to sub in little used Sandy Riley at defensive end. The return of Henley returns everyone else to their rightful positions and creates a more balanced rotation. If there was anything not to fault too much from Saturday's game is that the defensive line did what they could considering it seemed to me they had little help in terms of linebackers filling gaps or coming up the middle or corner for a blitz here or there. In any event, Henley's return, Sesay's maturation, Jones' consistency and Whitlock's vast improvement bode well for the TAMU game.
Hat-Tip to the great South Carolina blog, Garnet and Black Attack.