The Result :: Not Good Enough: That may be the meme for the entire season, "just not good enough." Every loss is frustrating, but as I watched the game last night I couldn't help but think that the defense played good enough, the offense was slow, but played good enough, etc. There are always plenty of plays during a game to point to that evidence the loss, but I thought the difference in the game was the pick-6 that Sheffield throws that puts Oklahoma St. up by 2 touchdowns. If that doesn't happen, then I'm not sure we're talking about a loss this morning, although it was certainly the motivation that Leach needed to sit Sheffield down for the remainder of the game. That's not to say that I put the loss on Sheffield's shoulders. If the receivers catch a few more passes, I also think the result is a bit different. I will say that the resiliancy of this team is remarkable and my season long meme may not be palatable to most, but my summer-meme will be that this team will be hell on wheels in 2010.
And I don't know if it's just me, and I hate to lose, but the fact that the team gave good effort for the entire game gives me solace. It doesn't make it right, but at the very least, it gives makes me sleep better at night.
The Storylines ::
Sheffield Is Not the Best Ever and Potts Is Not the Worst Ever: I think we've all heard the phrase that the truth is somewhere in the middle between 2 opposing viewpoints and I think this applies to the quarterback situation. I think Tech92 mentioned this earlier in the week (giving credit, but not linking) that Leach is just as confused about the quarterback situation as the fanbase is. Sheffield's 2nd interception for the night, the pick-6, had nothing to do with his ankle and everything to do with making the assumption that this pass that's been there all game was going to get jumped and returned for a touchdown. I'm not pinning the loss on Sheffield and Potts had plenty of moments where he didn't appear to make all of the right decisions, but I think the key here is that both quarterbacks have their pros and cons and as great as Sheffield looked previously, he's not perfect. And to add to that, he's obviously not the same with the ankle injury. I think it's also unfair to Potts not to mention that his spark in the 2nd half, the same type of spark that Sheffield gets credit for, was the reason why Texas Tech as able to come back into the game so quickly. That arm that we've all heard about was on display during that second to last drive. All-in-all, each have their issues and as Captain Mike Leach said after the game, it's more about consistency:
On Taylor Potts and the Texas Tech offense:
"I thought he was OK, but it just wasn’t real dynamic and we turned the ball over and were close to others. Hit a few of our opponents with a couple too many footballs, so I figured we’d put Sheffield in and see how that went and he kind of sparked things. That basically went pretty well other than a turnover when we put them on the two or something. They’re both inconsistent and at some point we’ve got to just be consistent; and be consistent at other positions. We dropped too many balls. We missed some holes at running back. Up front I thought we had great protection at times and then there’d be key times when we weren’t so great."
Sheffield's ankle isn't right, Potts had to come back too quick from a concussion and QB Seth Doege's future looks bright, but just isn't ready this year. What I can say definatively is that there will be an epic quarterback battle in 2010.
Bane of My Existance -- The Running Quarterback: Perhaps "bane of my existance" is a bit harsh, but this is the defensive conundrum that Ruffin McNeill faces is tricky. With the running quarterback, or perhaps the quarterback that can run if necessary, there's not point in putting a defensive lineman as a spy because the QB can out run the lineman. I would also say that right now, I feel the same way about the linebackers at Texas Tech, sans Marlon Williams. He seems like he could keep pace, but even then I'm not completely sold that he could keep pace with a QB. If McNeill brings a safety up then the team runs the risk of giving up a big play over the top, although I'd truly have to wonder if Robinson could hit a receiver in stride more than twice in a game. If McNeill puts 8 players up front, then Gundy goes 4 wide, a linebacker is forced to cover a slot receiver, and we've all seen what that entails. McNeill has always played it safe in the secondary and much of the success that the secondary has had this year and the previous years can be attributed to that philosophy. Bringing up a safety leaves the defense vulnerable, but at the very least it hopefully stops the QB from running. I think the eventual answer is that with the increased speed of the linebackers this option for an offense becomes less and less likely. If McNeill's recruiting trends are any indication, then speed at the linebacker position is a high priority. Right now, it's a question of having the right personnel and that may take at least 1 more season for McNeill to get the guys where he wants them.
Tired Defense: Can I just be the first one to say that I really don't think the defense was really tired. I think this was more of a situation of Oklahoma St. doing what they do really well, which is eat up the clock and run the ball. I really didn't think the defense looked overly taxed the 2nd half, but I did think that the quarterback draw play plagued the Red Raiders, which wasn't a function of a tired defense, but rather not having the personnel. There's a lot of depth on this defense. The announcers (particularly the play-by-play guy) really played up the tired excuse, which I found to be convenient and lazy assumptions. And if the defense is tired, wouldn't the offense be conversely tired too? Perhaps I'm just being a bit sore about the entire thing, but the offense is out there working and I'm waiting for an announcer to be a bit bold and talk about how tired the offense is after going on an 8 minute drive.
Someone Really Asked This Question: I'm not real sure how to respond to this, but it appears that some reporter actually asked Leach if Zac Robinson, who was pretty good running the ball, but was 9-21 for 90 yards and a touchdown if Leach thought Robinson was the best quarterback he's seen.
On if Robinson is the best quarterback he’s seen:
"I think he’s a good one. I wouldn’t go that far, I think he’s a good one. We’ve seen some pretty good ones. The fella from Houston; Texas and so it goes. I’ve liked him from early on. I liked him just back when they had that little deal when they were splitting time between the two of them. I thought he was pretty good then."
Rebuilding: Am I a bad fan if I've resigned myself to think that the 2010 version of Texas Tech is going to be much better than the 2009 version? Of course, I'd love to see this team finish with 2 wins to finish out the year and I think that playing well is a spring-board to the next season, but I think this team next year will be much more prepared to battle for a Big 12 Championship. Other than the defensive end position, almost every position returns a starter or player with significant playing time. The rough spots that this team has encountered and battled back from, which include early suspensions, numerous injuries to key positions, quarterbacck uncertainty, etc. But this team is pretty damned close I think to something really special next year. I'm going to enjoy what's going on now, but I think this year, as tough as it's been will serve the team well next year.
The Offensive MVP :: WR Detron Lewis: He showed how special he can be and physically he's a dominant player, or perhaps has the ability to be a dominant player. I'd love to see Lewis get the ball 3 or 4 more times during a game in open space.
The Defensive MVP :: CB Jamar Wall: For the hit alone, he gave the offense at the very least an opportunity to score in the last 2 minutes. Wall sacrificed his body on that hit on Zac Robinson for the team. I'm going to remember that play for a long time. Wall did give up a touchdown, but I think he was sure that the help would be there in plenty of time, which it was, but Franklin Mitchem just didn't make the play.
The Special Teams MVP :: PR Austin Zouzalik: We finally saw a little bit of breakout from Zouzalik, and although Zouzalik has been solid most of the year, he's been quiet. Not to mention, Matthew Williams going 1-2 and Ryan Erxleben having to punt 4 times, for a 43 yard average, although good, didn't necessarily inspire me.