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Ten Thoughts on West Virginia 37, Texas Tech 34

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Ten thoughts on Texas Tech's last second loss to West Virginia, including thoughts on the 4th and 3 and the redzone issues for Texas Tech.

John Weast

1.  4th and 3.

Q. Coach, would you talk about the decision on the 4th and 3 there at the end of the game with about 50 seconds to go and the process you went through on that decision?
KLIFF KINGSBURY:
Yeah, I thought we could pin them back. We ended up kicking it in the end zone, and on second thought had we known that we probably would have went for it, but thought we could pin them back and them only having a couple time-outs, go to overtime.

Q. Was that a confidence factor in your offense and not being able to get three yards do you think?
KLIFF KINGSBURY:
Yeah, I didn't like how we were handling the man coverage to be honest. They kept rolling down and playing it and we couldn't win and we couldn't make the throw, so we just decided to do that.

Q. Was the struggle against man more on the receivers or more on the --
KLIFF KINGSBURY:
Both. Both. You should invite that type of coverage, but they came down the last couple drives got in our face and we didn't have an answer, and I've got to have some plays to draw up to get people open, too. I'll take that responsibility.

I just happened to catch the end of the TCU vs. Baylor game and Gary Patterson was faced with an almost exact and similar situation. It was 4th and 3 and TCU was around the 50 yard line with about 1:17 left in the game. Patterson called a couple of timeouts and sent out the offense and sent out the punt unit and then sent out the offense again and eventually went for it, coming up short. Baylor gets the ball back on downs and it felt like it was church for TCU. Baylor only had to go a few yards in order to kick a game-winning field goal, which they did.

Kliff says above that had he know that P Taylor Symmank was going to punt the ball through the endzone, then he would have gone for it and the biggest problem was that the offense couldn't must much of anything offensive through the last 4 drives other than a 69 yard touchdown run by Justin Stockton.

I hardly get to twisted about whether or not to go for it on a down or distance because, I suppose, I see both sides of the argument. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you're wrong for thinking that Kingsbury should have gone for it on 4th and 3 and I won't tell you that you're wrong to think that Kingsbury should have punted.

Quite literally, the game was on the line and I suppose that the thing that makes me scratch my head is the idea that this really is what Kliff Kingsbury is known for. Being confident. Extremely confident, about a situation and about life in general. Confident in his offense to outscore your offense and that's not what happened on 4th and 3. Kingsbury didn't have that confidence in his offense and very much admitted that the man coverage was kicking his team's tail and they didn't have an answer.

Philosophically, I think that's my biggest disappointment. I want Kingsbury to feel 10 feet tall and bullet-proof and he doesn't feel that way. He's being a realist, which is what I'm supposed to do.

2. Take Away That Last Play. Generally speaking, I really loved a lot of things that the team did as a whole. It's never easy, especially right after a game, to take away a last-second and losing play, but generally speaking, I had a really good feeling about how the team played. It felt like, for me, that there were fewer mistakes on offense and more plays on defense.  This is one of those things where writing something like this doesn't take away the sting of yesterday's loss, but putting aside that last play, I liked the way that this team played yesterday.  I see improvement. Of course, I'm a glass half-full sort of person.

3. Webb Played Better. Progress. Regress. Progress. That's where I'm at with Webb. I thought he played much better. Perfect? No. We'll get to the redzone issues a bit later, but I thought that Webb didn't lose this game as a result of his play. That's not to say that Webb wasn't at fault, but my general sense after the game was that the offense stalled not necessarily as a result of Webb. A contributing factor? Yeah.

Webb finished with 7.5 yards per attempt, perfectly acceptable for me, and 3 touchdowns to 1 interception. Again, acceptable for me, with a completion rate of around 60% for the game. Webb's lone interception was a bad pass, but he seemed to miss fewer receivers and didn't throw behind receivers as much, getting them in stride.  Webb, did look much better passing against West Virginia when they blitzed and didn't get rattled when it appeared that there was some significant pressure. Webb deftly threw where the blitz was coming from more times than I can remember and that's the sign of a quarterback making the right read (I think).  Webb's biggest faults were on the last drives, where he and the offense couldn't even muster a few first downs to get into field goal range.  Kingsbury mentioned during the press conference that the receivers and the coaching staff have to figure out how to get open in press man coverage.  This is a season-long problem and it is the reason why the wide receivers haven't made nearly the impact that I think they should have.  In other words, sure, Webb gets some fault for not getting the ball out, but the receivers have to get open too and with Kingsbury admitting that the problem is an offensive-wide problem, makes me think that it's not just Webb, he's a large cog, but there are other parts that aren't working.

4. Redzone Failures. This hurts much worse for me than the 4th and 3 call, not being able to convert on two redzone opportunities and kicking a field goal for three points rather than try for the touchdown. Maybe it's my fear of impending doom and failure that I live with pretty much with me right now, but I felt that West Virginia was going to mount a comeback and Texas Tech coudln't afford to just take field goals when they were going to need touchdowns late in the game.

Texas Tech is up 21-13 and Texas Tech has driven down the field in impressive fashion. Texas Tech is pretty much completing 1st downs at will and gets down to the West Virginia 3 yard line where a Quinton White run gets a 1 yard loss. Webb and Cantrell attempt a fade that's incomplete and then a screen pass to Rodney Hall goes no where.

Texas Tech gets one of those turnovers deep in the third quarter at the West Virginia 37 yard line and promptly gets down to the West Virginia, partially saved by a holding penalty against Marquez, to give Texas Tech a 1st and goal at the West Virginia 9 yard line. A couple of fade passes later, Texas Tech is looking at a Ryan Bustin for 25 yards. The passes weren't executed and the last person that I really want a fade pass to is Jakeem Grant. That's simply a bad match-up for Grant pretty much no matter who is covering him because he has to go up and get the ball.

The fade route to Grant and the screen to Hall were my biggest problems because I don't think those are plays where you are giving your offense the best opportunity to score. Grant has to out-jump a defender that is most likely already much bigger than him and then Kingsbury is asking Hall to essentially make enough moves to get 10 yards to score. It's one thing if Hall is completely open in the endzone, but with West Virginia blitzing, Hall was the correct read (I think) but Texas Tech needed playmakers in the game, guys that could make some plays and make some people miss.

Meanwhile, on the West Virginia side of things, West Virginia has the ball and has driven down the field with about 4:39 left in the game and they find themselves down at the Texas Tech 6 yard line, rushing the ball 4 straight times and eventually netting a 1 yard touchdown.

That was the difference in the game for me. The 4th and 3 was big, but this exchange was bigger. WVU capitalized in the redzone and went for it on 4th down here and Texas Tech didn't.

5. Improved Defense. The last few drives for West Virginia were an awful taste in my mouth after what I thought was a real defensive improvement. The defense looked absolutely gassed on those last few drives by West Virginia and it was truly unfortunate because I thought the defense played a fantastic three quarters of football. This is not a consolation prize, either. The lack of depth is still problematic, but that wasn't going to be solved in an offseason or two, it is going to take some time. Still, I absolutely loved some of the moves that Mike Smith is still tweaking and making after being named the defensive coordinator.

I really am encouraged by the play of the defense. Smith is getting plays from a handful of players and they aren't letting a team like West Virginia to just gash the defense for 7 or 8 yards a rush, which they are capable of doing, play in and play out. The defense really made some stops, forcing a few punts, and a missed field goal and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. It's not perfect, but for my money, the defense is improving. It's baby steps, but it is improving. Smith is doing wonders with Pete Robertson, who is really starting to come on and I don't really understand how he could look so rough early in the season to now find his groove defensively now. Keenon Ward has been the best player for the defense for the better part of the season.

Or course, don't read this as an indication that everything's just peachy. The safeties still get lost a few times in coverage and those plays result in a couple of long touchdowns.

6. Bethel and Ross. Aside from Bethel's pass interference call, which was suspect for me, I thought that both Nigel Bethel II and Andre Ross showed up big time. Ross has recieved significantly more playing time since Wallerstedt resigned and Ross has been a huge factor in causing some serious havoc for the opposing offense. He's playing defensive end and he's certainly not as big as Branden Jackson, but he's really getting to the opposing team and he's making some serious plays.

Bethel, for my money, played a fantastic game. Bethel had the toughest assignment on the entire team and this is just his 3rd game game from a 3 game suspension. As an aside, WVU's CB Darryl Worley grabbed a woman around the neck and threw her to the ground. He was charged with assault and pled no-contest to a misdemeanor assault charge. Worley missed 2 games. Just keeping track of this sort of thing makes me sick, but thus far, Bethel's case is the only one that we are currently looking at with the Big 12 issues where the woman involved did not want to press changes and actually apologized for her role in the situation and asked that the player, Bethel, be reinstated. And he still was suspended 3 games.

Bethel covered Kevin White for almost the entire game and White made a ton of plays, but son of a gun, Bethel doesn't back down and he's right there with White for the better part of the game. Just be patient with him.

7. Washington Was Fantastic. RB DeAndre Washington continues to be my favorite player to watch. He is electric and I'm incredibly glad to see Kingsbury give Washington the ball play after play, to let him do his thing and try to make plays. Washington finished with 132 yaards rushing on 29 carries for 4.6 yards per run, plus an additional 4 catches for 25 yards gave Washington 157 yards on 34 touches. I'll take that every day. That will eventually play huge dividends for this team.

8. Wide Recievers . . . Finally. It seems as if we have been waiting forever for the wide receivers to finally make some plays. Devin Lauderdale helped lead the charge, catching 3 passes for 112 yards, including what was essentially a 34 yard run, but it was a push-pass from Webb as Lauderdale is crossing the field and then caught a 75 yard bomb from Webb for a touchdown. This still is not enough for me, but it's a start. I still really need to see more from Dylan Cantrell and Reginald Davis, but this is a start.

9. Penalties and Turnovers. Just in case you needed to keep track, this is the first game in what seems like a long time where Texas Tech did not lose th turnover battle. It was 1-1 even. As far as the penalties, it was more of the same, 12 penalties for 115 yards.

10. Yeah, we're 2-4.

Q. Is this as tough a spot as you've been in in your time here, in your time coaching here?
KLIFF KINGSBURY:
At Tech? I'd say so, yeah.

Q. Can you elaborate on that?
KLIFF KINGSBURY:
Yeah, we're 2-4.