1. Webb Was Off. Davis Webb seemingly missed throw after throw and just going off of memory, this was the worst game that I've seen him play in quite a while. Actually though, if I want to be consistent, Webb's QB rating of 162 was the same rating as against West Virginia, he had worse ratings, 128, 117 and 114 against Oklahoma Oklahoma St. and Kansas St. The difference is that Texas Tech won this game and this type of game really doesn't even touch the ceiling that Webb is capable of as a player. Maybe that's the biggest problems for Webb right now, which is that it is either feast of famine and Webb has had two games of around 165 in terms of quarterback rating. This team and this offense is so dependent on the quarterback and without Webb being better than that, it spells a long season.
Webb missed and was behind receivers for the better part of the night, completing just 54% of his passes for the night. The one good thing was that Webb was not settling for any dink and dunk stuff, it was a big play or it was nothing, which can be incredibly frustrating as a fan to watch Webb go for a 20 yard pass play when doing something safe underneath would be just fine.
And a taunting penalty. After the game, Webb said it was embarrassing and stupid. Let's not do this again.
2. Be Ready for the Press. We saw it last week and we saw it last night. Opposing teams cornerbacks are not at all concerned about the size of the wide receivers and are jamming them at the line of scrimmage. That's the trade-off that you get with the speed versus the size of the player, which is that theoretically, the vertical passing game should be open a bit more, but UTEP did a terrific job of pushing receivers off their routes early and often. It's why the outside receivers only consisted of Reginald Davis, 3 catches for 53 yards, and Dylan Cantrell, 1 catch for 34 yards.
Part of the reason why Webb is struggling so much is that the wide receivers simply aren't getting off their man. the other part of it is that I think that the receivers just aren't running those routes with precision and running them hard. They aren't sticking and planting with precision. Yeah, sure, that's youth and although Eric Ward was slower than your grandmama, he knew how to run a route and he knew the importance of being precise. I think this is something that these young receivers haven't figured out quite yet.
As bad as Webb has been, we need to partially take a look at these receivers who just aren't getting open as part of the symptom as to why the offense isn't clicking. Oh sure, it's easy to blame the quarterback, but the receivers aren't getting it done either.
3. Slightly Encouraged by the Defense. Yeah, I know. There really shouldn't be anything to be slightly encouraged about with the defense, but if you were to ask me to grade the offense and the defense and who played better, I think I'd choose the defense. Maybe that's because my expectations for the offense are off the charts. Statistically, Texas Tech gave up over 400 yards of offense to UTEP, but if you look at the defense on a per/play basis, Texas Tech is sitting at 42nd in the nation at 4.65 yards per play. I know, it's heresy to even consider that the defense played marginally okay.
First things first. Texas Tech pretty much ran a 3-man front for the entire game. Maybe that was because both Jackson Richards and Rika Levi were both out for this game. You saw a ton of defensive players get some playing time last night, from Keland McElrath, Donte Phillips, Anthony Smith, Brandon Thorpe, Marcus Smith, and Demetrius Alston, they all played. Given how poorly UTEP was at throwing the ball, I really am surprised to see Texas Tech play just a 3-man front for the entire game because the threat of a legitimate passing threat was very much diminished by Jameill Showers inability to hit most open receivers.
Texas Tech did hold UTEP to 6 of 16 from third down, which is 37% and had a huge 4th down hold at the end of the game.
One other silver lining . . . the dumb penalties . . . they didn't happen on the defensive side of the ball. I think there was one pass interference call and that was it. Generally speaking, the defense played the cleaner game.
4. Penalties. Again. The penalties in the first half were darned near debilitating. For the day, Texas Tech had 10 penalties for 90 yars, which I suppose is an improvement. I am guessing there was a lot of hand-wringing in the open threads about how Texas Tech didn't have any pass interference penalties called on UTEP and the sideline infraction was a bunch of hooey, but I don't care. I've written plenty about penalties in my almost 8 years of writing on DTN/VTM, but there have been very few times where I actually blame poor play on the refs. For me, that's a cheap out as a writer and unless a particular call actually causes Texas Tech to lose a game, then I pretty much ignore the non-calls because there are probably plenty of non-calls that could have gone the other way. I seriously doubt that there were only two times that Texas Tech held for the entire night on the offensive line. You get the idea. Blaming refs, for me, is a crutch, one that I won't use.
What I will write about is that the penalties against Texas Tech bailed UTEP out of a 4th down punt, a jersey infraction, having two #13's on the field, Sam Eguavoen and Cameron Batson. I'm guessing that Batson sorta needed to be on the field and not Eguavoen since Batson needed to actually catch the punt. Plus, the refs called a sideline infraction, giving UTEP the first down. We can complain about the timing of the infraction, but guess what, if the players and coaches were behind the line they were supposed to be any any of the other two times that it was called, then this never would have been an issue.
As mentioned above, I think we're now talking about the special teams and the offensive side of the ball cleaning up their mess. Just one penalty on the defensive side of the ball.
5. Hello Mr. Stockton. Justin Stockton was simply terrific tonight, toting the ball for the Red Raiders. Actually, the entire running attack was really good and we'll get to that momentarily. Stockton made huge play after huge play, touching the ball only 8 times and running for 139 yards, including a 75 yard touchdown run. To say that he is electric is an understatement.
6. Let's Do This Some More. Texas Tech didn't quite have 200 yards rushing last week, but if the opposing defense is going to crowd the line of scrimmage, then the receivers need to continue to run the cornerbacks and safeties off of the ball and let guys like DeAndre Washington and Stockton and White run the ball. Stockton had the huge night, but DeAndre Washington and Quinton White weren't bad at all, averaging near 5 yards an attempt and as a team, Texas Tech finished with 226 yards on the ground, 20 of which was Davis Webb, so the running backs actually had 206 yards rushing on the day behind 28 carries. I really wanted to see an improved running attack this year and thus far, Kingsbury appears to have done a good job of making sure that there is a threat of a running game. I also didn't get the distinction between Davis Webb's near fumble and Washington's fumble, especially since Mike Periera said that Webb's fumble was determined by where his rear end hit the field and it seemed that you could have said the same thing about Washington.
7. Ward Has Been Huge. Keenon Ward has had two really spectacular games thus far this year. Last week, he played with his hair on fire and he did the same thing this week, notching 7.5 tackles, which led the team. Ward's support of the run has been significant and it's been a big reason why Texas Tech has had any sort of success stopping the run. Thus far, he's been the star of the defense for me.
8. Marquez Makes Plays. Ho hum, 3 catches for 33 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bradley Marquez was huge in the redzone. Without Marquez (and Webb finding Marquez), Texas Tech doesn't have a chance in this game.
9. Not Very Good. After the game, head coach Kliff Kingsbury held an impromptu press conference, nothing official looking and I took some non-transcript notes:
Young. Young at all positions. That last drive was a character building drive. Defense hung in there. Kept getting in our own way, we turn the ball over and found a way to win. They are disappointed in the way they played, but happy that they won. I think we grew up some, that last stop in that last drive. Just have to make more plays on offense. Just not consistent. He's still young, he's got to get a lot better quickly, no interceptions. Stockton has a different gear, DeAndre has been big for us. Nevery got into a real rhythm, never called a game that went less than 59 plays. I think he's just missing some throws that are wide open, what's happening on the practice field needs to translate. That was a first ever, but the guy wanted to throw it on a 4th and 2. Yeah, everybody, just the sideline.
Kingsbury said that the team just wasn't very good. I said this after the game and I'll write it again. Don't ignore the signs. Right now, this is a middling offense that is sputtering big-time and there's no real consistency. If Texas Tech was going to make a significant leap forward, it was going to be on the offense to be more consistent. Right now, that's not happening and it starts at quarterback. I don't think the defense is going to be horrible, but the offense is supposed to be significantly better and it's just not close.
10. Individual Defensive Effort. We've praised Keenon Ward, but I thought that Keland McElrath played pretty well all things considered and I also thought that Kenny Williams greatly improved from game 1 to game 2. Of the two pass rushing threats, Branden Jackson and Pete Robertson, I thought that Jackson was significantly better and was a real threat. I kept an eye out on Robertson and he's just having a hard time getting much, if any pressure on the quarterback as a rush linebacker. It just doesn't seem to be working out on my end. In fact, Robertson didn't record a solo tackle the entire night. I also liked the effort of Demetrius Alston. Again, the defense wasn't perfect, but all thing considered, I thought that the defense did their part.