First and foremost, congrats to NM99, who witnessed the birth of his daughter yesterday during the game, but was commenting on the open game day thread! A hearty congrats to your daughter and I hope all are doing well.
THE RESULT | RELIEF | I don't think any of you really care about what I go through when running a blog, but I'm going to tell you anyway. After a loss, everything is magnified and for the most part I try to have fun the the wringing of hands over each and every decision, non-decision or mistake. It can be tough trying to decide if a comment is over the line or when to hide a comment for users calling other users names or arguing over jersey color. When the final score was the same difference as it had been for the last three I think I felt a sense of relief. I was happy that Texas Tech had won, but I thought that I knew that DTN would be easier to manage. That's relief.
But as I watched the post-game press conference (linked above) I thought that both QB Taylor Potts, RB Baron Batch and head coach Tommy Tuberville all felt the same sense of relief. And if you don't want to watch the video, then read the quotes. Especially from Tuberville. I can't account for what he said after the game, but all of the frustrations and concerns that you've been voicing (the lackluster offense against UT, the team digging itself in a hole against ISU, etc.), Tuberville voiced after the game yesterday. I'm still on the fence about Tuberville and I want to let things play out, but for the first time, I found his comments after the game in the post game presser incredibly refreshing because he was being honest about his team's performance.
I have no doubt that they knew how much a win means, and any win was going to be a good win. You could see Potts and Batch joke about Potts' speed, Tuberville said that they call him the Flash, and Potts jokingly boasted that he has the longest run of the year for any running back. It's these type of moments where I step back and think that they're just kids and all they want to do is play football games, have a good time and win. If I thought that I had pressure with DTN, I can only imagine what it's like to play for a fanbase that demands wins and will accept nothing else. And don't get me wrong, I think demanding wins is a good thing and that's where Texas Tech is as a program.
Storylines and MVP's after the jump.
RECEIVERS BLOCKED | If there's one thing that's been missing from previous years that this offense needed to make a difference, at least an my opinion, was the receivers blocking down the field. I doubted that receivers blocking was out of the playbook, but that aggressive blocking by the receivers seemed non-existent for this year. Not yesterday. I thought the entire receiving corps was tremendous blocking down the field and if anything helped open up those receiver screens, it was those other two or three receivers getting after their defender and blocking them down the field. I tried to keep track of how many times the receivers did this to Baylor, and much of it was Baylor backing off of our receivers by 7 or 8 yards, but even if the Baylor secondary was backed off, the Texas Tech receivers went after the Baylor secondary. I just absolutely loved that.
And what did those receivers do with that sort of yardage? Well, they were incredibly efficient and broke off long gains on plays. That meant that there were 4 receivers that averaged 10 yards per catch. WR Alexander Torres (11.71), Lyle Leong (17), Austin Zouzalik (17) and Jacoby Franks (15.33). That's the sort of production that this offense needed. It needed receivers to break some tackles, which they did, and run hard, and fight for the ball and that happened on Saturday.
OH THE SECONDARY | In addition to trying to keep track of which receivers were blocking down the field, I also tried to keep track of the Texas Tech secondary that was burned for long yardage. First things first though, CB Will Ford didn't even make the trip. He apparently injured a hamstring in practice on Tuesday. FS Franklin Mitchem injured his knee again and was limited in his play. With a secondary that was already limited, it became even more apparently why SS Cody Davis isn't a free safety. Davis seemed like he was the defender for too many long Baylor completions or near-completions and although I'm not sure, I suppose that DC James Willis either wanted one of his most experienced defensive backs playing centerfield, but this is not Davis' strength. I think the staff feels like they would have gotten the same type of production from Brett Dewhurst and instead went with Terrance Bullitt as the safety taking Mitchem's spot. Maybe Willis and Tuberville need to consider moving D.J. Johson over to safety, especially considering he had a bad game at cornerback and with a thin group of safeties. He's certainly athletic enough to make plays and in my opinion he has more range than Davis and Mitchem. Now that LaRon Moore is essentially back playing cornerback, Johnson to safety could make a lot of sense. And I didn't notice this during the game, but Moore was the one that stayed at home on the double-pass play for Baylor. That's a senior that knows how to play the game.
THAT'S A PUNISHMENT? | So Baylor WR Josh Gordon is arrested, passed out, at a Taco Bell, with a bag of marijuana in his car. Baylor coach Art Briles "punished" (we all love air-quotes) Gordon by sitting him for the first quarter. I know, innocent until proven guilty. Whatever. If Briles didn't think that Gordon did anything wrong, then Gordon would have played that first quarter. Perhaps I don't know all of the facts, but I don't think I want a head coach that puts wins above discipline. That's embarrassing. It made me think that if this is how Briles disciplines his players, then I don't know if I want any part of him as a head coach.
WEEKLY QUARTERBACK CHECKUP | I had written Potts off after the Texas Longhorns game. I was done with so-so performances that seemed hollow. I don't know what it was, but during half-time of the Iowa St. game I get the feeling that someone got in his face and told him to start playing like the offense depends on his performance, because it does. Potts did play better, despite putting up 59 passes, he had 7.8 yards per attempt. Potts biggest mistake and biggest regret is trying to throw that one pass into triple-coverage for an easy Baylor interception. I'm not sure what he saw there, but he's essentially limited those types of decisions to one a game and I can live with that from my quarterback. Don't look now, but Potts has a touchdown to interception ration of 4.25. That's getting much closer to Harrell's magical 2008 season where he had 5 touchdowns for every interception. Something has clicked with Potts and it's not just passing the ball, but he's moving up in the pocket and actually checking off receivers and looking at other options. Sure, he still has his moments, but Potts has significantly improved his play. I'm happy for the guy.
ADDRESSING THE SPECIAL TEAMS | This has to be addressed, the pitiful play of special teams. I want to first address the on-sides kick that was returned for a touchdown. As I was watching the game, I sat in shock. I couldn't believe what just happened and my immediate reaction wasn't to express displeasure with Tuberville, but to ask what in the heck was Donnie Corona, Cornelius Douglas and D.J. Johnson doing just watching the football. Down the son of a gun. It was an embarrassing moment and I even tweeted something to Dr. Saturday about letting go the special teams coach when he posted the YouTube video. But then I started talking with my cohorts watching the game and we all agreed that this is something that a player should just know. Our discussion reminded me of this scene from A Few Good Men:
Capt. Ross: Corporal Barnes, I hold here the Marine Corps Outline for Recruit Training. You're familiar with this book?
Cpl. Barnes: Yes, sir.
Capt. Ross: You've read it?
Cpl. Barnes: Yes, sir.
Capt. Ross: Good. Would you open it up to the chapter that deals with code reds, please?
Cpl. Barnes: Sir?
Capt. Ross: Just flip open to the page of the book that talks about code reds.
Cpl. Barnes: Well, sir code red is a term that we use, I mean, just down at Gitmo, I really don't think that...
Capt. Ross: Ah, we're in luck then. Standard Operating Procedures, Rifle Security Company, Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Now I assume we'll find the term code red and its definition in that book. Am I right?
Cpl. Barnes: No sir.
Capt. Ross: Corporal Barnes, I'm a Marine. Is there no book. No pamphlet or manual, no regulation or set of written orders or instructions that lets me know that, as a Marine, one of my duties is to perform code reds?
Cpl. Barnes: No sir. No book, sir.
Capt. Ross: No further questions.
[as Ross walks back to his table Kaffee takes the book out of his hand]
Kaffee: Corporal would you open this book up to the part that says that where the mess hall is.
Cpl. Barnes: Well, Lt Kaffee, that's not in the book either, sir.
Kaffee: You mean to say the entire time you've been at Gitmo you've never had a meal?
Cpl. Barnes: No, sir. Three squares a day, sir.
Kaffee: Well, I don't understand. How did you know where the mess hall was if it wasn't in this book?
Cpl. Barnes: I guess I just followed the crowd at chow time, sir.
Kaffee: Thanks. No more questions.
There are some things that you shouldn't have to teach. Right? This is football, these guys have been playing football for perhaps 10 years of their lives. We all were screaming at our televisions or from the stands. We all knew exactly what was about to happen.
Tuberville did take responsibility for that play, without qualification:
He's got to recover the ball. And we just didn't coach him well enough. I'll take full responsibility for that. But, man, it just knocked the air out of us.
Tuberville needs to start addressing the special teams. It's embarrassing. The play is atrocious. There is almost zero punt return, and I'm chalking this up to Tuberville wanting fast players on his coverage and return units. You've got to get some big bodies on special teams to block. As much as I love the idea of having speedy players on the field at some times, there is a reason why 6-5/300 players seem to get scholarships in colleges. They are useful. They block players and stuff.
LIMITING THE BAYLOR RUNNING GAME | Let's get this right. Not only is DE Scott Smith suspended, but one of his replacements, Aundrey Barr is out with injury. Saturday morning, I knew that Robert Griffin III was going to run wild and it was going to be ugly. As much heat as Willis is going to take for the long pass-plays against Baylor, he should get credit for not letting Griffin beat Texas Tech with his legs. DC Willis limited Griffin to 3.5 yards per rush on just 11 carries. The defensive line pulled back just a bit, not just blindly rushing up the field and tried to create a pocket. This isn't boasting, this is just the truth. Griffin didn't have anywhere to go. And on top of that, the Baylor running backs didn't have anywhere to go either. The team only averaged 2.7 yards per carry. That was just stinking outstanding. Before the game, Baylor was averaging 180 yards a game. Yesterday, they had 80. Kudos to Colby Whitlock, Donald Langley, Kerry Hyder, Chris Perry, Lawrence Rumph and Bront Bird. This wasn't necessarily a dominating effort by one individual player. This was a team effort.
RUNNING GAME VS. RUNNING BACK TOUCHES | Maybe Tuberville needs to be more careful with his words. When he says running game needs to get more production, maybe what he means is that the running backs need to get more touches. Last week I mentioned that the running backs accounted for 199 yards of total offense and I think that for the most part, Texas Tech fans felt that the running game was okay, because Batch and RB Eric Stephens got a ton of touches. This week, we saw more of the same. Batch and Stephens accounted for 31 carries for 150 yards on the ground and 11 catches for 80 receiving yards. That's a total of 42 touches for 230 yards of offensive production. It's the touches that matter and to go back to last week one more time, these running backs will make plays and break tackles. Batch and Stephens wanted it yesterday. If the running backs were given the opportunity to get this type of yardage earlier in the year, I don't think that Tuberville would be talking about the running game so much. If the running backs are getting touches with screen and passes out in the flat then the running game is looks incredibly productive.
A TALE OF TWO HALVES | On one hand, you could say that the offense was great in the first half and stalled in the second half. If you're a Baylor fan, you could say that the offense really struggled in the first half, but stepped up their play in the second half. This is your tale of two halves:
1st Half: 80 (TD), 28 (Punt), 69 (TD), 75 (TD), 44 (TD), 92 (TD), 53 (FGA)
2nd Half: 53 (Punt), 84 (TD), 15 (INT), 19 (Punt), 17 (Punt)
That's a total (if my math and looking at drive charts are correct) of 441 yards of total offense in the first half and 188 yards of offense in the second half. I haven't looked back at the play-calling from the first half to the second half, but casually speaking, the offense did get more careful in the second half. Part of it is trying to protect a lead, but I still think this offense needs be what it is for the entire game. And that's part of the frustration with an offense that is predicated on passing the ball, which is that it's not going to eat up a lot of clock along the way to protect leads. It's tough to fault an offense that totals over 600 yards of total offense for the game, but I still get the feeling that the offense is still working out kinks, but I can see it with my own two eyes that it's getting better.
And for the second week in a row, you saw almost zero substitution along the offensive line. Tuberville mentioned in his post game presser that Chris Olson and Nadine James lined up at tight end and there was one play (I honestly don't remember Olson playing tight end) that with Olson in at tight end, the offense broke off a fairly significant running play.
I did think that the offense was inventive and there was plenty of motion and multiple sets that created a situation where I think the Baylor defense was guessing for a good part of the day. Leach liked to keep things simple and didn't like much motion. Leach did get some motion late in the year last year, to help Potts figure out if the offense was in man or zone defense (he called it a "tell"). I don't know if that's part of OC Neal Brown's intent. I think he likes the idea of motion and moving players around. Again, it's getting better.
ANIMATED DRIVE CHART | Since these came out a little late, I thought I'd post it here.
QUICK HITS | These are the ramblings of a guy that brings notecards into a bar to write down thoughts as the game is happening:
- I thought that ILB Bront Bird had a fantastic game. There were times that he was left out to cover running back passes, but he had 9 tackles, good for second on the team, and an incredibly important deflection.
- The offensive line gave up only 2 sacks and only 1 yard was lost for a negative running play. That group is starting to get it. Not only are they blocking better, but they're pulling and getting out in space. As much as I raved about the receivers, the offensive line is getting after it and if the thought of the staff is to have both a man blocking scheme, which I saw, and a zone blocking scheme, which I saw, then maybe the staff wants to be able to adjust to opponents.
- In the first offensive drive, Texas Tech went for it on 4th and 1 and Stephens scored a touchdown out of the Wildcat formation. QB Steven Sheffield got a really important block on that play. Kudos to Sheffield.
- Terrance Bullitt had a nice safety blitz in the 4th Baylor drive. More of this please.
- Running the ball on 3rd and 5 in the 10th offensive drive isn't what this offense does best. This was an example of OC Brown playing it safe, but the receivers and Potts carried the load so much of this game. Put it on them.
- Also on the 10th drive for Baylor, Colby Whitlock had a huge sack to force a 3rd and 7 that resulted in an incompeletion. On that 3rd down play, Brian Duncan was at nose guard.
- In Baylor's 11th drive and Baylor was forced into a 4th down and 2, but there was a holding penalty. It looked like at first that Texas Tech was going to forgo the penalty, and then it seemed like Tuberville raised a stink and told the officials that he wanted to push them back. Despite the fact that Baylor converted, I thought this was the right call.
- Tre Porter is a true freshman and he led the team with 12 tackles. He's going to be one heck of a player, if he isn't headed that direction right now.
- The delay of game on Texas Tech's 12th drive was awful. I was listening to some NFL game where it appeared the same thing happened. I think this was a 30 second timeout and in the NFL game, the officials don't give any notice to the teams as to when the play clock starts. Seemed like the same thing happened here (I'd love for TTUREF to correct me on this). Whatever happened, the end result is unacceptable.
OFFENSIVE MVP | WR ALEXANDER TORRES | I'm sticking with my pre-game MVP's. This was the Torres I've been wanting to see all year. He was fighting for yards. Sure, it would be easy to name Potts, but having chemistry with more than just one receiver is huge for this team.
DEFENSIVE MVP | DT COLBY WHITLOCK | He helped hold together a line that had a couple of key players absent. Texas Tech is going to miss Whitlock next year.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP | K MATT WILLIAMS | I wish he'd kick every field goal. I have no idea how this is going to work next year.
Yes, I've used the word embarrassing too much in this post.