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Report Card: Texas vs. Texas Tech

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On the edge of my seat the entire night, but it was worth it.

There were a couple of strategy items that caught my eye that might not have a place in the report card. McNeill did differently than any other game, which is to put the very capable Daniel Charbonnet on the slot receiver and put Anthony Hines back at safety. This worked really well for the most part and that was something that was in this week's gameplan. McNeill also had Jordy Rowland lined up at linebacker for stretches during the game, which turned out to be a nice way to get some size and speed in the flat to make plays covering the pass and the run.


Offensive MVP: Michael Crabtree. His 28 yard touchdown catch was absolutely incredible. I mentioned last week that the reason I love Crabtree was because of the 16 yard jailbreak screen he scored against Kansas. Check that. I love Crabtree because of the absolutely incredible ability to be better than the man lining up against him. He is truly one of a kind.

Defensive MVP: Colby Whitlock. An excellent argument could be made that this should be Daniel Charbonnet, but Whitlock was absolutely dominant on the line of scrimmage, and I cannot recall a time when that was a case. That was incredible to watch.

Special Teams MVP: Matt Williams. Was absolutely solid. Couldn't tell if it was his fault on the blocked field goal, but he's pretty damn clutch.



If I was judging Graham Harrell (36-53; 474 yds; 2 TD) on one 28 yard touchdown pass with 8 seconds left, then he gets an A, but there were 3 were some bad passes and Harrell took an awful sack on the drive where Williams missed the field goal. There were also plenty of times where Harrell did a good job of throwing the ball away and avoiding the UT's rushers, but he's got to know better than to take a loss, he's got to get out of the pocket and throw the ball away.  Overall impressions, I thought Harrell had more zip on the ball last week and this week than at any point in his career, while his presence on the field was excellent. Of course, the last drive was the drive may may have put Graham Harrell's name as a legend. Harrell found guys for first downs, maybe not getting out of bounds, but he was calm and collected enough to march down the field. The only play that didn't result in a first down was the Batch screen to start the drive, and where the ball bounced off Britton.


Shannon Woods (15-71 rush yds; 1-9 rec. yds) and Baron Batch (10-51 rush yds; 1 TD; 3-3 rec. yds) stole the show. There were too many times that I wrote down that both of them picked up a blitz or Woods is doing a much better job of hitting the hole as hard as he can. I'm still amazed by Batch's vision on the field to find the open running lanes.   UT did an excellent job of sniffing out the running back screens and that very much limited what Woods and Batch did offensively. That being said, Leach opted for the receiver screens because the linebackers were playing the running backs so closely. This ended up working like a charm, and it's something to think about watching the next time a team is really biting on the running back screens. Leach always seems to have another card up his sleeve.


There's so much love to go around here. Obviously, this begins and ends with Michael Crabtree (10-127; 1 TD). The game pretty much began and ended with Michael Crabtree. Having not noticed the way that the UT defensive backs played all of the Texas Tech wide receivers, with their back to Harrell, created some real opportunities that the receivers were able to take advantage of, just so long as Harrell had the stones to throw it. He did. Edward Britton (7-139) is starting to heat up and he too is not just making plays down the sideline where Harrell tries to hit him in stride (he mostly is), but he's also coming back for the ball and perhaps the days of Britton being known for dropping passes (although he had one baaad deflection for almost an INT) he's certainly improving. Eric Morris (4-46; 1 TD) biggest play as he was actually split wide, perhaps surprising the UT defenders, and as he faked inside it left a perfect pass from Harrell into Morris' arms where he literally skipped into the endzone.  Yoeman's work from the rest of the crew: Detron Lewis (5-58); Lyle Leong (3-28); and Tramain Swindall (2-52). I have no doubt that when Crabtree leaves Texas Tech Tramain Swindall will be making big plays down the field.


When these guys were in the game, they blocked and they hit someone. Adam James (1-12) caught his only pass of the night, but there were a number of instances throughout the game where the 2 tight end set was effective, especially running the ball.  And perhaps this is the greatest advantage to this set is that it forces the opponent to prepare for yet another look. There is already the 2 RB set, the Wildcat formation with Crabtree in the backfield taking a direct snap with another running back and this 2 TE set, which forces opponents prepare for a set which is not often used, but has the potential to be incredibly effective.


So much to say here, and Matt Moore gets a ton of the credit. First, there were a number of instances (Tech92 noticed this already) where Texas Tech would tighten up their splits and force Texas to play a little more conventional.  This group proved that they can play just like anyone else. There's no doubt that the Texas defensive line is the most talented that they've seen all year. Despite losing Orakpo these guys stepped up. The question of the line holding is irrelevant to me. There were bad calls either way and so I hate using that as a crutch, win or lose. There were instances where the UT linemen held Jones, Sesay and especially Whitlock. It happens. With that being said, Rylan Reed, Louis Vasquez, Stephen Hamby, Brandon Carter, and Marlon Winn only allowed 2 sacks. The first sack came where Texas crashed in on Hamby and Vasquez and got to Harrell. The line also did a tremendous job of picking up whatever Muschamp threw at them. There were leaks, but not gaping holes. Whether Texas brought 6 or only 3, the line seemed prepared. Again, much props to Matt Moore for putting together a tremendous offensive line, it's incredibly fun to watch these guys.


Just beautiful.   As mentioned above, this has been a long time coming. To have a defensive lineman like Colby Whitlock (8 tackles; 2.0 TFL) just flat out dominate the line of scrimmage was a thing of beauty. Besides just pushing around the Texas offensive linemen, the same ones that pushed him around pretty good last year (payback is a bitch), he made plans up and down the line, including the tip of Texas' attempted 2-point conversion, which resulted in a non-pass interference. Physically, he just dominated. From the first defensive series where he recorded a safety, to a series in the 3rd quarter where Whitlock single-handedly forced a 3 and out. In that 3rd quarter series, Whitlock recorded a tackle for loss, McCoy threw a screen pass that Whitlock tracked down, and then Whitlock combined with McKinner Dixon with a vicious hit on McCoy which ultimately bloodied his chin. Let's not forget Brandon Williams (2 tackles; 2 TFL; 2 sacks) was dominant on the edge, while McKinner Dixon (1 tackle) had one of his more quiet days, but he certainly spent time in the Texas backfield. Normally this would be worrisome, without one of the starting defensive tackles, but Richard Jones (2 tackles) has become not just a big guy taking up space, but a guy who is pushing around opponents. Flat out dominating. Brandon Sesay is learning the finer points of shedding blockers at the defensive tackle position and is a damn fine replacement. Last but not least, Daniel Howard (1 tackle; 1 TFL) who played the Joker position almost every time that Texas Tech went to that package (I think B. Williams had a series or two where he was the Joker). Howard did not show up in the boxscore, but he did an incredible job of spying on McCoy and cautiously rushing and trying to make sure that he contained McCoy. McNeill and Howard played that Joker package the entire series leading up to the halftime, although Texas did move the ball down the field, I think the mixture of the Joker and little used safeties (more on that later) being a part of the gameplan was an incredible advantage. Howard's weakest play was the McCoy scramble and he committed too early, leaving McCoy with a wide line to run. If he continues to be patient, especially next week, then he'll continue his success. I should mention Jake Ratliff, who made an early play, on UT's 2nd drive, shedding a block and sniffing out a shovel pass. Again, it's the depth that's absolutely stunning.


Marlon "Freaking" Williams (2 tackles; 2 TFL; 1 sack).   Best game of the year for Williams, hands down. He made plays all over the field. I think this is mostly because McNeill is putting Williams in places where he can succeed. Brian Duncan (7 tackles; 2 PBU) can do it all. I think dedfischer said it before, but Duncan is the best linebacker to play at Texas Tech since Zach Thomas. Period. I cannot recall a time where I thought Duncan was out of position and he continually made plays all game long. There were some new faces at linebacker, I think. I believe that Jordy Rowland made an appearance at linebacker, and although he is clearly a defensive back, Rowland added a certain amount of size, speed, and the ability to cover running backs out of the backfield, that Texas Tech had trouble defending in the past. Much of this switch in philosophy left Bront Bird on the bench, but Texas Tech played to the personnel of Texas and for the most part, played it well.


There was definitely some good and there was definitely some bad.  As mentioned above, McNeill decided this week that he would start Daniel Charbonnet (4 tackles; 1 TFL; 1 FF; 1 FR; 1 INT; 1 TD) on Texas' slot receiver, thus pairing Darcel McBath (4 tackles) and Anthony Hines (4 tackles) at the safety positions. This accomplished 2 things. It allowed Charbonnet with the ability to pretty much roam and make plays in and near the line of scrimmage. Secondly, it allowed Texas Tech to counter the quickness that Texas had out on offense with similar players. Charbonnet was able to just flat-out make a play on his interception. From what I can tell, although my, my television isn't wide-screen and it's somewhat hard to tell, Texas Tech played lots of man-coverage with Hines and McBath playing a 2-deep-zone. Worked very well . . . except for a couple of plays. Malcolm Williams gave Texas Tech fits. Williams 1st TD was the result of just not making a tackle. From my count, McBath, Hines and Wall all had opportunities to make a play. That cannot happen against Oklahoma State. Williams 2nd TD was the result of Brent Nickerson (2 tackles) biting on Williams fake and then just not being able to catch up to the speedy freshman. Although I did not check, I would imagine that Nickerson and Reed rotated all game long, but with Nickerson biting so hard, this absolutely scares me for next week. I thought Lance Fuller's tackle on Ogbonnaya at the end of the first half, keeping Ogbonnaya in bounds was a huge play.


Matt Williams (4-4 XP; 2-3 FG) was solid and I'm having a hard time finding much wrong with him.  Seems like the pressure doesn't get to him, and altough I haven't taken a close look at his blocked field goal, there's probably enough blame for the line for letting some guys through and Williams not getting enough height on the ball. Donnie Carona's temperament seems alright as he absolutely nailed a 42 yard field goal. I was glad to see him have success and be a part of this win. Jonathan LaCour actually punted 4 times and only averaged 34.5 yards per punt. Meanwhile, Donnie Carona also kicked off 8 times, averaging 64.4 yards a kick and putting 3 into the endzone (all in the 2nd half I think). Jamar Wall's 38 yard kickoff return at the end of the game was perhaps the biggest play of the game and I had visions of Danny Amendola getting a key punt return in the Insight Bowl against Minnesota.


Coach Leach coached another masterful game.   It wasn't his most productive game of the year, but sure enough, Leach took advantage of what Muschamp threw at him. I'm beginning to think that Leach knew that Muschamp would try and take away his running back screens, which have been so successful thus far, and I wish I had counted the number of receiver screens, where Texas Tech would go 3-wide receivers and then one of the receivers would step back while the other two receivers would lock up an opposing defensive back. Now you're talking about 1-on-1 coverage on in open space. There is almost always open space. I also really liked Leach's drawing in the lineman splits occasionally and although Texas had seen this before many times, perhaps they weren't ready for Texas Tech to line up like this. Again, it's the varied looks that Leach has given opponents for a big part of the year and teams are forced to prepare for so many different looks. I am absolutely in love with Ruffin McNeill. He has impressed me yet again. The players weren't perfect, but perhaps the defensive calls were. I loved putting Charbonnet on the slot receiver and it worked for almost 3 quarters of the game. McNeill also stayed true to himself and his team by bring 4 and only 4 all game long. McNeill varied it enough so that the Joker package was tough for UT to matchup against, but it worked almost all night. In fact, I think that it would be a safe assumption to say that McNeill utilized the Joker Package for much of the 2nd half and it allowed Daniel Howard to shadow McCoy and bring pressure at a weak spot of the offensive line. Brilliant.