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Report Card: Texas Tech vs. Kansas State

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An easy win. There were a couple of new wrinkles that Captain Leach unleashed on Saturday, including Michael Crabtree lining up in the backfield and taking a direct snap. Obviously, the options are endless with what Leach could with this formation and it's nice to see Leach get a little innovative (tongue firmly planted in cheek). Offensively, I thought the game plan was near perfect. Defensively, the team gave up 3 touchdowns, but Leach put the defense in a big hole by giving the ball to K-State on their own 29, but the opening drive was not pretty and the first drive of the second half was a long sustained drive that was worrisome. The defense did bounce back, so that's certainly a positive.

Offensive MVP: Graham Harrell - banner and near perfect day passing the ball. Great game.

Defensive MVP: Brian Duncan - thought he stood out the most of the defensive players.

Special Teams MVP: Donnie Carona - made a field goal (yeeeaaa!), made all 7-8 of his extra points and made a special teams tackle.

QUARTERBACK
 

A+

I don't know if I've even seen Graham Harrell (38-51; 454 yards; 6 TDs) play better than he did today. I believe the announcers when they said that the wind was whipping around pretty good, but I could hardly tell. Harrell completed 74% of his passes and had 8.9 yards per attempt. Perhaps we were worried for nothing, but Harrell played like he should against non-conference opponents against a conference opponent. That's moving in the right direction. I think there were a couple of passes that I'd like to have back, but I could count them on one hand. I'm not complaining. If I'm to try and look at Harrell's performance and why it was so much better than the past 4 games, I think I'd say that Harrell did a much better job of finding the open man over the middle of the field, where it's easier to make a throw. Harrell was pressured some, but it wasn't enough to slow him down. Obviously. When Talor Potts (4-9; 36 yards; 1 INT) came into the game, I was actually pretty excited to see him in Big 12 action and I left thinking the same thing before the game. Potts has the strongest arm of all of past and current Texas Tech quarterbacks, but he also thinks he can fit the ball in almost any situation. He needs to just relax and take what the defense gives him.
RUNNING BACK
 

A

Really not much to complain about here either. Shannon Woods (18 att; 70 yards; 1 rec; 28 yards) led the day, but Baron Batch (9 att; 68 yards; 1 TD; 3 rec.; 29 yards) was more explosive. Woods and Batch had 195 yards combined and are turning into a back-breaking offensive duo. We've said it ad naseum, with the emergence of a legitimate running game, a game where Texas Tech started the game with 5 connsecutive running plays, this offense become that much more difficult to defend. The only criticism is a couple of dropped passes from Harrell and a couple of rushes that went for no gain, but that's not necessarily the fault of the running backs. I love watching both of these guys, they both add so much. I loved Batch's 9 yard touchdown run. It was just all Batch exploding through the line. Nothing fancy from a blocking perspective, just run through the hole. And Woods, my favorite play of the day was the 3rd and 6 play, early in the 3rd quarter, where Woods turns a dump-off pass into a 28 yard game. Just beautiful.
RECEIVER
 

A

There were a couple of drops that I didn't like, otherwise an outstanding performance.  I think it's unfair to expect perfection, but I just hate seeing those drops when this is what Texas Tech does. Michael Crabtree (9 rec; 107 yards; 2 TD's) was the game-breaking receiver that we all know he is and a large portion of the country was able to see that. I think I enjoyed the fact that Crabtree is becoming a more technically proficient receiver. Lyle Leong (3 rec; 23 yards; 3 TD's) just caught touchdowns. Leong's fade to the corner was a nice leap over the defender and where Leong stretched out for the touchdown was physically painful looking, but inspiring to see a kid want to score that bad. Eric Morris (7 rec; 98 yards) appeared to return to form, while the somewhat quiet Detron Lewis (6 rec; 71 yards) had an excellent game and seemed to break out of his mini-slump. Tramain Swindall (4 rec; 65 yards) continues to catch the ball at a nice rate and the catch he made in the 3rd quarter was an excellent read by Harrell.  The KSU linebackers and safety were blitzing from Swindall's side and Harrell was so quick to recognize it that KSU never had a chance. I am surprised that Leong has essentially replaced Edward Britton and Todd Walker can't seem to get in the rotation on a more consistent basis.
H-BACK AND TIGHT END
 

A

By my hurried and scribbled notes, Texas Tech ran the 2-tight end set 7 (+/-) times during the game and as I noted after the game, it appears that two things happen when Texas Tech runs this set: complete confusion on the defense when Texas Tech passes (go back and watch the tape, it's chaos) and the isolation of one of the receivers on the side opposite of the formation. The three times that I noticed this, Leong got free for one of his touchdowns, Adam James had single coverage and alsmost scored a touchdown, while Ryan Hale scored a touchdown when Crabtree cleared out the safety.   Leach also ran the two tight end set with one tight end on either side of the tackle.  I think this was a nice play, but it was the one where James may have not hesitated on his route and not gotten to the sideline quick enough and it looked as if Harrell over-threw him.  Ryan Hale (1 rec; 4 yards; 1 TD) did his job and was rewarded with his first career touchdown. Adam James (4 rec; 36 yards) was also incredibly effective and as the announcers noted, he may have the best hands on the team.
OFFENSIVE LINE
 

B+

Although I can't be sure what Captain Leach said to his offensive line when the offense failed to get Shannon Woods across the goal-line, the job eventually being done by Graham Harrell. The line didn't give up any sacks, although Harrell was rushed a bit more than I like. KSU decided to rush more than 3 or four, but Harrell's quick release and the offensive line's ability to protect Harrell was instrumental to the team's success. Rylan Reed still doesn't quite look right, and he may have to play that way all year. Again, I'm picking on these guys. No sacks, Harrell had plenty of time to throw, the line picked up almost everything that K-State threw at them, and it seemed as if they tried everything, AND Batch and Woods combined for 138 yards and 1 touchdown. I will say that when Captain Leach called a timeout after Woods being stuffed two times from the 1 yard line and Harrell eventually punched it in was a nice wake-up call for the group, but it should not have come down to that. The one thing that I did notice on this particular series was that the line was doing a pretty good job of getting a push and holding their blocks against the KSU defenders, but the problem is that the KSU linebackers were quickly filling the gaps and making it impossible for Woods to get into the endzone. I think a lead blocker in this situation in the future would be nice (i.e., Ryan Hale).
DEFENSIVE LINE
 

B+

Texas Tech limited KSU to 135 yards rushing, 68 of these yards came on KSU's second to last drive when Texas Tech led 58-21 and Marlon Williams stripped Coffman on a goal-line plunge. If you're asking me, Texas Tech, when they were really trying, only gave up 67 meaningful rushing yards. I'm not sure that I could pick out just one guy who stepped up, but Brandon Sesay (1 tackle), Colby Whitlock (3 tackles), McKinner Dixon (2 tackles; 1 sack) and Richard Jones (2 tackles; 1 TFL) all played within themselves. None of these guys lit up the boxscore, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's no doubt that after those first two drives, the mantra was for the defense to put pressure on Freeman, get him outside of the pocket, and make him throw on the run, and it worked. Freeman on the run vs. Freeman in the pocket are two different pockets. As an aside, and to get you a little excited, one of the plays that sticks out was in the first half, KSU hands the ball off to Lemark Brown (going right) and Brandon Sesay strings out the offensive lineman, holds him off with his right hand, and tackles Brown with his left hand. Sesay is strong.
LINEBACKER
 

B+

The linebacking corp absolutely gets credit the run defense mentioned above, as Brian Duncan (12 tackles; 1 forced fumble) and Marlon Williams (8 tackles; 1 TFL) led the way. Ruffin McNeill decided to keep the linebackers on the slot receiver and it looked like it was going to be a long day the way that KSU was catching passes over the middle of the field, and I'm not so sure that it was adjustments on the field or Freeman just flat out missing his targets, after the first 2 drives, those passes disappeared. I think some credit goes to this group for sticking with it and forging on, but McNeill was resolute in that he wasn't going to change up his scheme despite K-State's formation. The one thing that I did notice, at least scheme wise was that after the first two drives, the linebackers did a better job of pushing the K-State receivers off of their routes, making it a little more difficult for the slot receivers to get into any type of groove. Bront Bird (4 tackles) was relatively quiet.
DEFENSIVE BACKS
 

A

A rough start to the day, ended up being much better than I ever expected. As I mentioned in the linebacker grade, I'm not sure if Freeman's mistakes were a product of his own misgivings or some adjustments that Texas Tech made. As with most things in life, I'm sure it's a little bit of both. The defensive backs were still giving up a 10 to 12 yard cushion on all of the KSU receivers, but thus far, McNeill's been right, there's no reason why this defense should give up a big play, which probably explains why McNeill was so livid after those first two drives. It seemed that Jamar Wall (5 tackles; 1 pass BU) was the one that was beat early and on the Freeman to Pierce 33 yard TD, Pierce did a nice job of splitting the safeties, Darcel McBath (4 tackles; 2 pass BU) and Daniel Charbonnet (8 tackles; 1 TFL; 2 pass BU), but the unit recovered. Credit for the pass defense should also go to the defensive line, who put pressure on Freeman most of the game, just to get him moving, and Freeman struggled. And how about L.A. Reed (2 pass BU), who looked incredibly athletic out there.
SPECIAL TEAMS
 

C

There was both good and bad. Kicker Donnie Carona seems to have figured out the art of the extra point and he looks pretty comfortable. The 31 yard field goal was a little shaky, but I don't mind taking baby steps with Carona, he's going to be good, I'm pretty sure of that, it's just going to take a little time. The biggest breakdown of the day was the Jonathan LaCour blocked punt. I'm not pinning this on LaCour, but rather his blockers for just letting guys go by. Awful. I thought the kickoff coverage was too uneven, giving up 24.2 yards per return, giving KSU excellent field position a couple of times. Franklin Mitchum (3 special team tackles) had the most productive day on those returns, while Daniel Charbonnet, Lance Fuller, Blake Collier, Julius Howard, Jordy Rowland, Taylor Charbonnet and Donnie Carona each had a special team tackle.
COACHING
 

B-

Credit goes to Captain Leach for sticking with his game-plan this year, which is to take what the defense give you, but the 4th and 1 from Texas Tech's own 29 yard line with 2:00 left in the 1st quarter was an awful, awful call. Anything past the 50, I understand, but at your own 29 is indefensible. I also think it's apparent that the entire staff has so much confidence in the offense that they are intentionally playing conservative on defense. Give but don't break. In fact, as I looked back at the tape, there was one blitz called through the first 3 quarters. I think McNeill is going to have to step out there a little more often than that, but it's hard to argue with the results.

Big hat-tip for the idea for the table to the great Colorado blog, The Ralphie Report.