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The Huddle: Texas Longhorns vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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We preview Saturday's rivalry game between the Texas Longhorns and the Texas Tech Red Raiders, where we discuss Kingsbury's issues as the head coach, players to watch and keys to the game.

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Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve tried to organize some of the questions about Kingsbury and added my two cents about some of the common issues and/or complaints about Texas Tech and head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterbacks and all sorts of things.

1. Hire an Offensive Coordinator. Yeah, this one is easy. It’s not going to happen. It’s just not. Kingsbury is his own offensive coordinator and there will not be any deviation from that. Kingsbury will go down in flames before hiring an offensive coordinator. Now, he might hire another offensive coach as he has an open spot on the staff with the Matt Wallerstedt resignation, but that’s it.

Game Information
Texas Tech
vs.
Texas

When: November 1st @ 6:30 pm
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium | Lubbock, TX
Watch: Fox Sports 1
Key Injuries: Tony Morales, Jah’Shawn Johnson, Demetrius Alston, Donte Phillips, Chris Payne, Sam Eguavoen

2. Regretting Contract Extension. Heck no. Not even a bit for me personally. I’ve written this before, maybe in a comment, about how I think that there is a possibility that Texas Tech athletic director Hocutt and Kingsbury knew that this season was around the corner, despite being positive about his team (I would expect a coach to be positive about his team) publicly, Kingsbury and Hocutt figured that this could be a long season and rather than twist in the wind in a losing season with recruits having no idea if Texas Tech was truly committed to Kingsbury, they re-upped Kingsbury to give him and the program some reassurance. If there is one thing that I think is keeping the fans afloat and program is the recruiting and right now, Texas Tech and Kingsbury are killing it on the recruiting trail. This is a fact.

And part of it too, I think is that Kingsbury does, I think deserve time to be able to make his own evaluations of players and talent. I wrote about Dan Mullen a few weeks ago and I read this USA Today piece on him yesterday about how it takes time for the coaches to make decisions about their players and player evaluation and dig through finding those players:

For decades, many of the state’s best players left for more traditional powers and the hidden gems often stayed hidden, falling to schools like Southern Miss or historically black colleges that played a lower level of football. Mullen set out to bridge that gap, fighting to keep the state’s top players home while also working the small towns and out-of-the-way places to find SEC talent that wasn’t necessarily being targeted by SEC schools.

Players like cornerback Jamerson Love and Christian Holmes, who ran back an onside kick for the clinching touchdown in last Saturday’s 45-31 victory at Kentucky, played at tiny high schools and were practically ignored by big-time programs.

"They do a really good job of evaluating talent," said Demetric Warren, a Mississippi-based scout for VarsityPreps.com. "They’ll go get the kid who nobody knows about, the raw kid that nobody outside of the state will offer and develop them and turn them into a big-time football player. They can go find a kid under a rock."

I feel like the staff is doing just this. Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury are recruiting everything in-between 5-star and 2-star players. They are making their own evaluations. I can’t wait to find out if the coaching staff is correct.

3. Kingsbury Has Lost Control. There's so much to coaching that I really don't understand. Most of us really can only go back to Leach and how he handled things and then that becomes "the" frame of reference. There are no others. Like, if Leach made recruits go in a sand pit, well, that worked for Texas Tech, so let's do that again. Are the receivers catching balls from a tennis machine like ol' Leach used to do? Yeah, oh, well, okay. Well, what about sitting a kid down on the field at a desk to teach discipline? Tried that yet?

You get the idea and I suppose that when that is your only or most memorable frame of reference, you do tend to look back at that time and think this is the way it should be. The problem though is that this is like looking back at a relationship that you thought was fantastic and that relationship ends and then, you start comparing the new person to the that old relationship and the new person never feels like that can do enough to make you stop talking about that other person because that other person is like, totally married and has kids now.

The toughest thing to do is to sit through some bad stuff. The other thing that’s really tough, and probably unfair, is that the thought at, well, if nothing is changing, then they must be doing nothing, so I’m going to suggest the shit out of things because talking about those old times are awesome. Well, I don’t have any insider knowledge, and I do think that Kingsbury and the coaches just aren’t twiddling their thumbs hoping that something good happens. Of course, this is not guarantee that I can promise you that this thing is going to turn around and everything is going to be peachy. You’ll have to read to #5 to get to that.

Yeah, it looks pretty grim right now, but remember that just last year, Kingsbury led this team to an okay record as a first year head coach and a ton of really strong leaders ended up leaving this team. Those guys were big presences for the team and locker room I’d guess and when those guys leave, it can leave a real void. We tend to underestimate the idea of senior leadership, or maybe I do. I hardly ever write about leadership because it is one of those vague things that’s really not definable, but it is incredibly present when things don’t go well.

4. Coaches are Stubborn. Remember way back in 2009, when the grass was so much greener and there were no issues? Me too. Those were good days. It would end of being the last year of Mike Leach’s career at Texas Tech and it was the first year of the Taylor Potts experiment. Things did not get off to a great start. That’s putting it nicely. As you may not recall, Leach is and was a very stubborn head coach. He didn’t like change, really at all, and so much so, he stuck with Taylor Potts for the better part of the season, despite things being off with Potts a bit. As you may recall, Texas Tech played Texas the third game of the year and that's when Potts took that vicious hit from Sergio Kindle. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't what everyone expected with Leach's Air Raid offense. But luckily, there was a walk-on named Steven Sheffield, who was able to spin the ball like no other. Leach actually had a legitimate option at quarterback, but it took 5 games of that season to really let Sheffield have the ball. Sheffield ends up getting injured in the middle of October and Potts re-takes the reins. Potts has a pretty awful performance against Texas A&M and the fans were screaming for the next young hero, Seth Doege, who would end up saving the day. For sure. Well, Doege wasn't quite ready for prime time as a redshirt sophomore and he didn't do all that great against Texas A&M and was largely ineffective against Kansas. So much so, that I think that Potts came in and helped lead Texas Tech to a win. Potts pretty much plays the rest of the year, although Sheffield did get some time in a loss to Oklahoma State and the bowl game win against Michigan State. Fans were really quite frustrated with Leach because they felt that Sheffield never got the nod that he should have.

That even played out into 2010 where Neal Brown also chose Potts over Sheffield, but truth be told, the Sheffield magic seemed over to an extent. He just was never the same like 2009. The point is that Leach never really seemed to waiver from Potts, and when he did once, it was great, but when he waivered again, with an unproven quarterback that was still young and still learning. It didn't quite work out so well. I think that if Kingsbury had a junior or senior walk-on that was remotely okay, then maybe you'd see a change, but I think the truth of the matter here is that Webb really is the better quarterback. Kingsbury and Morris aren't calling a different or a worse offense, but Mahomes is still really raw and not as refined. I know the thought that, aw well, what the heck, it can't be any worse. Well, yes. Yes it can be worse. See Seth Doege as a sophomore, who wasn't terrible, but he wasn't better than Potts. Sure, there's a strong possibility that Kingsbury mis-handled the Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer situations, but players like Cumbie, Hodges, and Symons aren't as common in today's. Players transfer because they don't want to wait. Heck, Leach lost his 4-star quarterback, Tyler Bruggman, in July as he transferred. And prior to that, the other quarterback, Austin Apodaca, transferred leaving Leach with just Connor Halliday, a walk-on and a true freshman this year. (As an aside, if you haven’t read the Grantland piece on Leach and Halliday, you should. It’s fantastic and it paints a terrific portrait of what it is like to quarterback for Leach. It’s tough and it’s a lot of give and take and I think it’s the same with Webb in a lot of ways behind the scenes.) I do think that Texas Tech was incredibly fortunate to have all of those 1-year senior quarterbacks prior to Graham Harrell and I'd venture that sort of thing won't happen for a long time. I go back to item #3 above and we have this recollection about how that’s just how it was for Leach while he was at Texas Tech so it should be that way now and I think this reality has passed us by.

And it’s not just Kingsbury and Leach, it’s Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer who still believes in Michael Brewer after replacing Brewer last week. He’s going back to Brewer despite the results for Virginia Tech this year. Coaches don’t like to change the quarterback. They just don’t. It’s just one of those things that you have to accept as a fan because we tend to think about it like any other position, just switch it out and move on, but college coaches don’t think like that. They just don’t.

5. Starting Over Would Be Disastrous. Yeah, no need to comment on this, but it would.

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
Kansas W, 34-21 Michael C. Johnson
TCU L, 82-27 ###

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

Quotes

Texas head football coach Charlie Strong, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson all spoke earlier this week:

Charlie Strong: On if he changes things up this week or stays the same: I told them we're not going to change up. There's no need for us to change up. We have four games left to play. We need to go play these four games. It's all about the seniors. I said to them, We got to get them to a bowl game. You look at our schedule, I know you're sitting there with two ranked teams on it. We haven't beaten a ranked team. The main thing is if we come together as a football team, don't hurt ourselves, if we just execute, who knows. If we play the way we're capable of playing, we'll see how we end up with these next four. On how he gets the guys to turn the page: Well, it also comes back to us, too. We have struggles, yes, but we create our own struggles. It isn't what someone else does. We create our own. It's all about executing. With each game, I think about those five losses. We look out here at BYU. We didn't play good at all. We didn't play good as a football team. We just got embarrassed. You play a first half on defense. Second half, give up a lot of points. You have a young quarterback playing for the first time. He hasn't played. That's the struggle. Then you go down to UCLA. You get to that game. You go into it, four minutes to go, you have a lead, give up a double move on the outside, touchdown. Give up a big punt return before that. Go down the field, don't cover the punt. You have a chance to win that game. The Baylor game, playing pretty good defense. Don't move the ball on offense. You have your struggles. You look at BYU, Baylor, they're at home, you expect to play very well at home. That's the thing, we haven't done a great job of defending our home field. It's going to happen. That's got to happen where you defend your home surface. The Oklahoma game, play very well on offense. You get that game, you're down 18, you get it back, fight back, back into that game. Then it's third-and-three, we don't get the stop on defense. They're playing well. You come back and go on the road to [Kansas] State. Anytime you go on the road, you have to play great defense. I always say you have to play great defense on the road. You need to just get a score, too, on offense. Move the ball, be able to execute. It just comes down to execution. It happens. We haven't executed. But, you know, you still have four games left to go play. That's why you don't sit there and say, It's the end. It's not the end. You know what, it's four games. Texas Tech this week, so let's get ready to go play.

Vance Bedford: On how he would respond to giving up 82 points in a game: I don't know. That's a tough question. Everybody says oh that would never happen to me. I can promise you the [defensive coordinator] at Texas Tech said the same thing. Everyone has the answer, oh I would have done this, I would have done that. How do you know what you would have done? I can promise you that the defensive staff and those players, they're not excited about that. They're going to come out against us and come after our offense pretty quick. I don't know what I would do, I don't know how I would feel. I mean when we lost against Kansas State, I've got to be honest, I was one miserable guy. When we beat Iowa State, I told you I was a happy for that day, the next day, I was not a happy camper. So how would I feel? Anytime you lose, whether it's by one point or by 82 points, I'm not going to be happy, I'm not going to be sleeping well. Coaches get that knot in their stomach and the only way to get rid of that knot is to win. That's where we are right now. I have a knot in my stomach because of the loss last week and I'm about ready to get rid of that knot. The only way to do that is to win. That's what we work for. Our young guys work extremely hard. I give them credit, we get after them, they work hard, and let's go get a win. All the hard work you've done, let's get a win. 82 points, man, my hair's getting gray and thin right now I think it all might disappear. I don't know. I don't have an answer for that I'm afraid.

Shawn Watson: On Tyrone Swoopes watching the rush: I think that would be true in this last game. Up until this last game, he wasn't that guy. He's got to keep his eyes down field on the safety. He's been really good at it, and he got a little out of kilter this last game. He started seeing the rush because they were running a lot of twist games on him and a couple of guys broke free. He's just got to re-center himself. The number one thing he has got to do in his development is learn how to protect himself with his feet. That begins by throwing on time and making decisive decisions. Our decision game is really easy. We basically make one guy wrong, and he's got to trust that. He's got to center himself and get back in his place when those things happen. Saturday it was a chore getting him back in it. He's got to keep his eyes key through the safety and let the safety take him to his work.

On working with Tyrone to throw the ball away: That's part of the process of a younger player. I remember doing it with Teddy [Bridgewater]. All of the things I'm going through with [Tyrone], I went through with Teddy. It's the same thing I've gone through with Joe Ganz, with Joel Klatt, I've been through it with all of these kids. It's just part of their development. You've got to know when to burn the football and live to see another day. I think the one throw against Iowa State, that's what you call an impulse decision. He made that, and it was a bad decision on his part. I think he'll learn from that one because it's so big and so obvious. The decisions you're talking about in the pocket, learning how to utilize his check down. I use Teddy as my example because he was the poster child of it, he was a first round draft choice. He learned how to utilize his offense and use all of the tools in his offense. [Tyrone] is in the process of developing that, and he's got to get better at it, absolutely. I do know this, I know that I've got to get his attention, I've got to keep coaching him, that's my job. We keep putting him in those situations, we're doing some things even in practice this week to make sure that we keep bringing him along with that development because we had to do the same thing with Teddy. It's just part of the process to learn how to use everything, use everything available to you, and learn how to protect yourself with your feet. It's also using the check down. Those are things he's got to continue to develop and gain confidence in.

Stats

Stat
Total Offense 348.3 (106) 483.8 (22)
Rushing Offense 137.6 (94) 151.5 (76)
Passing Offense 210.6 (85) 332.3 (10)
Scoring Offense 20.8 (107) 30.4 (61)
Total Defense 348.9 (35) 506.3 (119)
Rushing Defense 177.5 (81) 246.1 (118)
Passing Defense 171.4 (8) 260.1 (96)
Scoring Defense 24.4 (49) 42.5 (123)
Turnover Margin 0.00 (58) -1.50 (122)
3rd Down % Off. 33.6% (109) 42.2% (53)
3rd Down % Def. 36.8% (44) 44.4% (101)
Yds/Play Def. 4.58 (13) 6.15 (100)

It's really a tale of two sides of the ball with the offense and the defense between these two teams. The Texas offense is pretty awful, while the Texas Tech offense hasn't been great, it has at least been okay. The biggest problem of course has been on the line with Texas, where there are injuries and suspensions and the lack of depth there has caused significant issues. The biggest surprise is the lack of a true running game for Texas. As noted above, it's really hard to run when the offensive line is decimated.  I should also note that there are parts of me that thinks that the Texas offense is starting to find their legs, despite last week's showing against a really solid Kansas State defense.

Meanwhile, the Texas defense is pretty good. I'm a bit surprised at how teams have had success running on the Longhorns, and maybe that bodes well for the Texas Tech offense. Texas hasn't really played a true pass-happy team, other than Baylor and they didn't pass simply because they ran for nearly 300 yards on the ground. Surprisingly, Texas was terrific against Oklahoma, allowing only 103 yards on the ground, but relented a bit and was maybe back to their average as they then allowed 179 yards to Iowa State.

The most striking thing about the Texas stats are their lack of success on third downs and that yards per play for the defense. The lack of success on third downs is a big reason why the Texas offense lacks much efficiency, while the success of the defense on a per play basis is a good indicator of how well they can play.

Tweets

In case you missed it, check out DanSwany's basketball preview:

And don't forget about MikeTTU's baseball offseason review:

Great pumpkins by our friend at Totally Texas Tech:

Five Things

1. Three Players to Watch on Offense for Texas.

1) RB Malcolm Brown (5-11/222): The Texas offense has been relatively stagnant and even the running game, that was so fantastic last year, has really slipped away. Brown is the leader of the group, averaging just 3.38 yards a carry and about 52 yards a game, while Johnathan Gray is averaging a higher yards per carry at 4.24, he's just a shade under 50 yards a game. I was expecting a lot more, but that's not the case.

2) QB Tyrone Swoopes (6-4/243): Oh, you better be afraid because Swoopes can run, he just hasn't done a ton of that thus far this year, only running for 241 yards on 71 carries. Swoopes has been okay passing the ball, I suppose, but it's really not been effective, averaging about 186 yards a game and 6.3 yards per attempt with 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

3) WR John Harris (6-2/218): Remember last week when I wrote that TCU had some receivers that were big and could go up and get the ball? Well, I think that Harris qualifies as this and this is the one match-up that bothers me more than anything else. I'm not real keen on picking on the freshmen cornerbacks because some day soon, they'll be okay, but for now, it's a huge learning process and Harris is the sort of guy that can make plays, averaging 15 yards a catch and has 6 touchdowns.

2. Three Players to Watch on Defense for Texas.

1) DL Malcolm Brown (6-2/320): This Malcolm Brown is a monster and whoever has to try to block Brown is in for a long day. He can dominate the line of scrimmage and the fact that he already has 48 tackles, as a defensive lineman, along with 8.5 tackles for a loss, which includes 4.5 sacks should tell you that he'll be a terror for someone on Saturday night.

2) LB Steve Edmond (6-2/258): Edmond has been really active and I thought, for some reason, that the coaches wanted to get his weight down before the season starte, but apparently that didn't happen as he weighs as much as most Texas Tech defensive ends. Edmond already has 3.5 sacks and is second on the team with 76 tackles for the year to go along with 8.5 sacks.

3) CB Duke Thomas (5-11/178): Thomas already has 3 picks this early in the year along with 30 tackles and 4 passes broken up. The Texas Tech wide receivers continue to have a rough go at it and shutting down at least one means that you shut down a good chunk of the field.

3. Three Keys to the Game.

1) Mitigate Mahomes: I think that Patrick Mahomes is going to play on Saturday and it's more because Davis Webb is hurt than anything else. No matter, I think that because Mahomes plays quite a bit this week, that Kingsbury will need to do everything in his power to make sure that he's successful. I don't know if mitigate is the right word, but this offense this week shouldn't lean on Mahomes and these other guys are going to have to lift up this offense. This is what it means to be a leader. Just be better.

2) Be Patient: If Mahomes does play, I think we're going to have to be a bit patient for him to find his rhythm. Mahomes was always a work in progress as a quarterback, although he did spend two years playing the position, he seems like he's still a bit rough around the edge on reading defenses and looking off his first option.

3) Load Up on the Run: This applies to the offense and defense. I would totally sell out to stop the run on the defensive side of things and although it may be ugly, I would have the running backs working overtime. This obviously leaves some serious issues with the cornerbacks, who have problem covering things down the field, but that's the risk aversion that I'd take in this situation. I'd rather that Swoopes beat Texas Tech because he's able to find and deliver the ball to open receivers down the field rather than not completely load up to stop the run.

4. Two Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Win.

1) Poor Offensive Efficiency: This is a bi tricky because if Mahomes plays, I'm expecting Texas Tech's efficiency to drop as well, so it will be closer than maybe I'd like, but the Texas Tech offense has shown more ability to score than the Texas offense and although Swoopes has had some recent games where he's been really good, throwing the ball 44 times against Oklahoma and 36 times against Iowa State, both times throwing for over 320 yards, there are still lapses where Swoopes lacks the ability to throw touchdowns.

2) Sometimes Good Things Happen: When thing look like the odds are completely stacked up against you, things happen and folks find their way. I'm expecting this to be an ugly game. At least I hope it is an ugly game because I think that plays into what Texas Tech needs to do on both sides of the ball. So, sometimes, good things happen when you work hard and if this team and coaching staff work hard all game long, I think we'll see a positive outcome.

5. Two Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Lose.

1) Ground and Pound: Although Swoopes has shown he can be successful throwing the ball, it would seem crazy if Shawn Watson did anything other than try to just run the ball until Texas Tech shows that they can stop the Longhorns. Texas Tech hasn't shown an ability to really stop anyone on the ground, save one game against Kansas, so it would make sense that the Texas offense should lean heavily on Brown and Gray and even D'Onta Foreman, who is a bigger back and could cause real issues.

2) Significantly Better Defense: When betting on teams to either win or lose, I typically favor the team with the better defense. That would make sense here because Texas has a significantly better defense and it is a defense that has been really good for the most part. Oh sure, they've had their issues, especially against teams that spread you out and run a bit, like BYU and Iowa State, but this is a good defense and they have a great player in Malcolm Brown and Texas Tech isn't accustomed to running as much as I think they need to run.