The Result :: Decidedly Defensive: This might be something that the entire fanbase might have felt prior to yesterday's game. Everyone was a tad bit jumpy, defensive if you will, regarding the current state of this team. I thought before the game that the defensive MVP would be Ruffn McNeill and that's probably a good place to start. Kansas hasn't been the Kansas of prior years, but they've still be pretty good. The Kansas that Texas Tech beat yesterday was dominated defensively, and you can argue over whether it was Kansas or Texas Tech that did the dominating, but 6 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 10 pass break-ups isn't a bad afternoon defensively.
Join me after the jump for storylines and MVP's.
The Storylines ::
Leach is Emotional: With Saturday's win over Kansas, Leach tied Spike Dykes for the number of wins at Texas Tech. I never thought I'd see the day where our very Captain Mike Leach showed any emotion at any press gathering, but if you ever thought there was a disconnect between Leach and the man that he replaced then I'd encourage you to watch this video of Leach after this win. Here's the text, but the words on paper don't do Leach's emotion justice:
Well, Spike's, you know, it's funny. I think the young guys don't do maybe as good a job of thanking the older guys as they really ought to. You know, when I was coming up in coaching, Spike's a guy that I always really admired. I think that I learned a lot from Spike like all of us do. Well I just really want to thank him, you know. But, you know, there's no new guys without the old guys. The old guys are what made it happen.
There's not much there with those words, but watching the video along with reading the words, you know that Leach respects Dykes and the things he was able to accomplish at Texas Tech. Leach is a fan of history and his comments lend to the idea that he respects the history of his own company.
Who Is Calling Those Running Plays: An absolutely dominating performance from one RB Baron Batch. I think there's this misconception that the lack of running game is a direct reflection on Leach and his willingness to run versus the quarterbacks checking down into a running play. I think the only thing we do know is that I believe that Leach gives his quarterbacks quite a bit of latitude offensively and if the running game isn't working, it's not always a reflection of Leach not wanting to run the ball. If you look at rushing statistics from 2008, the one constant during the 10 game winning streak was that this team ran for over 100 yards every game. That means two things: the quarterback isn't losing a ton of yards on sacks and the running backs are getting the ball.
If my math is correct, Batch ran 8 times for 7 yards in the first half. Perhaps this is a situation where QB Seth Doege didn't check to the running game in the right situations. Complain all you want about QB Taylor Potts, but there's something to be said for his ability to make the right reads and Batch acknowledged that after the game:
Q. How did it feel to rack up so many touchdowns today on a team that's kind of known for passing?
BARON BATCH: I mean, it's nice, but the touchdowns I score is a reflection of everybody doing what they're supposed to. Receivers blocking down field. Linemen doing a great job blocking the quarterback. You know, Potts did a great job checking into those runs. I don't think many of those, maybe two of the plays that we scored on were called in the huddle. But every other run, pretty much, was checked into. That's a great job by Potts just doing what he's supposed to, and recognizing what they're giving us and being a smart player.
Potts didn't have a great passing game, and we'll get to being a leader later, but I hope like hell you're not one of those people who refuse to give credit to a player for making the right calls and the right reads during a game. I have high hopes for Doege, but to me it was clear that Potts had a better command of the offense on Saturday and I think a big part of that command is repetitions. Doege will have that soon enough, but we might all think about giving Potts some love after previous week criticisms from a fanbase. His recognition of the defense may be the reason Batch rushes for all of those yards and touchdowns.
How to Dominate Defensively: Right now, I'm not sure which defense shows up for each and every game, but if Texas Tech gets the same performance last week, then the game is at the very least quite a bit closer.
Yesterday, the entire unit just looked cohesive, all on the same page. I thought McNeill utilized good stunts, blitzed a few times and was successful, pressured Kansas receivers, etc. Generally speaking, the defensive line was active and it was nice to hear DT Colby Whitlock's name more than once during a game. The hits that KU QB Todd Reesing took were sometimes brutal, especially the hit from DE Daniel Howard that caused the fumble. Rajon Henley stepped up his play. But the true difference maker on Saturday was again DE Brandon Sharpe. More about his play below, but there is a distinct difference when Sharpe plays and opposing offenses have to account for him. Sharpe was ready to move forward after last week:
Q. Did what happened last week have an effect on you guys just from a private standpoint, make you mad? Want to come back out there and show that you were a different team today?
BRANDON SHARPE: Yes, I mean, any time you have a loss you have to just fight back and build yourself back up. You don't just sit there and wander on and pout about it. You just have to beat yourself up, go play hard, and comes in the morning. I just want to thank the D-line and the defense because we all work as a team. We make things happen.
I think the linebackers and secondary need some mention here too. LB Marlon Williams has been relatively quiet for most of conference play. His play early in this game was a big part of this team's success and there was that late hit in the dive for that fumble in the 4th quarter, the 4th down and 1, that caused the ball to squirt down the field. Not a huge play, but Williams was going for the ball all game long. I think you also saw the relative strength of Brian Duncan and his ability to stop the run. Just outstanding from that repsect.
The secondary was huge all game long. There were certainly breakdowns, but the hits that S Cody Davis and S Franklin Mitchem had were big. Those two ran down plays all over the field and it was apparent as Davis had 10 tackles and Mitchem had 8 for the game. And CB Jamar Wall's hit on
Kerry Meier Jake Sharp (thanks to kayakyakr) does not require a comment:
Doege vs. Potts: First and foremost, QB Seth Doege was in a tough position. The offensive line was an absolute mess in the first half. The problems he suffered were not always related to his play. Doege certainly wasn't perfect and he missed on more than a few throws, but Doege was under a tremendous amount of pressure for the entire 1st half. Leach isn't throwing anyone under the bus, here's Leach on Doege:
I think that he's -- I think Doege's well ahead of schedule. I think that Doege, you know, the toughest thing is there is this area where experience, you know, meets confidence and all those things. And I think that, you know, the biggest thing is that more reps, you know. I think that you know, practice played real well this week. And I think in the game as it started moving faster, you know, he's a conscientious guy, too. He didn't want to make a mistake. So I think things moved slowly, and our tempo was slower than it should have been.
With that being said, I was shocked to see QB Taylor Potts enter game in the 2nd half. It was painfully obvious that Doege was having a tough go at it, and I think Leach made the right decision. The Texas Tech passing offense only managed 253 yards for the game and Potts averaged a measly 4.9 yards per attempt with 1 interception that he threw behind his receiver. But Potts managed the game and I thought he managed the game well during the second half. Go read the entire post-game quotes from Leach, where he goes on a ramble that will eventually make it's way to some highlight reel, but the point that sometimes gets lost, and I would guess that Leach struggles with this issue as well, is that quarterback is a tough position to master in his offense.
Doege will be fine, but the offense certainly did respond in the 2nd half.
Offensive Line Mess and Eventual Rebound: The offensive line started C Shawn Byrnes, LT Marlon Winn, LG Lonnie Edwards, RG Brandon Carter and RT LaAdrian Waddle. Carter pulls a hamstring on the 2nd play of the game and things get messier. Mickey Okafor took over at right guard and then things started to get messy. It only took Doege getting pounded a couple of times to realize that this wasn't working. Relatively early in the first half, Wynn was moved back to right tackle after getting Doege annihilated and Chris Olson was moved to left tackle and things actually started to settle down. It wasn't until Carter made his way back to right guard that the offensive line truly clicked and the running game picked up. If there's one thing that the offensive line can say is that they persevered. It wasn't always pretty, but at the end of the day, the offense persevered.
The Offensive MVP :: RB Baron Batch: A special and well-deserved MVP for Batch. At the end of the day, Batch finished with 131 yards on 17 carries and 4 touchdowns.
The Defensive MVP :: DE Brandon Sharpe: As mentioned above, the guy is a difference maker and makes things happen defensively.
The Special Teams MVP :: Coverage Units: I think everyone one of these guys that play on this unit deserves some credit. For the day, Kansas averaged 15.2 yars per kickoff return and 0.5 yards per punt return. Not to mention, Texas Tech almost blocked a punt, and looked pretty good doing it. I think we need to see more of this aggressive type of play, but there's no doubt that from a coverage perspective, the special teams were outstanding and really limited the Jayhawks.