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Ten Thoughts on Texas Tech 34, Iowa State 31

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We've got ten thoughts on Texas Tech's 34-31 win over Iowa State, from the spectacular play of DeAndre Washington to the fact that Texas Tech was down to a walk-on safety by the end of the game.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

1. DeAndre Washington Was Spectacular. He was. It was fantastic and it was just a joy to watch him play. It's really incredible how good he's been all year and yesterday, he proved again, that he's the best player on the team, finishing with 186 yards on 20 carries and 51 yards receiving on 2 catches with 2 touchdowns. Washington's play was what won the game and it's clear, if it hasn't been, that when you can control the clock and run the ball, you can do a lot. And Washington was obviously close to the 1,000 yard mark and he not only reached that mark, he did it in style. He obliterated 1,000 yards and I think it's safe to say that DeAndre Washington was spectacular yesterday. Oh, and the difference between Washington and any other running back on the roster is far and wide. I love the potential of Justin Stockton and I love what Kenny Williams has brought to this team over the years, but Washington is significantly better. He sees holes, he knows when to cut back, it's incredible. Stockton should watch Washington's every move.

2. But Oh, That Defense. That was painful for about 95% of that game. It seemed like Iowa State was finding holes all game long, whether it was the quarterback scrambling or finding holes in the secondary of the running backs finding significant holes all game long. The high, before yesterday, for Iowa State running the ball was 179 yards and they obliterated that mark, rushing for 283 yards and almost 6 yards a carry on 46 attempts. Iowa State had over 8 yards per attempt, which is ridiculous. But Texas Tech had some big plays. Or maybe there were ore significant plays than Iowa State and in the world of college football, when both defenses are terrible, then it sometimes comes down to the big plays and Texas Tech made enough to make a difference. An early fumble recovery, some huge plays by Branden Jackson in the first half and some bigger plays by Pete Robertson in the second half helped keep Iowa State at bay. And it was two huge plays at the end of the game that ended up being the game winners. Tevin Madison has a near interception in the endzone alongside John White making a huge hit on the receiver to jar the ball loose. Then, it was a quarterback scramble that almost resulted in a first down, but it was Micah Awe making the stop two yards short of the first down on fourth down.  Make no mistake.  Those were huge plays.  Just huge and those guys out there made them.  They had to be made and that ended Iowa State's chance at winning the game.

3. There's No One Left. I mentioned John White and he did play. He played because there were no more safeties remaining. Yes, Keenon Ward was out after the third play of the game. J.J. Gaines didn't even travel with the team. Jalen Barnes left the game in the second half. Dorian Crawford left the game as well. Quite literally, Texas Tech was without just about every player that could have been used other than Derrick Dixon and John White. There are no other options at safety and you should help that more than those two players will be available next Saturday (fingers crossed).

4. Big Plays. I've felt, for a long time, that this team hasn't made big plays. The type of plays that seemingly are made game after game against Texas Tech never seem to materialize for Texas Tech. I felt that finally was lifted because it felt like a game of big play after big play. From the fumble recovery in the opening series to a 26 yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Washington off a beautiful screen pass with Jared Kaster and Baylen Brown blocking oh so wonderfully well. Then after a punt, DeAndre Washington does DeAndre Washington things and runs for 72 yards. This was all DeAndre. And then, a perfect fake punt that goes for 44 freaking yards. An 82 yard pass completion from Mahomes to Devin Lauderdale (Lauderdale is essentially Ed Britton. Think about it and get back to me.). And then Kenny Williams rumbles for 44 more yards, this time on a screen pass, that scores a touchdown. There were still a ton of plays made by Iowa State, the strip on Mahomes, the interception in the redzone by Mahomes, but there were just enough to overcome what Iowa State there out there today.

5. Struggling Defensive Line. I don't know how this is going to be addressed moving forward, but it's got to be addressed. This isn't working. Not even a little bit. I think we all recognize this and so does the coaching staff. A hint was dropped in the comments this week (hat-tip oldschoolraider), that a move to the 4-3 defense would be in the works this spring and after seeing two years of the 3-4 with a 225 pound outside linebacker trying to do defensive end things is enough. I'm not sure what happens, but I am quite sure that what's being thrown out there now is about as dismal of a defensive line situation that I can recall. And with the possible dismissal of Thorpe (see below) the number of guys that should or could produce next year that are receiving snaps now is really just Rika Levi and Branden Jackson. And it's those two guys along with Jackson Richards who are playing, maybe 90% of the snaps? It's a huge percent, whatever it is, and playing three defensive linemen, two of which are really playing out of position as far as I am concerned (Jackson and Richards). Something has to give and if workshopping this to the point that Texas Tech changes schemes yet again, but is able to add some size to the line, would be great. It was quite amazing watching Iowa State in that if Texas Tech rushed three defensive linemen, it was an automatic green light for Sam Richardson to tuck the ball and run. And he was great at it. And the pressure? There were times yesterday when it felt like Richardson had an eternity to throw the ball. That's probably not going to play real well against Baylor. Fixing the defensive line has to be priority number one this offseason.

6. Mahomes. Another really good game from QB Patrick Mahomes. He's progressing very quickly, finishing 23 of 35, 65%, for 328 yards, about 220 of those came in the second half, for 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. Mahomes had about 9.4 yards per attempt, which is off-the-charts fantastic. The worst of Mahomes came when he threw an interception to Bradley Marquez on the 6 yard line off of quick out to Bradley Marquez and the Iowa State defensive back made a terrific play, but Mahomes didn't lead that out in front of Marquez enough. I can live with the fumble on the scramble. As many plays that Mahomes extended using his feet, you're going to get one of those every once in a while. That's part of the risk when you have a mobile/running quarterback and that's perfectly fine.

7. Let's Talk Offensive Line. Yeesh, the two holding penalties against Baylen Brown and you could throw in Reshod Fortenberry in there as well, were just terrible. One of Brown's penalties essentially ended a drive in the first because Mahomes couldn't make up the yardage like he was able to do with 3rd and 18, Mahomes scrambles and finds IR Ian Sadler for a huge first down and more. But that's the negative. Let's focus on the positivity, where the offensive line paved the way for about 259 running back yards and some real fine blocking on the screen game that led to huge gains. This is the offense that I've always wanted, even under Tuberville when people were completely averse, yes completely averse, to running the ball at all. I never wanted that and I very much wanted a running attack that was able to do both. I bet you maybe didn't even realize that yesterday, there were more running plays, 40, to passing plays, 35. Oh yeah, 11 of those were Mahomes running the ball or taking off after a passing play breaks down, but I'd be fine with that for the time being. Those running backs can play and the offensive line is maturing and getting better each game. If they can eliminate those holding penalties, which was really highlighted this game, but it's been okay for the most part, then this is the road-grading machine that I can't want to see in the coming years.

8. Davis Does Not Play. Reginald Davis had a drop on the second drive of the game and I don't think he played another snap. If he did, it wasn't memorable. I'm guessing that the "Davis" you might have thought when reading the lede was Davis Webb, and that was obvious, but the Reginald Davis situation is troubling and the coaches have an incredibly short leash with him. I think the coaches see the situation in that there is such a small margin for error that any mistake that can't be reasonably blamed on the quarterback in just a small way, means you're getting pulled. Oh, there were other drops, I think Bradley Marquez had one and Jakeem Grant had at least a couple, but the one thing that Marquez does is block his tail off each and every game. That's the difference I think is that Marquez, who only had 3 catches for 5 yards, and didn't figure all that much into the passing game, was largely responsible for the 44 yard Kenny Williams screen and as Kingsbury mentioned after the game, it was Marquez that blocked his man all the way down the field. Same thing for Lauderdale and Brad Pearson. They showed effort and blocked and until Reginald Davis takes a more aggressive stance at being a receiver, something you have to do in this offense, he's going to get lapped next year too. I asked in one of MikeTTU's posts about who is going to play the z-receiver spot next year and the only answer was from redandblack71, who opined that it might be Carlos Strickland, and I'm completely averse to counting on a true freshman to play such an important spot, to be completely ready to block and do all of the other small things a receiver is asked to do, makes me cringe, but right now, that's it. There is an open spot there for someone to take, a prime spot on the offense and I have no idea who is going to fill it next year.

9. Brenner Was Perfect. Travis tried to tell us that deep snapper David Brenner was constantly working on his game on the sideline.

David Brenner is quite possibly the hardest working player currently manning the Red Raiders' sideline. The junior long-snapper practices his trade continuously throughout the game and as long as he has fifteen feet of clearance with a few inches on either side, he'll seek out Taylor Symmank and continue perfecting his snaps. Often a trainer or stray defensive player will wander into his upside-down line of sight, forcing Brenner to wait a few seconds before firing another football at impressive speed through his legs and into the outstretched hands of the waiting punter, who takes a few steps forward, drops the recently caught football and feigns a kicking motion as if he were completing the punt. His routine is consistent, unending and rarely noticed. In return, Brenner practices his snaps and never seems to notice the chaos that surrounds him, singularly focused on his only job.

Through circumstance, luck and the good graces of a State Trooper named Tiger from Bowie County, Texas, I found myself in David Brenner's way on more than one occasion Saturday afternoon in Ft. Worth as Texas Tech wilted in the heat and the constant assault from Trevone Boykin and TCU.

In fact, I even caught Brenner working on his snaps, by himself, at some point when the camera was focused on something, and there he is, in the background, just working. And then Brenner delivered a perfect snap to Kenny Williams for a fake punt for a huge gain and the end result of that drive was a touchdown pass to Devin Lauderdale as Mahomes scrambled out of pressure. Perfect snap. High five.

10. Roster Update. DL Brandon Thorpe is no longer with the team. The same thing happened with S Josh Keys earlier in the year, i.e. suspended for a bit and then off the team with the potential to work back with the team. OLB Andre Ross is injured and out for the remainder of the year. And I've already mentioned S J.J. Gaines being out for the game, along with CB Justis Nelson, and also out was DL Demetrius Alston and WR Jordan Davis.