The Result :: Ugly: I'll get into this quite a bit more later, but it was really an ugly game from a Texas Tech perspective. That's not to take anything away from the Aggies. They whipped the Red Raiders on Saturday night, so rather than re-hash that each and every time, just know, I'm giving credit where credit is due at the beginning.
The Storylines ::
Losing Stinks: I'll never forget this game. I was meeting my law school friends in Tulsa for the weekend, playing a bit of golf (I hate golf and consider this to just be an excuse to have a few beers), drinking a bit of beer and watching the game. I left the Friday night before the game and received a phone call at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning from my Mom who said that my grandfather had passed away about a half an hour earlier that morning. The service wasn't going to be until Monday and I had already driven to Tulsa, so I decided to spend the day hanging out with my friends, try to enjoy my time with them and then leave after the TT vs. TAMU game to go home and then make the drive to the service. The outcome of the game couldn't have been any better, it was pure magic, and the feeling of a win was absolutely incredibly, but as I climbed into my truck for the 5 hour drive back home, that feeling was as fleeting as this loss perhaps should be. I'm not trying to diminish everyone's passion about their team. Hell, if that passion wasn't here DTN would be as successful as I think it is. I'm just talking about me personally, in that as great as that 2006 win was, it was just that: a win on a football field that I have nothing to do with other than an emotional investment for my team. The 5 hour drive back wasn't about that win, it was about other things, namely my grandfather, and sometimes, whether or not you believe in coincidence or a higher calling or what have you, but sometimes things happen in life that lead us to take a step back a bit and realize that as great as a game as this is (and it is), its still just a game.
More storylines and MVP's after the jump.
It Was The Defense: There's plenty of blame to go around, but the defense was just awful. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, 456 yards later, it was truly the defense. And the strange thing about all of this is that the Aggies didn't do anything truly exotic, I'm pretty sure that they ran what they always ran, but the key for the Texas Tech defense was that they just played soft. From the corners, to the linebackers, to the defensive line, they just played soft all game long. I'd love to tell you that it was just one phase over another, but there were too many times, all game long, where the Aggie receiver could have walked 10 yards down the field, and caught the pass without much interference. An incredibly young offensive line should not have dominated this defensive line. The linebackers couldn't put a hit on a running back to save their lives. We've talked about how a win can be a team effort, and I think this loss is the same way. There wasn't one phase of the defense that I thought came out ready to play.
DTN will have plenty of people who will throw their arms up and declare that this whole Ruffin McNeill experiment has failed. That Texas Tech needs someone new and fresh and McNeill is not the guy for the Red Raiders. It's strange how just last week, and the week before last, many thought that McNeill had turned this around a bit, myself included. For those of you completely upset, McNeill didn't miss the tackles, or was unable to get pressure on Johnson, or close gaps to tackle a running back. A fairly simple 4 man front has worked really well most of the year and there's no reason to think that it wouldn't work on Saturday as well. That's not to say that McNeill doesn't deserve any blame, he does. There should have been adjustments, and trying something new, but some blame needs to be on the players as well for not executing.
Before everyone goes bonkers, I'd just like to remind everyone that the 2009 recruiting class was McNeill's first from start to finish. And according to the rankings, it was one of the best defensive classes ever at Texas Tech, and the 2010 class is shaping up to be even better than that. If I had to guess, no one wants to change the make-up of this defense more than McNeill, but he was handcuffed with a defensive coordinator who did things his way (Setencich). Just take a look at the type and caliber of player he's recruited and are already playing (Will Ford and D.J. Johnson). It's tough being patient, and we've all had to be patient for a long time, so I feel your pain, but no one has recruited like McNeill is currently recruiting defensive players to come to Texas Tech.
Being Prepared: When HC Mike Leach made comments after the game about his staff, I don't think this was any sort of lip-service, I think he meant what he said.
You know, in the -- like I said, it starts with the coaching staff. But in the back of our minds as coaches, and in the back of on our minds as players, well, ha-ha-ha, he-he-he, we pounded Kansas State. Kansas State pounded A&M. So therefore, we're really going to pound Texas A&M.
But seeing what happened here at Kansas State, well, we only have to work this hard versus A&M. Well, what a bunch of baloney that is. If we're out there having practices and doing all those things and working to develop our skills, as coaches we've got to reach the players. As players, they've got to have great effort. It was a total team loss. We need to have a great week of practice and go out and have a great game next week.
Leach goes on to say that he is proud of his staff and his players:
As disappointing as today's game was, I'm proud of our coaching staff, proud of our players. And we have some work to do. And we obviously fell in some potholes that other people ahead of us fell into. And it's disappointing that we weren't able to you know, rise above the examples. But we weren't today. So we need to figure out as coaches and players how we can do better next time.
But when Leach is pointing fingers, I think the first place he points is his staff and I think that includes himself. The defense didn't look ready to play and the offense looked contrived. Leach also mentioned after the game that the mistakes were about technique and attention to detail with the small things and consistency from week to week. I think this is what makes college athletics so unique is that it can be a very different team from week to week.
No Quarterback Controversy: I think this may be one of my flaws as a fan, in that I get attached to players, despite not knowing them from Adam. I want to see them succeed, and I feel that way about Taylor Potts. It's obvious that he's not in the game. It's terribly obvious, but at the very same moment that I can see that Potts isn't the player that I hoped he would become. I'm sad for him, and I cannot imagine how he feels about the entire situation.
There's no way that he wants to play poorly, or that any of this is intentional. I have no doubt that he's giving it his all, but at the end of the day, it's not enough and that thought depresses me a bit. I keep thinking that Potts has to go to class on Monday, that he's given up the past 3 years of his life so that he could be a part of this team and wait in line behind Harrell and have his shot. And now that shot is clearly not a viable option, unless there are further injuries, just doesn't seem right.
I empathize for Potts.
Doege is Okay: QB Seth Doege was okay in his limited action and Leach was fairly honest in his assessment:
So we've got to mix the quarterbacks and find the best one and put the best one in there. But I thought that Doege, given the situation, did some good things. And I think somewhere between confidence and routine plays and not trying to make too much happen, and you know I think that's where Potts needs to settle down.
There was nothing threatening about going down the field, a part of that goes to the Aggies who dropped just about everyone except for the front 4. At the point that Doege entered into the game, I thought that the prospects of a monumental comeback seemed incredibly remote. I hate to be a non-believer, but the odds were against the Red Raiders and that's a ton of pressure for a redshirt freshman to take on his shoulders. Doege will have to be better at getting the ball down the field, otherwise Kansas is going to play Texas Tech in the exact same manner. If there's no threat of going deep, and there wasn't really all game long, then there's no reason to worry about the underneath stuff. Yards don't always equal points and Doege must look down field, which he did later during the game, especially over the middle.
Offensive Play Calling: In the first half, it seemed to me, and I'm not connected in any way shape or form, but that Leach was the one calling the incredibly short passes early and most of the game while Potts was in the game. Maybe I'm completely wrong about all of this, but it just seemed incredibly intentional and forced for a good part of the game. I know that the quarterbacks usually have the latitude to make adjustments, but it just seemed that the decisions that Potts was making were incredibly quick and intentional. If that's the case then I can see two scenarios, which is that Leach wanted Potts to feel comfortable, so he scripted plays to get Potts into the groove, which never panned out. The second part would be that if it wasn't working, then why did it seemingly continue for the rest of the half. And we haven't even touched on the rushing game, which was non-existent in the 2nd half. Batch seemed to be carving away yards in the 1st half, but in the 2nd half, it seemed as if Leach gave up way too early in the running game.
The Offensive MVP :: WR Alexander Torres: Torres made the Texas Tech offensive play of the game, the key here being that this was too easy of a choice as the plays were few and far between.
The Defensive MVP :: S Cody Davis: Davis probably had the biggest hit of the game, which may have been the highlight of the game. This probably speaks volumes about the overall play of the defense.
The Special Teams MVP :: K Donnie Carona: Carona did a much better job of kicking the ball today, especially into the endzone. Is it sad that this is the MVP? Yep, but Carona did kick a heck of lot better.