1. Webb and Zone Coverage. I don't know what made the light click for me and I haven't gone back to watch the Central Arkansas game, but it seems that QB Davis Webb is at his worst when he is playing against 7 or 8 defenders in zone coverage, the linebackers playing the middle of the field and Webb is completely lost. There was a time period where the same thing happened to Graham Harrell and it was painful. Those losses to Missouri were a product of Pinkel dropping a ton of defenders into coverage while Graham Harrell struggled to complete a pass and threw as many to the opposing team (this is an overstatement to be used for effect). It felt the same way on Saturday as Webb looked completely befuddled for pretty much the entire game.
It seemed that the difference in coverage between Auburn and Texas Tech is that the linebackers were dropping back against Texas Tech and played well for Arkansas in that role, but against Auburn there was a legitimate running threat. Or maybe a better way to say it, I believe that Arkansas thought that they would give up running plays all day long if Texas Tech would run it, but would ask that the general reaction of the linebackers to be dropping back.
Now, Webb just can't see through the zone. And it's depressing to watch. It wasn't just one or two over-throws this game, but Webb is really pressing and when he does find a receiver, he was throwing to the other team. Webb's also not making his progressions. He really wants to throw the ball down the field and that's all he wants to do and he has a difficult time checking down to running backs or his second or third option and that's not happening.
2. Drip. Drip. Drip. Arkansas' offense felt like a constant drip. It never stopped. Brad Allen passed for 61 total yards on offense. Again, we're talking about a quarterback that's really not all that good and all he needed to do to win was throw 12 times. Just wait until you have a quarterback that's even more competent and can actually do some things deep.
I didn't keep track of these sorts of things other than making mental notes, but I thought that the first four rushing touchdowns were against the short side of the field and Pete Robertson's side of the field. Watching him now is probably something that makes me more upset than watching Webb. The difference with this game is that Robertson was taken out with a tight end in pretty much every one of those touchdowns, it wasn't even a tackle that was taking him out. Not only that, but defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt is playing Robertson 85% or 90% of those plays. Having Robertson in the game right now is a liability, and not necessarily because of him, but because of his size. He's just not capable of beating a tight end (which is now on film and expect opposing defenses to do the same thing) and he's not capable of beating a tackle.
3. It Wasn't Just One Guy. The failure of the defense wasn't just one player. There were missed tackles and Arkansas had huge runs after catch. I can think of two missed tackles from J.J. Gaines where he bit early and bit inside and he whiffed and it resulted in two Arkansas touchdowns. I remember Branden Jackson just letting a running back fall through his arms like the running back was covered in baby oil. But it's not just one guy. It's not just Gaines or Jackson, this was a cumulative effort of guys that simply could not get the job done.
Take a look at the solo tackles for the defense. As an aside, I'm calling B.S. on Robertson having 8 assisted tackles, but whatever. Arkansas ran the ball 68 times, which means that the running back literally had the ball at the line of scrimmage at some time and there simply is no player that is dominating the line of scrimmage. There is no linebacker that is free or is simply just making plays. And hey, I know there were a ton of players being subbed in and out for the better part of the game, but in trying to pick a player of the game defensively, who would you pick? Is there anyone on defense who was okay? Anyone that made you take notice? Me neither. There just wasn't any player that made their presence known. I'll need to go back and watch the line play, and this is partly my problem with my Robertson-fascination, and see how they did at holding their gaps, but I simply cannot envision a situation where it gets better with this personnel. If I have made you give up hope, I'm sorry.
4. We're Not at Dumpster Fire Level. Yet. I get the idea of wanting to see Patrick Mahomes and I understand how you might be mentally done watching Webb throw passes at this point, but I don't think that head coach Kliff Kingsbury will even begin thinking about replacing Webb until Texas Tech has reached absolute dumpster fire levels. It's not that I think Kingsbury is trying to save Mahomes or anything like that, I think this goes back to how Kingsbury grew up as a quarterback with Mike Leach. Yeah, Leach put in a back-up quarterback once or twice, but look at Leach's track record of just sticking with one quarterback, hell or high water. Good times and bad. Do not mistake this as an attempt to tell you what to think but to tell you what to expect. I do not think that Kingsbury is going to replace Webb anytime soon. I could be wrong, but this just seems to be his philosophy and I wouldn't expect it to change unless something catastrophic happens.
Q. Did you give any consideration to putting Mahomes in when the game got out of hand to give him some reps or did you feel that would be too damaging to everybody's psyche?
COACH KINGSBURY: No, I just think I wanted Davis to keep seeing it and keep getting more reps. He's still young, and I wanted him to keep going.
5. Kinda Forgot About that Running Game. After two games where the running game was featured, those guys were essentially all but forgotten this week. A total of 18 carries for all three running backs. The outstanding speed that Justin Stockton exhibited the first two games was negligent as he seemed to be running inside for the most part and netted only 7 yards for the entire day. Yesterday's best running back was DeAndre Washington, who ran 8 times for 52 yards and over 6 yards a carry. Without question, he has been this team's most consistent running back. I'd also add that Quinton White looked really terrific in just 4 carries. He ran hard inside and had one play where he made a handful of defensive players miss. The problem was that these were limited times and carries. That's an offensive game-planning problem. And sure, Webb could have checked out of some of those runs, but this is still a game-management problem for me. The offense was really inconsistent passing the ball and Webb looked lost sometimes, it would have been nice to see if something else could have worked.
6. Another Quiet Day for the Guys Outside. You never get a good look with the television feed, but I'd have to guess that Arkansas pretty much played a cover-2 zone, two safeties on the top of the defense, and played the outside receivers to the sideline and it resulted in yet another quiet day for the speedy receivers that just can't seem to get open or simply doesn't have a quarterback to get them the ball. I do believe that it's probably not one or the other, a mixture of both scenarios. In either even, Reginald Davis caught 4 passes for 45 yards. Devin Lauderdale caught 2 for 16 yards. D.J. Polite-Bray caught 2 for 7 yards and Dylan Cantrell caught 1 for 5 yards. From outside receivers that are supposed to be some of the more talented players on the team. There's a real disconnect here.
7. Frustrated. Everyone is frustrated. Everyone.
Q. Davis, you sound frustrated. Are you frustrated?
DAVIS WEBB: Yes. We expected to win this game. We had every opportunity to do it too. We had a chance to go up 14-0. The first drive we go three-and-out. Two turnovers, one by me, or two turnovers, both by me, I'm sorry. There were a lot of things we could have been better at today and we didn't execute. I'm frustrated from my standpoint. Not from the team's standpoint, but from me.
Q. I guess the million dollar question is how do you overcome that?
DAVIS WEBB: How do you overcome that? We'll find out next Thursday.
The one positive thing you can say about Webb at this point is that he's not pointing fingers here. He's pretty much taking all of the blame. If you watch the presser, he pretty much corrects himself a couple of times and makes sure that you understand that it was him, not anyone else.
8. There Really Aren't Any Answers.
Q. Coach, defensively is it a scheme, personnel, or is it just a case where Arkansas's better and your defense isn't very good?
COACH KINGSBURY: Just lined up and we knew it was coming, we just didn't get it stopped. I thought offensively the first half we gave them two touchdowns with those turnovers, and you can't put your defense in that position. The second half we didn't have an answer.
Q. Kliff, since the defense was a problem last year during that long stretch, is there anything new you can try on the practice field, or do you feel like you've tried everything and you have to keep working?
COACH KINGSBURY: Yeah, we're working through it. Some of those new guys, you've got to keep coming, but you've got to give them credit. They lined up and pounded us, and we didn't -- like I said, we just didn't have an answer today.
Kingsbury just isn't sure what to say at this point. He pretty much avoids the answer and he knows it. Those two questions are in succession. Kingsbury is asked later if they practice tackling, which is one of those things that fans really like to ask because it seems like a real easy solution. Long story short, Kingsbury is out of answers right now for the defense and the offense. It stinks, but this is where it's at.
9. End of the Second Quarter. Sometimes it isn't always about the number of turnovers, but timing. I would be remiss to not even mention the interception late in the second quarter. Actually, there's two things that happened. The score is tied, 21 all and Arkansas is at Texas Tech's 11 yard line and Alex Collins fumbles the ball giving Texas Tech the ball with 2 minutes left in the game and Webb proceeds to throw two pretty awful incompletions and then throws an interception that is returned to the Texas Tech 12. Arkansas scores in 1 play. Texas Tech has a chance to get the ball back with a minute and a half left at their own 31 and the offense proceeds to get one first down, a total of 13 yards and then three straight incompletions. This was the turning point in the game. This 2 minute stretch of the game was essentially Texas Tech being put under anesthesia for the rest of the rest of the game and Arkansas put Texas Tech to sleep.
10. What To Do? We've got a week and a half of thinking about what to do next. How to solve this problem. It's pretty simplistic. Play better defense and get Webb's head right with ball and go from there. Totally simple.
The next question if if you think things are going to get better and I think this is the defense. This is it. We knew that this would be it for the better part of the spring and the summer and now, with three games under out collective belts, yeah, something has to give. The tackling is horrific and this is one of those things where you and I aren't in the room and we don't know what is being taught and what is not being taught. There is a disconnect practically speaking. I don't have a lot or really any answers this early Sunday morning. I'm not an advocate of firing any defensive coordinators or anything like that. I've mentioned before that my biggest issue is that Wallerstedt seems intent on running a true 3-4 defense with a stand-up linebacker that can't stop the run or can't rush the passer. That's a personnel issue and some real stubbornness or stick-to-your-guns no matter what sort of attitude. That's the biggest problem for me in terms of Wallerstedt. Wallerstedt choosing this option over trying something else for two straight games without any real success. The defense got lucky against UTEP, but it was painfully clear that Texas Tech is playing a man down. And there was no adjustment through the game. None. That's my problem, which is that sometimes you have to play to the personnel and there's something that's just not right about how this is being run.