Five Keys to the Game
1. Be Something You Were Not All Year: I’ll be honest. I’m not real sure how Texas Tech is going to keep pace with ASU offensively. I just can’t figure out how that happens unless Brewer/Webb has the game of their early careers and Texas Tech doesn’t turn the ball over. One thing that Texas Tech can do is get to Kelly because Arizona St. was 113th in the nation in sacks allowed. I’m not sure how that played out on a per play basis, but no matter, ASU gave up almost 3 sacks a game. Anytime that you can sack a player, you sometimes get the opportunity to create a turnover, but that almost never happened with Arizona St. They were 7th in the nation in turnover margin and 30th overall in total turnovers. For comparison purposes, Texas Tech was 123rd in turnover margin and 119th in total turnovers. The problem for Texas Tech to win this game, they have to be something that they haven’t been all year, which is turnover prone. Maybe it happens if Brewer is able to do something that both Webb and Mayfield were not, but this is a tall task this far into the season.
2. Jump Start Washington and Williams: DeAndre Washington and Kenny Williams have been mere afterthoughts for the past few weeks. They have hardly been an integral part of the offensive game plan. There is no doubt in my mind that if Texas Tech can get these two going, Brewer/Webb will have a heck of a time making sure that they can keep their quarterbacks clean. I’m also wondering how much authority Webb/Mayfield had to defer to the run. Mayfield’s last possession for Texas Tech was three straight pass plays. All incomplete. The series prior to that, Mayfield did have two long completions to Amaro and Reginald Davis, but no running plays. Texas Tech actually "ran" the ball 28 times against Texas, but of those 28 rushing attempts, 16 were by Mayfield (some of those being sacks).
Washington and Williams had 7 rushing attempts for the ENTIRE game. What the hell?
Of those 7 rushing attempts, 4 of them came when Brewer was in the game. This is obviously too small of a sample size to make too many generalizations, but Mayfield didn’t defer to or lean on the running game at all against Texas. It was problematic. Not surprisingly, when Brewer stepped on the field, he hands the ball off, tries to make the offense a bit more diverse and you get a pretty nice little touchdown drive. Again, it’s a small sample size, but remind yourself when the last time that Washington and Williams were anything other than blockers?
It’s not going to be easy for Texas Tech to run on Arizona St. They have a top 30 rush defense, but over the last three games, Arizona St. allowed 213 yards a game to Stanford, Arizona and UCLA. Part of what is skewing that top 30 rush defense is allowing -5 yards against Washington (!!!!) and 2 yards against Washington St.
3. Focus on Special Teams: Special teams are either a boom or a bust and that’s the problem. Texas Tech has been as inconsistent as the winter in Texas and that just has to stop. Texas Tech was 101st in punt returns allowed and 77th in kickoff returns allowed. Overall, this probably isn’t the end of the world, but there is a ton of hidden yards on returns. Yards you really don’t think about. On average, Texas Tech has kicked the ball off 3 times or so, allowing about 7 or 8 yards more than the best kickoff return team. That’s 25 additional yards that you give up over the course of a game. With punt returns, it’s even worse, giving up almost 11 yards each punt return, as Texas Tech is averaging 3 punts a game. That’s 30 more yards. Add that up, and you’re giving the opponent a pretty significant advantage without even having to take a snap. The good thing here is that ASU is actually 104th in punt return yards allowed, so maybe this will be a push.
4. Stop the Big Play: Co-DC Matt Wallerstedt has talked quite a bit about how it’s been the big play, the big run, that’s been problematic for the defense and I suppose that’s true. The problem for me as I look at this is that when you constantly give up big chunks of yards on a consistently basis, it’s not a one-off thing, it’s something that this team just isn’t all that good at doing, which is limiting the big play. The Texas Tech defense should be at full strength, with Tre’ Porter, Terrance Bullitt, Dennell Wesley and Dartwan Bush all returning from various injuries. Being as healthy as this team has been over the past 7 weeks should prove to be very beneficial, but now this team has to go out and do it. Obviously, it starts up front with Kerry Hyder, Wesley and Bush all trying to stop a top 30 rush offense. With Marion Grice potentially out for the game, it should be a bit easier, but ASU most likely has a better than good back-up that could pick up the slack for Grice.
5. Find that Magic: I think this team and coaching staff tried to play not to lose against Texas and they just got out-matched at the end of the day. The same things that cost this team during the season cost the team during that game. Turnovers. Special teams gaffes. Inconsistent play at the quarterback spot. It all led to the fifth straight loss for Texas Tech. I wrote during one of the weekly conversations that I think this is going to help Kingsbury in the long run. He’s a tireless worker and coach and having some time off hopefully helped him take a more global view of what he’s done as a coach and as an administrator for this program. I have a difficult time thinking about the quarterback situation and I hope that Brewer is the answer, but even if it isn’t. There is no one that is more invested in the long-term success of Texas Tech football more than Kingsbury.