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Keys to the Game - New Mexico Edition

I'm not sure this is "keys to the game" so much as "what I want to see" in the game. In a sense, I feel like the little kid telling Santa what I want for Christmas.  I know Christmas is going to come (a win), I just hope to get the presents I want and not a bunch of socks.  Useful, perhaps needed, but pedestrian and uninspiring.

In the first four games of the season we have not seen this Texas Tech team put all of the pieces of the puzzle together in a single game.  Even the game versus Rice, in which Tech clearly dominated, the running game was absent and defensively we were fairly content to run our base defense and let the Owls beat themselves.

This week, coming off of 2 consecutive losses in winnable situations, and with the other distractions, it will take extra work and resolve to stay focused. Here are the things I would like to see this team accomplish in our final "tune-up" before we move into the rest of conference play.

Offensive Keys to the Game

I want a complete game on the offensive side of the ball.  200 yards on the ground and 400 yards in the air.  I want Potts to improve his completion percentage from the low to mid 60's to 70%, and I want the yds/attempt up close to 8.5.  Here's how:

1. Sticky fingers.  Until we start doing it consistently, this will remain on my list.  Hold on to the ball, and when it hits you in the hands, catch it.  In our two losses, we have been negative in the turnover margin column.  This has got to stop. 

2. Protection from the edge.  Last week, we started getting some pretty good push up front, opening up the running lanes (except for the play that shall not be named).  However, we still struggled against quicker guys lined up at the DE slot.  Stay alert and move your feet. 

3.  Stretch the field.  A number of people have mentioned it, but Taylor Potts has the arm to push the ball vertically in the passing game.  Let's see it happen in this game.  Part of this starts with adequate protection so the deep play can develop.  The other part is having the right guys on the route.  Last week, Potts threw a great pass to Torres deep down the right sideline in 1-1 coverage.  Unfortunately, Torres is not a guy with enough height to pluck the ball away from a defender or enough speed to create separation, and the pass was broken up.  It was the right throw in the right situation, but to the wrong guy.  I like Torres.  He is a move the chains kind of guy.  But he is not our home run guy.  I want to see Potts his some guys deep and in-stride.  We need to develop some big play potential.

4. Keep the RBs involved.  As we have said, last week's running game was what we hoped to see this year.  And Tech brought Harrison Jeffers in on a number of plays. jeffers was lined up as a receiver in several plays against Houston.  I personally would like to see Jeffers get the ball on the Jail break and then see what he can do with it.  I also want to see close to 30 carries shared among this group.

Defensive Keys to the game

What I really want is a shut out.  Here's how I want us to get there.

1.  Create turnovers. Part of the reason we have been negative in turnover margin is we are not creating many turnovers.  Our soft coverage makes that difficult except when our safeties are able to jump a route.  I want to see these guys make some plays on the ball.  I also would like to see some attempts to strip the ball and/or knock it loose.

2.  A variety looks.  As quickly as it came, it went away.  We played some of our best, most aggresive defense in several seasons against Texas two weeks ago.  We changed up our looks, moved guys around, and brought pressure.  Against Houston, it went away.  I want more of the aggressive style we played against Texas.  We have some tough games ahead, and we need some more live snaps using the more aggressive defense.

3.  Involve the young guys.  Our younger guys bring a lot of athleticism.  They have been exciting to watch.  This is a great game for their development, and I want to see them get some significant snaps.

Special Teams

1. Better Kickoff coverage.  If New Mexico starts even one possession beyond their 25, I will be disappointed.  Get down the field.  Make the tackle.  Don't over run the return man.