The Red Raiders took care of business against Kansas last Thursday by beating the Jayhawks 55-19. The Jayhawks may be the least talented FBS team on Tech’s schedule this year, but the defense deserves credit for how they opened Big 12 play nonetheless.
Defensive Line: B+
The big guys up front were awesome in the run game, limiting Kansas to just 46 rushing yards on 28 carries. Though these numbers are boosted because of lost yardage from sacks, this group deserves a lot of credit for what they did. Kris Williams was the brightest spot, delivering 2.5 sacks and forcing a fumble in the process. The fumble was recovered by Kansas, but this was the type of play that the Red Raiders will desperately need moving forward. Joe Wallace fell on a fumble late on a botched snap, but this play by Williams stood out for a unit that needs to find ways to force turnovers.
Both Kansas quarterbacks routinely had enough time to stand in the pocket and find their receivers, so the pass rush still needs to show improvement. However, strong run defense and created turnover opportunities led to the defensive line’s best performance since the SFA game.
Jordyn Brooks continued to impress during his true freshman season and fellow freshman Brayden Stringer made several nice plays as well. This section of the defense is probably the smallest relative to their position, but improvement has been noticeable. Speed won’t be an issue for the young guys here moving forward, and they collectively defended running backs pretty well in the pass game. When teams can’t bully this group by overpowering them, their raw talent shows. More time in the weight room will help them in the run game, but being in the right spot to make a tackle is step 1, and this group is starting to figure it out.
Defensive Backs: B-
Kansas didn’t put up good passing stats by any stretch but it was hard to separate how the defense played from poor quarterback play. Both Kansas QBs missed open guys throughout the game, which always makes the coverage look a little better.
The big thing from this game was that Jah’Shawn Johnson finally had an interception. Though it was a terrible throw that few other quarterbacks will make this season, Johnson made the best play available to him. The line got pressure, forced the QB to abandon the pocket, and then Johnson capitalized on a poor throw. It wasn’t a product of great coverage, but it counts the same.
Freshman Desmon Smith got some good run in this one, and the young DBs thrust into playing time will benefit from starting conference play against two of the lesser Big 12 passing attacks in Kansas and Kansas State. Hopefully, these reps will help going forward.
Overall Grade: B
Kansas doesn’t have a good offense, but that doesn’t mean that the Tech defense didn’t play well. They didn’t allow a point after Mahomes went down, which could have been a mental meltdown point. They also played with the Jones half empty for most of the 4th quarter and never let up. These were positive signs after allowing touchdowns to end both halves against Louisiana Tech. Had it not been for several special teams mistakes, this team could have held Kansas to 10 points. A bigger test awaits next weekend in Manhattan, Kansas, but this group should have more confidence heading into their first conference road game.