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Weekly Conversation | Iowa St. Cyclones

SARR and Seth C discuss Baker Mayfield's knee, the extraordinary defense, hiring two different coaches in Kliff Kingsbury and Tubby Smith and so much more.

We're deep into this now.
We're deep into this now.
San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

Seth C: So about that knee.

Travis (SARR): You know, when I saw it on the replay it really didn’t look that bad. The guy rolled up on it but it wasn’t like one of those knee buckles that just make you cringe and look away. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic but I’m hoping it was just a strain or hyperextension. But then at the same time you could see he was visibly in pain and didn’t put any weight on it so it could be much worse. My hope is that he got rolled and got really scared because it really hurt but in the end it wasn’t too severe. Going full Uncle Rico here but I remember in my junior year I was playing DE and got hit in the thigh on the first play of the game by a little punk RB from Sundown and I’ve never felt physical pain like that before or since. I knew something was broken and the way it swelled up and bruised I was certain that it would have to be amputated. Turns out it was only a deep thigh bruise and I only missed a week, but dang I swore my whole family was hurt by that hit. I’m hoping for the best for Baker, because I really like the kid.

So about that D.

Seth C: How about that. Here's some behind the scenes stuff. SARR and I are working on this on Monday and we get word that Mayfield isn't out for the year. That's just terrific news and the power of positive thinking. I'm so happy that Mayfield could practice. The more competition, the merrier.

Alright, to the defense. Yes, that defense was just spectacular. I thought the defensive line was the best I've seen play in a really long time. They are really pushing people around and making plays and that's just something we haven't seen all that often. I've really tried to think of the actual adjustments that Wallersted and Smith made and I'm really not quite sure. I went back and I don't think they were really doing anything different. Heaps was really hot to start out the game and his pace slowed down quite a bit. I think that was a big part of it. I think that Weis was also at fault, he went to the well way too often. Heaps was hot and he kept thinking that he'd stay that way, I guess, despite the fact that he's really just an average quarterback. The law of averages say that Heaps just wasn't going to remain that hot for the entire game, but Weis kept passing the ball.

Still, you don't just dominate a line of scrimmage because the opposing head coach continues to pass the ball. Kansas couldn't run the ball and that's on the defensive line.

So as I'm watching the first quarter, all I keep thinking about is how are we going to explain a Texas Tech offense that can't run the ball and Mayfield looked like he was intentionally trying to complete a pass to the Kansas secondary. The the skies opened up and the birds sang. Obviously, the running game was a big part of the offensive showing, but what else do you think helped the offense be so incredibly efficient?

There is a definite synergy (Corporate Lingo Bingo!) between a play caller and a QB and when it’s clicking it leads to success by the offense. We all heard it in high school, but if you call the right play against the right defense and all 11 players execute, the play is mathematically impossible to stop. I think Kliff found that rhythm. -SARR

Travis (SARR): I think one thing really helped the offense start clicking: Kingsbury got his groove back.

I was watching the Saints game last Monday night and the announcers kept talking about Sean Payton being out last year and how it took him several weeks to get his rhythm back in his play calling. I think that’s exactly where Kliff was. During the first quarter the offense seemed terribly disjointed but I think he really got into a rhythm during the 2nd quarter and it was evident. It’s not a coincidence that running lanes magically opened up and receivers seemed to run crisper routes. There is a definite synergy (Corporate Lingo Bingo!) between a play caller and a QB and when it’s clicking it leads to success by the offense. We all heard it in high school, but if you call the right play against the right defense and all 11 players execute, the play is mathematically impossible to stop. I think Kliff found that rhythm.

You see it with the Saints, you see it with the Broncos, you see it with Baylor, and you saw it with our Red Raiders beginning at straight up noon on Saturday. The ability to think ahead 2 or 3 plays and get into a real chess match with the opposing DC is what makes football so entertaining. It was magical to see it at times during the Leach years and it was terrific to see it during the 2nd and 3rd quarters on Saturday. Remember, Kingsbury has only been a head coach for five games. Once he works out the inconsistencies in his play calling, and starts out smarting the defense 9 plays out of 10, then you better watch out Gilbert.

Did anything stand out for you on offense that seemed to be the key to get things rolling?

Also, I’ve seen a lot of comments about how fired up ISU will be on Saturday. Personally, I think the opposite. I think ISU might be a little deflated and flat because they gave it their all last week and came up short. That said, Paul Rhoads is an outstanding coach and is definitely a motivator. They may come in on Saturday with their hair on fire but once they get punched in the mouth the game should settle down. We’ll get into breaking the game down further later, but are you concerned about ISU strictly based on what happened to them last Thursday night?

Seth C: Offensively, I think the biggest thing was the push that the line was getting. Really creating holes and pushing defenders in a way that we really haven't seen this year. The addition of Beau Carpenter certainly helps in that respect and I thought it was pretty good to get Carpenter to the side where Fortenberry is, maybe give him some more help, while Le'Raven Clark can help with James Polk a bit more. I would have put Clark and Carpenter on the same side to give a really good left side, but it's a good thing I'm not a coach because what OL coach Lee Hays did worked.

It makes you realize how much the game can be won in the trenches.

I don't think I'll ever doubt the emotion of a Paul Rhoads team. He is passionate and players will run through a wall for him. Most of the time, talent finds a way of rising to the top. That motivation and passion can only do so much. I think that when a team does play above their head, even if it is for an entire game, it can be a lot to ask of a team. I think that sort of emotion is physically draining and tough to replicate. So yes, I'm sure that Rhoads will have his team fully motivated, but I don't know how much he and the players can sustain that emotion.

We've really gotten to know Kingsbury from a coach and we're all pretty confident on what he can as a coach. We don't know about Tubby Smith on the basketball side, but in looking back, aside from Kingsbury being the obvious choice because he played at Texas Tech, what else about Kingsbury makes you think that Kirby Hocutt got it right? In other words, what is it about Kingsbury that you think is making him successful and do you see any of those same attributes in Smith or do you think Smith's hiring is an entirely different deal? And the only reason I'm coming to you for this is because you are a feature writer on Pounding the Rock and now a basketball expert.

Travis (SARR): I think Kingsbury and Smith are total opposites. I saw it firsthand at the tailgate event we attended earlier this summer and I’ve heard various accounts from others who have met both. It’s such an interesting dynamic, and I’ve mentioned it several times, but Kingsbury is portrayed as this playboy movie star but he’s really a very intense guy and a man of few words (and for those that know me personally you know that I appreciate the heck out of that). Courtney mentioned it in his meetings with Kingsbury. He’s not the type of guy that talks until he can think of something to say.

Smith on the other hand seems to be the complete opposite. He reminds of a mix between Wilford Brimley and Bill Cosby. Very folksy and personable, and I think that translates well. Again, back to the tailgate event I thought it was interesting to see at the end when the mob of people surrounded Kingsbury to get a picture and Tubby just sorta walked to the back of the room and chatted very cordially with a few folks before leaving.

The interesting thing is I think both are perfect fits for the situations they’ve been thrust into. The football team needed a sense of swagger, and a sense of loyalty, and a sense of undying devotion to perfection for the program and the school. They also needed a strong injection of intensity and emotion, and I think they are getting that from Kingsbury and his staff.

The basketball team on the other hand needed a smile. I know that sounds corny but for everything those kids have been through the last five years they needed someone to come in and pat them on the back and give them a sense of stability and the feeling that they belong and that they can contribute in building something to be proud of for the rest of their lives. Tubby brings that to them.

And I’m glad you brought up the Spurs gig because I’m really excited about it. Because I spend most of my time working on inventions or consoling Gilbert, not many people know that I’ve probably got the best basketball mind in San Antonio, and Pounding the Rock recognized that.

Or maybe they were just impressed that I blocked LeBron James on Twitter.

I’ll have a very busy winter as I’ll be covering most of the Spurs home games. I’m a little nervous about it because it’s something I’ve never done before. I’ll be at the pre-game shoot around, and will attend Gregg Popovich’s pre-game press conference, watch the game from the press seats, then attend postgame pressers and possibly locker room interviews. Then I’ll have to do a write-up late that night or early the next morning.

It’s not the strict sports writer recap of a game so I’ll be able to have some fun with it. I’ll try to bring a different view point that many miss. I’ve written a few pieces at PtR already and I’m not sure the readers know what to think of me yet, but they’ll come around. I hope. Anyway, it’s something I’m really excited about.

So what are you keys to victory on Saturday? If Kingsbury wins he’ll have the best start to a coaching career in Tech history. What does he need to do to ensure a 6-0 start?

If the quarterback is Webb, then he's gotta figure out the fine line between being really conservative and wild-assed. -Seth C

Seth C: I'm thinking that the most important thing is sustaining effort for all 60 minutes. I really don't think that Iowa St. is going to come out all that flat, but I do think that Texas Tech is more talented. Of course, it also depends who starts at quarterback, but this team has shown a really excellent ability to stick with it for the entire game. Not ever game is a blowout and I think that's okay. Some folks were really doubting Texas Tech after the Texas St. game, but a really nice win over Kansas has the Kansas folks thinking about the next head football coach, while most of us are thinking that this was pretty much expected.

If the quarterback is Webb, then he's gotta figure out the fine line between being really conservative and wild-assed. If it is Mayfield, then he's got to figure out the exact opposite. I thought he did a fantastic job of riding that line of conservative and letting go a bit in the Kansas game. I was getting nervous that he just wasn't who I thought he was, but then he totally redeemed himself.

From listening to Wallerstedt talk, it sounds as if the interior of the defensive line is going to get worked out by the Iowa St. interior line, so they've got to be fresh and strong. Wallerstedt really praised John Scott for the work that he's done on the defensive line and those players have really stepped up their play. And Scott really does have them moved around. Dartwan Bush plays inside, Kerry Hyder plays on the edge. Jackson Richards can play up and down the line. The only constant is Dennell Wesley. I also thought it was great that Anthony Smith got into the game against Kansas and he is literally built like a fire hydrant. I hope he gets on the field next year.

Talk a bit about your keys to the game. And if you are really going to the game this weekend, what's the one thing that you are most excited to see live and in person?

Travis (SARR): My number one key is that Kingsbury needs to get into a play calling rhythm earlier. I don’t think we can afford to go down a couple of scores against Iowa State so we’ll need to move the ball effectively in the 1st quarter. I know I keep harping on this, but I think a lot of that falls on Kingsbury to get the right plays called against the defense. Iowa State had a couple of extra days to prepare, but not a complete extra week like Kansas did, so that should help. And to continue on my broken record tour, I want to see Grant get 10-15 touches. He had almost 100 yards receiving last week and he could easily get 150-200 all purpose yards per week (ala Darren Sproles) if we figure out how to get him the ball. I loved seeing him in motion and I like seeing the backs motion to the LOS and then back to the backfield because I think that helps our young QBs (and Kingsbury) get an early read on the defensive coverage.

It’s looking more and more like I’ll be able to make it up to Lubbock for the game so I’m stoked about that. I haven’t been since the A&M game in 2011 so I just want to see the stadium and the new video board and all the improvements. Keith is coming with me so I’m excited about showing him around. On top of that I want to see lots of touchdowns and lots of sacks. I hate that the game is at 11, but it is what it is.

You did a post after the spring game discussing motion so give us your thoughts on that. I love using motion to make the defense show their cards before they’re ready. And it’s prediction time! I say we start slowly again, but start clicking at 12:01pm and roll 42-21.

. . . the prairie dog is back. Just a bit. Again, this is about giving Mayfield the better opportunity to adjust to the defense and I think it's really beneficial for him. I think that ideally, he would love to let the quarterback make the adjustment. -Seth C

Seth C: What about punts. Will you be excited to see punts on Saturday?

To answer your question, I will have discussed this on Thursday in Iconography, but here goes, I don't think that Kingsbury is using motion all that much to show his hands, he's doing two separate things. He is calling a play and then getting to the line of scrimmage and getting lined up and then, depending on the circumstances, everyone is looking to the sideline for any adjustment to the play . . . the prairie dog is back. Just a bit. Again, this is about giving Mayfield the better opportunity to adjust to the defense and I think it's really beneficial for him. I think that ideally, he would love to let the quarterback make the adjustment.

The other thing that I thought was interesting (also discussed on Thursday) was that the drive where Texas Tech had all of the running plays, Sadale Foster was part of that package and the reason why he is so important is because he can line up at two different positions. He lined up in the slot and in the backfield and as a result of that, he was able to give Kingsbury a 20-personnel and a 10-personnel look without having to take a player off the field and allow Kansas to sub in a player. How about that for some analysis!

Predictions. I think this game is much closer, but that's probably because I have lots of respect for Rhoads and I think that their quarterback, Sam Richardson, is an okay quarterback. He's not bad and he's improving. I think that helps them out quite a bit, plus he can take off and run. I think he injured his ankle in losing to Texas, so he might not be as mobile, but he has some wheels. I'll go with 35-21 for a final score.

I'll let this be the last thought, but we discussed on Wednesday how Texas Tech will schedule a FCS team for the foreseeable future, how do you feel about the current slate of non-conference opponents.

No punts. -SARR

Travis (SARR): No punts.

As far as the FCS/FBS argument goes I can see both sides. I think one thing to remember is that you can want to play team X but that may not work for a variety of reasons (scheduling, money, they just plain don’t want to do it). I know that Tech had that issue a few years ago. I can’t remember the exact details, but we were supposed to play somebody and they backed out on it and we had to scramble to fill the slot. I like to think of non-conference as sort of a preseason, but wouldn’t mind seeing all FBS opponents. I’d be happy with UTSA, TX State and A&M because it would give me a chance to see more games in person.