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The Huddle: Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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We take a close look at this weekend's game between the Kansas Jayhawks and Texas Tech Red Raiders, complete with thoughts on being patient with the coaching staffs, players to watch for Kansas, keys to the game and Bruce Lee GIF's.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

1-11. 4-8. 4-8. 7-6. That’s the records of California, TCU and West Virginia last year. The toughest thing to do in a year like 2014 is stay positive. I’ve been down this road before and to be honest, I’ve been pretty lucky as a blogger to think that since 2006, when I started this thing, Texas Tech has only had 1 losing season and this may be the second. That’s a pretty good run, all things considered.

Game Information
Kansas
vs.
Texas Tech

When: October 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium | Lubbock, TX
Watch: FSN
Key Injuries: Tony Morales, Jah’Shawn Johnson, Demetrius Alston

I was mentioning to someone over email that I think I’ve been a pretty positive person when it comes to covering Texas Tech. By no means perfect, but generally positive overall. It took me three years. Yes, three years, to finally be fed up with Tommy Tuberville. Whatever I wrote wasn’t me pretending, it was just the nature of who I was/am and that it sure does make my life a bit easier thinking about how things can get better. Not worse.

I’ve seen comments about how some of you are disappointed in believing the offseason hype of this team. That you read too much into preseason magazines and blogs, like this one, and I hope you never feel bad about believing that something good is going to happen. That’s the great thing about sports. Things change. They can change pretty quickly.

I thought that the records of those three programs was pretty telling of a number of different things. Sonny Dykes’ initial year at Cal was an unmitigated disaster. You could think that he obviously had a lot of things to clean up and this isn’t to say that Dykes has completely turned it around, but he seemingly has Cal pointed in the right direction.

You could look at TCU as a program that had a ton of things to correct. An offseason of drug issues with the team and it seemed as if the 2013 season for TCU was never going to end. Close loses littered through that season, Kansas State, Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma gave TCU some hope heading into the 2014 season. It’s sometimes hard to believe that an established coach and an established program could allow a losing season to happen, but these sorts of things happen to good program.

With West Virginia, Holgorsen started with immediate success, winning 11 games, but slipping pretty quickly, winning only 7 games and then 4 last year. Holgorsen stuck with the program for the most part, although there was certainly some issues with maintaining that consistency at the defensive coordinator position. I don’t know that Holgorsen has it all figured out, but I know that he’s recruiting his tail off at West Virginia and has been for a couple of years. It took him time to figure things out after Bill Stewart left. Probably took him some time to be a head coach.

The last record is one of Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. If you would have asked me, I never would have guessed that this was Mullen’s 6th year and a terrific year at that. His team is 6-0 and one of the top 4 teams in the country, especially after not even being ranked all year. Mullen’s tenure at MSU has been okay, finishing 5-7, 9-4, 7-6, 7-6 and 8-5 in 2013. You don’t get the idea that he has built some huge power, but that appears to be the case this year. It took 6 years for all of it to fall together. There’s no doubt that 6 years is a long time, but when it does happen, it can be pretty special.

In fact, I was emailed earlier this week and there are other forums out there that is calling for the firing of the entire coaching staff. Completely ticked off about the current state of things. The key takeaway is that there isn’t a soul that’s happy about the current state of things, but Mullen makes it pretty clear that calling for firings isn’t going to help anyone:

"I remember last year, supposedly, I’m on the hot seat and I need to get run out of town. Now, ‘Never leave.’ You go from ‘Don’t ever leave us,’ to ‘We need to fire this bum,’ to ‘Don’t ever leave us.’ We put so much in, the coaches and players and families are so invested. Everybody wants to win. Everybody’s giving their best effort out there. Fans are entitled to their opinion, and they get that stuff and put that stuff out there, but they need to know I’ve never met a coach that’s not going to give everything he has. You should respect and appreciate how much everybody in every program puts in to what’s going on on the field."

The one thing that a lot of these coaches have in common is that they were all given time to get things corrected. You sometimes have to weather stormy seas in order to get where you’re going. Of course, no one is asking for decades of mediocrity, but good can happen to coaches and programs that are patient (sometimes). This isn’t an absolute and I wouldn’t want to guarantee anything, but I believe pretty strongly that things will work out.

Uniform Tracker. Because at the heart of it all, VTM is a fashion blog.

Uniform Tracker
Opponent Helmet Jersey Pants Result Photo Photo Credit
Central Arkansas W, 42-35 Michael C. Johnson -
USA Today Sports
UTEP W, 42-35 John Weast
Arkansas L, 49-28 John Weast
Oklahoma State ** L, 45-35 Brett Deering
Kansas State L, 45-13 Scott Sewell
West Virginia L, 37-34 John Weast

* Click photos to embiggen.
** The color intended to be depicted is ombré.

Quotes

It took me some time to find the quotes, but I did find where Kansas head coach Clint Bowen spoke this week about Texas Tech and wrapping up their loss to Oklahoma State. Up first, Bowen is asked about Texas Tech:

Q. What scares you most about Tech?
COACH BOWEN: They run an offensive system that can put you in some stressful positions as a defense on that side of the ball. They've done a nice job developing a system that creates space for the players. They have good athletes at wide receiver. They have a good athlete at running back. They run the ball as much as they throw it. Throwing is probably what they do best.

But I think it's the space that they create, the way that they force you to defend the entire field. The quarterback makes a really good decisions. They don't take sacks. They have a great system in recognizing pressures and blitzes, and the kid gets it out of his hands, it's hard to hit the quarterback. So they get the ball out. But offensively, they're pretty tough on that part of it.

Also asked and I thought was interesting that Bowen was asked why Texas Tech couldn’t finish games. This seems like a wasted question because, how would Bowen know?

Q. Kliff Kingsbury has said they have struggled with finishing in games, is that what you see from them?
COACH BOWEN: Yeah, in each of these games, you take their last game against West Virginia, and right before the half, they drive all the way down there and end up throwing an interception and losing points. At the end that was a competitive game. Both teams were going back and forth at the end. West Virginia came up with the drive after they punted on that last one. Texas Tech had gotten down there close this morning driving to the point ending on 4th and 3. You know, I guess he knows better than I do what his team's got to do.

As most of you know, Bowen took over for the fired Charlie Weis and is also an alum and he was asked about handling the day-to-day things.

Q. You talked about the day-to-day and all that stuff. But when you took this thing over, did you think in advance that this thing has gone as you hoped it would have? In terms of just the progress and moving forward, is that what you thought at all?
COACH BOWEN: When we did take it over, the first thing I felt that this team needed was an identity. We needed something, as I said to our guys, what are we going to be known for? When people leave the stadium after watching us play, what are they going to say about us? What is going to be the Kansas football identity? And I believe our players have bought into what we talked about. Are we there yet? No. We're still a long ways away. But in terms of creating a product on the field that we know each and every week is what Kansas football is going to represent, that's where we're headed. That is part of what I keep talking about. When you leave, I won't be able to say this. Those guys played extremely hard. They're going to fight until the end of the game. They're going to be tough. Can't win football games without being physical and being tough. At the same time, they look like they know what they're doing. They're smart. They're don't beat themselves. That's got to be our trademark.

And last week, Kansas was in that Oklahoma State game, up until the end and is doing whatever he can to get his team excited to play:

Q. Going into that fourth quarter, the team gathered and everybody was jumping up and down and hollering and screaming. What was going through your mind? Was there anything that you were thinking at that time?
COACH BOWEN: Yeah, there was. The big thing that I thought was that was them. That was the players only. I coached it, organized it. Someone didn't tell them to do it. It was the players going together on their own. That's something that we talked about earlier, and what we talked about with these players is we are our team. Nothing is more important than our team. If we're going to be good, you guys are going to have to learn to play together, stay together, and truly care about one another. So to see those guys when things got exciting to group up on their own, get excited on their own and start to take some ownership, it kind of reinforced some of the things that we've been talking about that maybe were starting to take place.

Stats

Stat
Total Offense 331.8 (112) 486.2 (24)
Rushing Offense 155.0 (78) 148.7 (83)
Passing Offense 176.8 (107) 337.5 (10)
Scoring Offense 15.8 (120) 30.3 (64)
Total Defense 395.3 (68) 483.7 (111)
Rushing Defense 172.7 (74) 256.0 (119)
Passing Defense 222.7 (53) 227.7 (59)
Scoring Defense 27.0 (73) 39.5 (119)
Turnover Margin 0.67 (23) -1.33 (118)
3rd Down % Off. 32.1% (112) 45.1% (34)
3rd Down % Def. 37.6% (58) 45.8% (102)
Yds/Play Def. 5.74 (82) 5.79 (86)

Texas Tech has the offensive advantage here, and it's fairly significant in most aspects. Kansas' problems have been an inability to score adn as bad as you think that the Texas Tech offense has been, it has been really tough for the Jayhawks to put the ball into the endzone.

Defensively, Kansas has better numbers, although I tend to think that a large part of KU's success might be dependent upon the offense being able to eat up large chunks of time. Kansas has about 75 fewer defensive plays and if you multiply that by 5 yards a play, you make up the difference pretty easily between what Texas Tech does and what Kansas does. Kansas is slightly better, but it's not by much.

Still, Kansas has been in a handful of games, the Texas game really being the biggest loss thus far, losing by 23 and being shut out. I think a large part of Kansas' success, that's more apparent than Texas Tech is their ability to succeed on third downs. Webb is certainly going to have to be more effective this week than he has been, and generally speaking, he's been pretty good on third downs, but obviously not good enough.

Tweets

We all have to do our part, so . . . #SorryNotSorry

Looks like good times!

Pretty cool how the stadium has changed.

Don’t forget about this event tonight!

Five Things

1. Three Players to Watch on Offense for Kansas.

1) RB Corey Avery (5-10/195): Avery was actually a Texas Tech target for a bit, but Texas Tech went with a couple of other running backs. Still, Avery has been nothing short of fantastic with Kansas, toting the rock 81 times for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns. Avery went to Skyline and was really effective there. Avery is a tough runner and he also has spped to burn. Not the fastest guy, but he's plenty fast.

2) RB Tony Pierson (5-10/175): From afar, it seems like Pierson has been a man without a position. A receiver a running back. It seems like Pierson really should just be a guy that gets the ball as much as possible. He's averaging 8 yards a rush and 12 yards a catch, but he only has 30 touches for the entire year.

3) TE Jimmay Mundine (6-2/240): Mundine is one of those tight ends that might not really be a tight end. Maybe more of a running back that plays tight end. I guess I would say that Mundine really doesn't have a ton of height, but he can be effective. Mundine has 16 catches on the year for 212 yards. Also, if you recall, Mundine caught a touchdown against Texas Tech, a seam up the middle with a pretty nice pass.

2. Three Players to Watch on Defense for West Virginia.

1) LB Ben Heeney (6-0/230): Heeney would pretty much play anywhere last year, linking up in the middle or playing a slot receiver or coverage. Heeney is a downhill guy and he makes a ton of plays. I actually just love his ability and think he's a terrific linebacker. Heeney already has 63 tackles on the year. Yeah. I thnk he intercepted Mayfield last year if I remember correctly.

2) CB Dexter McDonald (6-1/205): McDonald is a bigger cornerback and this could prove to be problematic for Texas Tech as McDonald could really cause some issues for the wide recievers that seem to have issues being jammed at the lien of scrimmage. McDonald has 4 passes broken up and 2 interceptions on the year.

3) S Isaiah Johnson (6-1/210): Pretty nice safety for Kansas as he has 37 tackles right now and an interception. Johnson had 5 interceptions last year and he was really an impact player for the Jayhawks.

3. Three Keys to the Game.

1) More of DeAndre. In two of Kansas' losses, Duke and West Virginia, those two teams ran for 255 and 331 yards. I loved what DeAndre Washington did last week and I very much want to see Kingsbury and Morris continue to just run and run Washington and just see what happens. I'd love to see Washington with 175 yards on Saturday.

2) When the Quarterback Struggles. When the quarterback struggles then Kansas typically struggles. Montrell Cozart played most of the year, but was replaced by Michael Cummings against Oklahoma State. Texas Tech will probably get Cummings and he was actually pretty good last week, passing for 288 yards. Still, Kansas worst days are ones where the quarterback struggles. It would nice if Cummings repeated his performance against West Virginia and not the one from Oklahoma State. And in case you were curious, Cozart or Cummings are neither really rushing quarterbacks as they have rushed for a total of 66 yards in 6 games.

3) Let's Get that Special Teams Touchdown. Both West Virginia and Oklahoma State had a kickoff returned for a touchdown and these were pretty close games. It would be so sweet to have a special teams touchdown. I promised one last week and the Texas Tech special teams is going to have to be great. I have a feeling it could be that close.

4. Two Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Win.

1) Take a Hit.

Texas Tech took an awful hit last week at the hands of a game-winning 55 yard field goal from West Virginia. Now more than ever, Texas Tech and the entire team and coaching staff need to take that hit and look straight where it came from be ready to come back again. I have to believe that the folks that run this thing have as much will and desire and determination to make sure that they'll get back up off the mat and continue to fight. I still have to believe that Texas Tech and Kingsbury still has that fight. The defense has shown an ability, despite all of what has happened to them this year, another defensive coordinator and ton of yards allowed. They’re making progress. They’re taking that hit and looking right back again.

2) Move Like Water.

Yeah, I really needed to channel my inner Bruce Lee and maybe the team does as well. I don’t really have a clue who or what to blame this on or give credit or whatever, but the offense in the first half of Saturday was like water. It flowed where the West Virginia defense was not. Kingsbury said after the game that the offense had a terrible time adjusting to man coverage and couldn’t get going in the second half. Davis Webb said that he stopped making the audibles that he was making in the first half. No matter what, this offense needs to flow like water, if the receivers are being jammed, then there’s a handful of ways for the receivers to get open and the offensive line is going to have to do their part. The swim rip or the stutter move. Watch those receivers if they are being jammed. Get your hands up ready to make sure that defensive back can’t get your hands on you. Be like water.

5. Two Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Lose.

1) Slow the Ball Down. Seems like Kansas would have really nice opportunity to slow the game down. Like really slow it down in order to have a terrific opportunity to make Texas Tech a bit nervous and maybe force some things that Texas Tech isn't all that comfortable doing. Run Avery and De'Andre Mann and Pierson to the point that the Texas Tech defense just can't slow the Jayhawks down. That worries me more than anything, not giving the Texas Tech offense enough opportunities to break out of their inconsistencies to score some points.

2) Key Playmakers. The thing that I dislike about this matchup is that Kansas has some good sized cornerbacks and I just think that Heeney is really good at what he does, which is make plays. Bigger cornerbacks and a rangy linebacker seem like a bad thing for Texas Tech. The worst thing is the slow pace of Kansas. That's the biggest thing.