We’re halfway through the season! It seems like the season just started and we’re already halfway through. There’s something about how these games just speed by while the season is here, but the offseason just drags and drags and drags.
Since we’re halfway through the season, I thought it would be fun to think about first half MVP’s for various categories. Feel free to name your own players if you want to play along.
- Offensive MVP: TE Jace Amaro. He’s just that dominant because he’s so big. I think that Amaro is probably going to slow a bit in the second half, not because of who he is, but because more teams aren’t going to let him beat him. I think WR Eric Ward will have a huge second half.
- Defensive MVP: DT Kerry Hyder. He’s not going to have flashy stats or lead the team in tackles, but Hyder might go down as one of the best defensive linemen to play at Texas Tech. He just demands so much attention and he doesn’t seem to be wearing down.
- Best Newcomer: CB Olaoluwa Falemi. Technically not a newcomer and I know that the freshmen quarterbacks are a significant reason as to why this team is where they are, but Falemi has been spectacular and he’s going to get tested the rest of the way. He’s had a few penalties, but I keep asking myself if I’d rather have Falemi or any of the other cornerbacks last year and that’s an easy answer.
These are your morning links:
- The LAJ has a notebook discussing the offensive line and the secondary being tested. I really liked hearing what OL coach Lee Hays had to say about RT Rashad Fortenberry, who has been really good since a bit of a rough start:
"The thing that’s helping Rashad is he tries so hard," Hays said. "He wants to be better, so he stays (after practice). He does some extra stuff. He’s coming along. He’s probably come the farthest out of everybody, and he knows his situation, that he has to improve to keep a job, because we can always put Alfredo in and bump Beau out to tackle."I love guys that work hard.
- Good story from the Post-Gazette on DE Brandon Jackson returning home, they even get to talk to his mom, which is pretty cool.
- The LAJ has a bit on the friendship between these two head coaches, Kliff Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen.
- CBS Sports has profiled TE Jace Amaro as their top pro-prospect of the week. I would say that I think that their critique of Amaro blocking down the field isn't really that accurate. He actually does a really good job of blocking down the field and doesn't wait, at least not from what I recall. I have always thought his blocking problems was when he was lined up on the line. If Amaro didn't block down the field, I don't think he would play as much. A pretty good example of Amaro blocking is below with the breakdown of the Sadale Foster run.
- Our friends at the DT write about how the Mountaineers are looking to bounce back against Texas Tech after a rough outing against Baylor.
You want to watch all of last week’s game on the YouTube? Well, there you go.
THROW THE FLAG
We’re pretty much seeing constant improvement here in how the team is dealing with penalties. I wrote after the game that there were no false starts or holding on the offensive line and the defense is playing with fearless abandon, but playing in control and having almost no pass interference calls or roughing the passer or leading with the helmet. I am sure that this won’t last all year, it’s a tough balance to play the game of football under control all of the time, but this sure is impressive.
QUESTION FOR THE CROWD
SARR and I are going to get into this tomorrow, but after seeing the hit that Baylor WR Corey Coleman had on the Kansas St. defender, how do you all feel about any hits to the head. Again, I want to leave the situation that the Big 12 had with UT's Mike Davis out of this because they absolutely mis-handled that. But generally speaking, any time that a player takes his shoulder pads or helmet into another player's head, do you think there are distinctions between how a player is hit (shoulder pad to helmet vs. helmet to helmet)? Also, what about balancing all of that while protecting the game that we're all pretty passionate about?
My biggest concern last week was how Texas Tech was going to handle a quarterback that was a little more dual threat than any other quarterback. I think Texas Tech handled Richardson pretty well, but truthfully, it is difficult to have a real evaluation considering he had a gimpy ankle and was most likely not at full strength. Maybe it is just bad thought of Seneca Wallace running all over the Texas Tech defense, or maybe Brad Smith. The dual threat quarterback in the Big 12 isn’t really all that prevalent all this year. With the graduation of Collin Klein, those fears seem to be averted a bit. The quarterbacks that are maybe labeled as such aren’t as proficient as their predecessors. Daniel Sams isn’t the passer that Klein was and Blake Bell isn’t the passer that I think we thought he could be. J.J. Walsh is probably the Big 12’s best option, but even he can be contained for a game. It seems like I’ve had this irrational fear of dual-threat quarterbacks for some time, but they seem to be a dying breed. Or perhaps they are really just special players that only really come around once in a while and do great things.
I do think our team will be prepared for what Texas Tech brings to the table. Offensively, it is something that we know very well. Obviously, (I have a) history with (Texas Tech head coach) Kliff (Kingsbury), and I know what he has done offensively and how he operates. We are both cut from the same cloth. So, we are going to know what they do offensively. Obviously, the challenge is to stop it. They play very up-tempo and very high energy. They are playing with guys who are used to playing in that type of an offense. When he (Kingsbury) got there, he inherited a receiver, running back and offensive line group that has played in that type of a system. He (Kingsbury) brings something different to the table from an energy standpoint. The technique and point of view that allows him to get things across to guys allows them to play with tremendous confidence and energy.
I think that’s pretty accurate for the most part, except for a very experienced offensive line, but Kingsbury didn’t have to go changing a ton from a theoretical standpoint (i.e. going from a pro-style offense to what Kingsbury runs). Go read the whole thing, it’s pretty good. I’ll go ahead and quote DC Keith Patterson, who I think has done quite a bit defensively for the Mountaineers to get them back on track, even though they had an awful game against Baylor:
It's the same approach we took for the first six games. It's very disappointing, because I felt we got better and better for the first five games, then I felt we took two steps backwards against Baylor. Now, we just kind of hit the restart button and are trying to get off on the right foot again. Go back to emphasize the things that we've been emphasizing all year long, the fundamentals and trying to be able to play with a lot of passion and energy. We want to continue to become a better team each and every week. That is going to continue to be our goal for the next weeks.
A pretty neat play here as Texas Tech is in 20 personnel and this is actually the second of two pretty long runs by Sadale Foster. This has been a pretty standard running play for Texas Tech in that you have the lead guy, in this case Kenny Williams, and then a back that follows the lead block. I know there are other circumstances that for different looks and how this play evolves. I'll have to do a better job of watching which side the running backs line up and whether or not they are lined up to the two receiver side or the single receiver side. Hopefully, there are no tendencies.
You can immediately see Williams about to block the linebacker or defensive end coming off the edge. That's his guy. From what I can tell, Foster is supposed to run to the right side of the line. One other thing to note is how the line all has their backs and how they are moving. This is classic zone blocking, all moving along together.
Now you're really getting to see the play develop and you can see how Le'Raven Clark is in the second level and you can also see how the line all have their backs turned to Texas Tech's sideline and now Foster is faced with the decision of heading going right or breaking the play outside. Again, this is very typical of zone blocking, the idea of the running back cutting back the grain that the offensive line is moving.
Foster gets a bit closer to the line of scrimmage, but he knows that the daylight is to his left and he's got one man to beat, which is the linebacker.
Some way and some how, Williams falling down has created enough space to where Foster is going to be his man for a pretty big gain. Also, the fact that you can see the numbers for all of the offensive line is telling you that they've all made their blocking assignments correctly, they have created a wall and the reason why this play is successful is that every man, except for that linebacker that should make the play, has been appropriately blocked.
Statistically, Texas Tech has advantages in just about every category, but these numbers are heavily skewed by Baylor, who put up ridiculous yards and numbers. I’ve tried to take those into account in trying to think who has the advantage and how this all works.
WVU has good numbers from a pass defense perspective, but WVU has played two real passing teams, Oklahoma St. and Baylor, and both of them passed for over 300 yards. I think that trend will continue for Texas Tech. As an aside, Texas Tech only has the 66th best pass defense and hasn’t played a passing team at all. Just something to consider as we get closer to some of the more passing oriented teams. After seeing what the offensive line and the running backs are capable of doing, I think I’m a bit more confident that the play call and the quarterback will run if the opportunity is available. I’d also note that once Beau Carpenter got back in the lineup, this team has been pretty good running the ball. I’m also not sure what WVU in terms of a defense. They only allowed Oklahoma St. to run for 111 yards, a traditionally very good running team with a quarterback that can scramble, and that never happened. Meanwhile, Baylor runs for 468 yards. That’s not a misprint.
It does seem clear that the Texas Tech rush defense is heavily improved, a marked improvement on last year where the team ended up finishing 76th in rushing defense. It seems that you have to pick either the rush defense or pass defense and try to be good at one or another. WVU has some talented runners in Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith, but Texas Tech’s plan really shouldn’t change all that much from Iowa St. and West Virginia. WVU has struggled to pass the ball, in large part to having issues at quarterback and not having a fully healthy quarterback. I’m not sure that two of the three options, Clint Trickett and Ford Childress will be healthy all year, but Paul Millard has been healthy, he just hasn’t played all that much. WR Ronald Carswell is a legitimate deep threat offensively and WVU does spread the ball to a handful of receivers: Kevin White, Diekiel Shorts and KJ Myers. They all have over 10 catches on the year but Carswell is the leader with over 20 yards per catch.
I don’t know what to think about the coaching aspect of this. There was a time that I used to think that Holgorsen was this laid back coach that just drank Red Bull and didn’t get angry, was a generally pretty mellow guy. But that’s not him at all. Holgo is fiery and animated on the sidelines. He’s really passionate and that doesn’t come across in interviews watching him, but it certainly comes across during the games. I don’t think that Holgorsen’s biggest faults as a coach have come during games, but rather in hiring personnel. He has had a rough go at it in hiring assistant coaches and coordinators. I think he’s back on the right track, with Patterson and Shannon Dawson (BTW, was the OC at SFA for a handful of years before joining Holgorsen). For now, I’ve got the two coaches dead-even for no other reason than Holgorsen had a fantastic start to his coaching career and it’s been much tougher since then. I think Holgo’s other big issue has been recruiting players and he should have had a couple of guys ready to go at the quarterback spot. That’s what he does. Plug and play. That hasn’t happened.
|TTU Pass Offense vs. WVU Pass Defense
|TTU Rush Offense vs. WVU Rush Defense
|TTU Pass Defense vs. WVU Pass Offense
|TTU Rush Defense vs. WVU Rush Offense
|TTU Special Teams vs. WVU Special Teams
|TTU Coaching vs. WVU Coaching
DIAL IT UP
This play was pretty early in the game, but pretty indicative of what I think Texas Tech wants to do defensively when they have a quarterback that can run a bit. We've got a three man defensive line with Pete Robertson roaming as the outside linebacker and Sam Eguavoen in the middle.
The three rush players are Dartwan Bush, Kerry Hyder and Branden Jackson. Jackson is at the bottom of the screen, Bush is at the top and Hyder is in the middle. The key in this is the threat of Robertson rushing the passer. I think this is the thing that's going to cause the biggest issue for the ISU line. They have to account for him, so the guard and center can't leave their spots to go help. This means that the other three players are essentially in a one-one-one battle. Robertson does make a hard jab step forward.
Robertson has now settled back a bit and he's watching Richardson. Actually, Robertson and Eguagoven are focused in on Richardson. Again, note that the three defensive linemen are all one-on-one and Hyder has already beat his man. This is why he's so good.
At this point, there are three ISU offensive linemen standing there with no one to block. One lost his battle to Dartwan, the other is trying to help him entirely too late and the third is still watching Robertson. The running back has now come out of the backfield and is the safety valve for Richardson and I'm guessing that the running back is Eguavoen's responsibility.
The play is really breaking down and Richardson is about to get sacked by Dartwan. Eguavoen has the running back and Robertson is squarely focused on Richardson.
Richardson gets away from Dartwan and Jackson is there to make the play. There are now four ISU offensive linemen watching what's happening while one is still trying to block Jackson. This play happens because Texas Tech is able to get pressure with just three players, all helped with the threat of Robertson threatening to rush at the beginning of the play.
At one point during the first half, Iowa St. had the following drives that did not score: 6 plays 8 yards; 3 plays 0 yards; 3 plays 3 yards; 3 plays 4 yards; and 3 plays 16 yards. The other drives were the kickoff return, the fumble from Marquez and a 75 yard drive. In the second half, Iowa St. had the following non-scoring drives: 6 plays 21 yards; 4 plays 3 yards; 7 plays 29 yards; 3 plays 3 yards; 3 plays 2 yards; 3 plays 2 yards; 3 plays 3 yards; and 3 plays and 6 yards. There were only two scoring drives the entire second half, the Webb interception and the 80 yard touchdown drive that was ISU's last opportunity.
Just to emphasize how good the defense was for the majority of the game, in the first half non-scoring drives, 18 plays and 31 yards. That's 1.7 yards per play. In the second half, the ISU offense had 32 plays on 69 yards for 2.1 yards per play.
The defense definitely had some miscues allowing ISU to score so easily and I’m still trying to figure out how the defense could be so dominant in 13 of the 18 drives (I’m counting the kickoff return as a drive), but look so feeble in the short drives. I know that a short field changes the dynamics of the game and it’s tougher to defend, but this has to be the biggest issue to repair going into WVU.
FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
Let’s do this:
I’m going to do this a bit differently today and use some of, actually five, of the things that we look at on the "Finding Your Way" portion as keys to the game because as I thought it was imperative to figure out how West Virginia beat Oklahoma St.
- Penalties: OSU 10-96, WVU 6-39 | I think it was former Texas Tech coach Bill Parcells who once said that when a team essentially lose a touchdown when a team has 100 yards of penalties. Texas Tech has had these sorts of games that Oklahoma St. had against West Virginia, which means in 5 of the 6 games Texas Tech has played, they have had at least 8 penalties. Last week, as mentioned above, was a good week for penalties with only 4 for 30 yards.
- Turnovers: OSU 3, WVU 2 | It was only by one turnover, but West Virginia still won the turnover battle and Texas Tech was in a big hole last week in the turnover margin, at -3. Whoever is at quarterback needs to limit turnovers in Morgantown. For the year, Texas Tech is -3 for the year, giving away 14 turnovers and only gained 11 turnovers for the year. For the year last year, Texas Tech only had 11 turnovers gained all year and turned the ball over 18 times. Texas Tech needs to get in the positive part of this ledger.
- 3rd Downs: OSU 6/20; WVU 8/20 | For the year, Oklahoma St. is converting 43% of their third downs but against WVU, they only converted 30%, while for the year, West Virginia was only converting 30% of their third downs, but in this game WVU converted 40%. Essentially, both teams bucked their trends for the year, Oklahoma St. was worse and West Virginia was better in third downs. Texas Tech needs to continue their trends in third downs, which is generally converting them at a 48% rate. That was probably the biggest difference between Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb’s performances. Defensively, Texas Tech is only allowing 27% of third downs. Again, Texas Tech needs to keep to their averages.
- Swing Points (+): OSU *; WVU 7 -- Swing Points (-): OSU 0; WVU 0 | WVU had an interception returned for a touchdown and also had drives that started on the OSU 29 yard line that resulted in a field goal in the 1st half and a drive that started on the 36 yard line that resulted in a field goal. OSU also only had one drive where they flipped the tables and started on the WVU side of the field, their 44 yard line, and that drive resulted in a missed field goal. These are technically not swing points as they are supposed to be within the 25 yard line, but thought it was worth mentioning here. West Virginia did take advantage of those opportunities and Oklahoma St. didn’t have any opportunities.
- Average Field Position: OSU 27; WVU 30 | Neither team really flipped the field all that much and I think that Texas Tech has to do this in order to make it a bit easier for Mayfield or Webb or Brewer. Texas Tech feasted on opportunities inside the opponent’s 25 yard line previously and short fields because of the return game. I think Texas Tech needs to take advantage of this.
THE LIGHT HAS GONE ON
I have been a bit worried about whether or not OLB Austin Stewart was going to be able to fill the shoes of OLB Terrance Bullitt next year, especially after Stewart had grade issues that kept him out of the games almost all of last year. The last two games have really been a revelation for me as Stewart has looked really good. I had no idea that Stewart had 8 tackles against SMU, but the last two games, Stewart has had 3 tackles each game, a tackle for loss each game (one being a sack against Iowa St.) and a forced fumble against Kansas and a pass break-up against ISU.
FINDING YOUR WAY
Take a look at those stats. Those swing points for and against Texas Tech are pretty significant. Plus look at the average field position for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were pretty much in a hole the entire game from some of these numbers, including the turnovers. Just amazing to think that Texas Tech was really ahead by 14 late in teh game. And just in case you were curious, the Swing Points (-) is the missed field goal by Ryan Bustin inside Texas Tech's own 20 yard line. That counts as -7 points (I may or may not have been calculating this correctly thus far, but that's okay). I can almost guarantee that if Texas Tech allowed the other team 14 points in their own redzone and didn’t capitalize inside their own redzone and have 4 turnovers, then Texas Tech will lose that game 9 times out of 10.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
The fox returns! It's a sign!
What does the fox say? pic.twitter.com/9W0ZQ1DLYn— TexasTechEquipment (@TTU_EQUIPMENT) October 16, 2013
The Queen of Texas Tech Spirit - 93 Year Old Cheerleader Alumni - Jane Kuykendall can still do the splits! pic.twitter.com/TNFY2ht5IW— Texas Tech Athletics (@TechAthletics) October 13, 2013
Fall Practice: S Jalen Barnes (shoulder) - out for year; OG/C Tony Morales (shoulder) - out for game; QB Michael Brewer (back) - out for game; LB Kris Williams (ACL) - out for year.
Week 1 vs. SMU: S Jalen Barnes (shoulder) - out for year; OG/C Tony Morales (shoulder) - out for game; QB Michael Brewer (back) - out for game; LB Kris Williams (ACL) - out for year; RG Beau Carpenter (ankle sprain) - day to day; IR Jordan Davis (hamstring) - day to day.
Week 2 vs. SFA: S Jalen Barnes (shoulder) - out for year; OG/C Tony Morales (shoulder) - out for game; QB Michael Brewer (back) - out for game; LB Kris Williams (ACL) - out for year; RG Beau Carpenter (ankle sprain) - out for game; IR Jordan Davis (hamstring) - out for game; OLB Andre Ross (leg?) - day to day.
Week 3 vs. TCU: S Jalen Barnes (shoulder) - out for year; OG/C Tony Morales (shoulder) - out for game; QB Michael Brewer (back) - out for game; LB Kris Williams (ACL) - out for year; RG Beau Carpenter (ankle sprain) - out for game; IR Jordan Davis (hamstring) - out for game; OLB Andre Ross (leg?) - out for game.
Week 4 vs. TXST: S Jalen Barnes (shoulder) - out for year; OG/C Tony Morales (shoulder) - out for game; QB Michael Brewer (back) - out for game; LB Kris Williams (ACL) - out for year; RG Beau Carpenter (ankle sprain) - out for game.
Week 5 vs. BYE:
Week 6 vs. KU: S Jalen Barnes (shoulder) - out for year; OG/C Tony Morales (shoulder) - out for game; LB Kris Williams (ACL) - out for year; OG Alfredo Morales (knee/ankle) - out for game.
Week 7 vs. ISU: S Jalen Barnes (shoulder) - out for year; OG/C Tony Morales (shoulder) - out for game; LB Kris Williams (ACL) - out for year; OG Alfredo Morales (knee/ankle) - out for game; S J.J. Gaines (shoulder) - out during game; DE Dartwan Bush (knee) - out during game; K Kramer Fyfe (????).
I am sure a lot of you saw this yesterday, but if you haven’t take the time to watch this story from Brandon Rawe on DE Branden Jackson.