Manhattan, Kansas: a place where weird things happen. A place where the tourist attractions include a flat expanse of land and an insect zoo. It’s a place where the football stadium is named after the team’s active head coach. Lastly it’s a place where sometimes football doesn’t make sense.
That’s what happened last night. Texas Tech got hit with a big helping of Synder’s necromancer magic and forgot how to offense but learned how to defense in the process. Let’s retrace our steps, pull out our maps, and figure out where we took a wrong turn last night.
Like most Tech games the first drive ended with the Red Raiders up 7-0. The offense took 14 plays and 5:12 of clock time to drive 85 yards into the end zone capped off by a Mahomes one yard rush for the score.
Kansas State needed only seven plays to answer back with a touchdown of their own. The Wildcats ran the ball well with Charles Jones and finished the drive with Jesse Ertz’s only passing touchdown of the game.
Seven plays into the ensuing drive, Patrick Mahomes would try to hit Cameron Batson in the flat but DJ Reed anticipated the pass and picked it off for six points the other way.
Tech’s offense would need only four plays to get back retie the game. Mahomes would hit Keke Coutee on a 10 yard comeback then Coutee would juke three defenders and outrun another three for a 61 yard score.
Keke Coutee is really fast.— Bring On The Cats (@BringOnTheCats) October 8, 2016
K-State busted off a big run with Jesse Ertz and Charles Jones to make it inside the red zone. However once inside the Red Raider defense refused to yield and held the Wildcats to a 20 yard field goal.
Tech would score would score on Mahomes rushing touchdowns the next two drives and in between Kansas State would put up another touchdown. After all this the Red Raiders led 28-24 with 1:47 remaining in the half.
Clayton Hatfield kicked off to the one yard line and Byron Pringle would return the kick 99 yards to the house to give the cats a 31-28 lead. This might have been the play of the game. Tech had offensive and defensive momentum ready to take a lead into halftime and the special teams once again lets up a big play to lose momentum.
The score would hold going into the half and the Wildcats would receive the ball to start the third quarter.
Texas Tech’s defense would do something unexpected in the third quarter: on the first two KSU drives of the second half the Red Raiders forced consecutive punts! Then on the next drive they forced yet another Wildcat punt!
When your defense stops them on third down two drives in a row. pic.twitter.com/GJpuu6QY5e— Viva The Matadors (@vivathematadors) October 9, 2016
Despite the improved defense, the offense could not capitalize and scored only three points during this time. Tech went for it on two fourth downs during these three drives, once in the red zone and once at the 40 but they were stopped both times. After the second failed fourth down conversion the score was knotted at 31 with 2:00 remaining in the third quarter.
The Kansas State offense would not be held in check for the whole game. Starting the drive on Tech’s 46 yard line, the cats would need eight plays to put up seven points and retake the lead 38-31 only 53 seconds into the final quarter.
Offensively the Red Raiders struggles continued. Texas Tech was unable to answer back with a score of their own and punted after a three and out. Mahomes’ throws in the second half became noticeably short and lacked the customary zip he is known for. Also the improved offensive line play from the first half regressed and Pat took more hits than most fans were comfortable watching.
Kansas State would respond by driving again into the red zone but David Gibbs’ defense would bow up and force another field goal with the ball inside the 10 yard line. The cats lead Tech 41-31 with 6:05 left in the game.
In four plays Tech would turn the ball over on downs, accumulating -1 yards and burning 1:44 of clock time. Bill Snyder’s team would regain possession at Tech’s 20 yard line.
However Gibbs’ unit would come up big again allowing zero yards on three plays and forcing the Wildcats to kick another field goal when they started the drive in the red zone.
The Red Raiders would receive the ball at the 25 with 1:56 left in the game and trailing 31-44. Mahomes’ arm still looked a bit shaky but with the help of a pair of defensive pass interference yards the offense would put the ball in the end zone for the first time in the second half.
Texas Tech got it’s lucky bounce on the onside kick when the ball hit the ground and popped into the air right in the hand of Devin Lauderdale. The Red Raiders had just enough time for a Hail Mary down six points for the win.
Mahomes dropped back, waited, waited, dodged a defender, escaped the pocket to his right, set then was hit from behind as he threw forcing the throw to end up 10 yards downfield and out of bounds. Ballgame. Had Mahomes been fully healthy he wouldn’t have needed to set and fire to launch a pass 40 yards downfield, he’d just flick it right to where he wanted to throw it effortlessly.
The loss, however is not on him. Without Mahomes, Tech likely would not have been able to score those three rushing touchdowns with Shimonek. Maybe the second half offense would have improved but that’s not something we can test.
This defense looked highly improved. After weeks of moaning about the same old defense this week David Gibbs’ crew stepped up in a big way. K-State was given a short field on three possessions and the defense only gave up one touchdown.
Tech only allowed three offensive touchdowns and three times held the opposition to three points in the red zone.
Bottom line here is that this team is showing improvement in key areas that haven’t improved in years. The offensive woes will be fixed and if this team can stop taking so many bad penalties none of the remaining games are unwinnable.