This was an incredibly quick trip to Lubbock. I ended up leaving, somewhat on a whim, and returned by noon (DFW) on Sunday. I made the trip for one reason and one reason only, in that listening to two games on the radio just wasn't going to cut it for me. I felt that I needed to see some things with my own eyes, especially before Texas next week. I was hoping for and did see quite a bit of improvement from last week to this week and there's definitely more positives coming from last night's game that against North Dakota. With that being said, Rice is the same team that lost to UAB, who just lost to SMU, 33-35. In other words, we can be excited that some things have been ironed out, but neither UND or Rice are very good and this was the expected result.
Lots of small things to talk about.
Yes, Potts was really working the underneath stuff and there seemed to be quite a few short passes than last week, but especially in the second half, Potts worked the ball down the field and his arm allowed him to complete passes over the middle that most Texas Tech quarterbacks would not be able to complete. Potts squeezed the ball in to coverage, which can be incredibly dangerous, but he's got all of the confidence in the world in his arm.But I think this is part of the maturation process of our quarterback. And despite working most of the stuff underneath, he still had 8 yards per attempt for the game. Potts didn't throw an interception, but Rice did drop at least 1, but on the other side of things, Potts did throw the ball away on one play in the 2nd half. It's going to be a give-and-take. And as far as that maturation process is concerned, after the game, on the 4th and 2 from the Rice 2 yard line, Potts made the call to go for it, and here's what he said after the game:
That was a dumb call on me really. You check what you see. That was just a dumb call by me. Looking back on it, I should have thrown a fade to Jacoby there on the outside, but I didn't. That's that. But that was just a dumb call by me.
That's two weeks in a row that Potts has acknowledged a mistake he made in the game and as perfect as well all want him to be, it's going to take time. With that being said, we have a quarterback that's willing to take responsibility for his actions. I like that.
The line looked much better and the insertion of Lonnie Edwards for Mickey Okafor probably has something to do with that. Not seeing what transpired last week the line looked solid. Plenty solid to handle Texas. It still bothers me to no end that the running game hasn't gotten on track and that should have happened this week. At some point, I think every Texas Tech quarterback has to figure it out on their own that checking down to run the ball can be a good thing. Back to the line, I think the experience factor with Edwards is what caused Moore to make the move. And this isn't a knock on Okafor, who needs to continue to work on his strength and quickness, but with Edwards to left guard, Brandon Carter moved back to his right guard position, and Chris Olson and Marlon Winn remained at the tackles. I liked the fact that Moore was willing to make this change early in the season and as stated above, the line will be plenty good against Texas, bu the key will be whether they can figure out how to fix the running game in one week, but it starts with more than 13 carries for the game.
There's no doubt that Baron Batch is back. He played like he had something to prove last night. He was putting his head down, moving the pile and running with wreckless abandon. Harrison Jeffers and Eric Stephens are freaking electric. I don't know what else to say about the runners themselves. They are talented and there's three of them. Somoeone needs to figure out how to get them the ball.
I had pegged Tramain Swindall as one of my guys this season. I thought that from what I saw last year, he was going to be an incredibly talented receiver for Texas Tech. A week 1 benching and things seem to have changed dramatically for Swindall. Think about 6 catches for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. Lyle Leong deserves praise too and he should have first billing here because he's not the guy that got suspended, but he dropped a pass last night (I'm pretty sure of it) and I was shocked. It's probably going to be the only pass he drops all year. And speaking of drops, Edward Britton missed a gimmie in a flea-flicker and there were groans in the crowd, justifiably so, but the key that everyone needs to keep in mind is that Britton does something that no one else does. Stretch the field. Yes, there are players than can do this, but experience still counts and despite Britton's frustrations he's incredibly important to this team. You hate the drops, but he's a big piece of this team, including being an incredible blocker. And to top it off, all of this was done without Detron Lewis for a good chunk of the game. There were 13 different receivers who caught a Potts pass yesterday, Austin Zouzalik caught his first touchdown pass on a beautiful fake inside and a pass zinged right where Potts knew that Zouzalik would be.
The defensive line was really good. Yes, Rice did manage to move the ball some, but the line allowed a net of -60 yards on the ground. Yep, some of those are sacks, but the defense was all about trying to make things happen, and the entire defensive unit improved on those things that needed improving from last week (forcing turnovers, quarterback pressure, and pass deflects). Brandon Sharpe was featured in the morning paper and he delivered big time. An early injury to Rajon Henley (which does not appear to be serious) left a depleted defensive end unit of Daniel Howard, Sharpe and a good chunk coming from Bront Bird and Ryan Haliburton later in the game. Howard and Sharpe were relentless all night and those two were the big reasons for the 6 sacks on the night. That group was relentless and that was without Henley who was pretty good last week. Colby Whitlock and Richard Jones gave their usual effort up front and although Victor Hunter and Chris Perry do an admirable job as theh second unit, there is a drop-off. I do think that David Neil and Ryan Haliburton are going to be contributors by the end of the season, especially Haliburton. He can play and I was wrong about him during the spring. In fact it would benefit this program tremendously if Haliburton played more than he does. With the eventual loss of Henley, Howard and Sharpe there's going to need to be someone who has playing experience.
I'm tired of talking about this, and maybe I just need to stop, but Bront Bird should not be covering slot receivers. This isn't Bird's fault, and he gives 100% effort every play, but he gets picked on by opposing coaches and players because he just can't keep pace with those quicker players. Bird is a really good linebacker when playing the run and he was more than decent rushing the passer, although he needs to develop a few more moves, but making plays in coverage is not one of them. And that's not to say that Bird is incompetent, but whenever Bird was in the game and covering the slot receiver, Rice seemed to find the open receiver, but when McNeill switched to a Daniel Cobb or Brent Dewhurst rather than Bird, the defense was that much more effective. Bird's a tough guy to place for McNeill because he does give maximum effort, but he's also limited on what he can do well.
I don't have many things to say about the other linebackers other than Brian Duncan can sometimes be plagued by the same thing that Bird does in that he's not great in coverage, but he's still really good. Marlon Williams also played very well and although he was credited with the sack, Howard and he were there at the same time.
The biggest difference between this week and last week was the pass-breakups. LaRon Moore had the hit of the day, de-cleating a Rice receiver. This is something that I didn't get to visualize last week, but the secondary is a hard-hitting group. They're not the biggest, but they will hit you and I think this type of thinking is becoming infectious because Moore and Wall are hitting receivers. D.J. Johnson is going to move into Wall's starting job next year. He was tested almost the entire last series by Rice and he stepped-up. He is long and rangy and can do things that Moore and Wall cannot do, but he is good. Will Ford seemed to be all over the field, although he didn't really show up much in the box score.