I do not know how to answer this question. Seriously. I will writes some words, but I think that ultimately, West Virginia will have one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the nation and I don’t think that Texas Tech will be able to do much, if anything to stop it. I know that’s awfully encouraging and I know that I’m here to help. I have no doubt that this is going to be an offensive game, just like every other game, the difference being that I think that West Virginia has an answer for that. What is that? "That" is anything that you want to throw at them.
In all seriousness, I think that Texas Tech does have some opportunity. The best defensive effort, of all teams, was Maryland, where they held WVU to 363 total yards and only 25 yards rushing for the entire game. The did this by being incredibly good up front with their front four and not blitzing all that much. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly has a fantastic look at some thoughts as how to stop WVU from last week and they apply to this week as well. Connelly notes how QB Geno Smith is even more deadly when you blitz, and that the secret to Maryland success was to react quickly to what West Virginia did:
When the Terps attempted to throw wrenches into WVU's plans, either by bringing more or fewer pass rushers than normal, Smith typically reacted quite well. His instincts and accuracy are second-to-none right now. But Maryland saw quite a bit of success in simply rushing four and reacting to what WVU was attempting to do. Against a four-man rush, Smith's quick passes were efficient but only marginally successful. Smith completed 11 of 17 passes for 60 yards and was sacked once, averaging just 2.7 yards per pass attempt. Baylor was not quite as successful in this approach (because Baylor wasn't successful at anything) -- Smith completed 14 of 17 passes for 151 yards -- but they were still more capable of slowing WVU down doing this than anything else.
This sounds entirely reasonable and plausible and something that Texas Tech can do. The only thing that really concerns me is if Texas Tech will be able to muster any sort of pass rush or feign the slightest bit of pressure on Smith. One other note, which is something that I mentioned yesterday and Connelly mentions it here. Maryland went all out to stop the run. Only 25 rushing yards for the game. Texas did not do this. I think to keep it close, Texas Tech almost needs to sell out to stop the run, or at least that’s what I would try to do.
At some point, I think this is about execution more than anything eles. There is no absolutely right way to have an offense and as I briefly discussed in a morning links post, QB Seth Doege does have fantastic numbers. Unfortunately, there is a dramatic drop-off in terms of production between conference teams and non-conference teams. So the offense is getting the ball down the field against non-conference foes and the offense is running the ball nicely against non-conference foes, but things slow down as soon as conference play begins.
The neat thing about sports is that there is usually never just one reason why something is happening. I think that’s the case here. It could be that Doege just isn’t executing in conference play. Or maybe he just can’t execute against better athletes in conference games. Or maybe the offensive line is showing the cracks of being a decent offensive line, but is inconsistent against conference foes. Inconsistent to the point of just whiffing on plays, which is a lack of concentration more than anything else. This isn’t just Doege not executing, it’s the whole lot. OC Neal Brown seems like a pretty consistent guy, so is it plausible that the message is different from non-conference to conference? That doesn’t make much sense to me, but I suppose that could be true. I’ll entertain the idea, but it seems illogical. Do the schemes work against non-conference opponents but not conference opponents? I guess that’s true too.
I think figuring out the problems with this offense is like looking at the inside of a watch. Every gear, sprocket, spring or movement needs to work in concert. I think that’s the problem with this offense more than anything else, it’s that when one part fails in conference play then it just stops working altogether. I wish I could directly point to you the fatal flaw that causes everything to go out of whack, but I cannot. When it works, no one complains and it looks pretty good doing it. I harped during the offseason that the offense wasn’t as explosive and I would almost guarantee you that a big part of the explosiveness of this team happens against non-conference teams, while the conference game, the team struggles.
It makes me think that the framework is there, but something isn’t being done to make it go. I honestly don’t understand it. I am sure there is blame to go around.