The Texas Tech Red Raiders rolled into Jerry Jones’s AT&T Stadium on Friday on the heels of the worst loss in the Kliff Kingsbury era. With little more than pride to play for, the Red Raider defense turned the anticipated shootout into a one-sided drubbing to end the season on a high note. Don’t let the yardage totals fool you here; this unit stepped up big time in the 54-35 win. Here are the grades for the season finale.
Defensive Line: B-
Ignore Baylor’s rushing totals for a second. Yes, they racked up 257 yards, but most were in the second half and it took them 53 rushes to do so. At roughly 4.8 yards per carry, those are numbers the defense can live with. Outside of a 57-yarder by Terence Williams, Baylor never got much going on the ground. Freshman quarterback Zach Smith was pressured several times and Kris Williams recovered a fumble. The defense played with a double-digit lead for most of the game and the guys up front did a good job of letting the players behind them make plays. For most of the second half, Tech played a conservative defense that required guys to make routine, disciplined plays. Credit the D-line for doing that more often than not.
Team captain Luke Stice capped his season with another inspired performance which included a crucial fumble recovery that allowed Tech to take the lead they would never relinquish. Stice and Jordyn Brooks were credited with 23 total solo tackles and were constantly involved in the action. This group didn’t have many pass defense responsibilities and were able to key in on making tackles in the open field despite playing with a lead. It felt like the linebackers brought a lot of the energy to this one and their spirit carried a defense in need of inspiration.
Defensive Backs: B+
It quickly became clear that Baylor only trusted two pass catchers in this one and they rode them until the very end. Both Ishmael Zamora and KD Cannon hauled in 12 catches and the duo combined for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sounds bad, right?
On the surface, those numbers don’t reflect a good performance from the secondary. However, given the turnovers caused and game script that developed, this performance was just enough. The DBs tackled well and for the last 55 minutes didn’t give up the backbreaking long plays that have haunted them this season. Instead, the secondary, led by Jah’Shawn Johnson, made those killer plays.
Tech fans should know that passing numbers can be misleading depending on how the game actually unfolds, and that’s the case for Baylor here.
Overall Grade: B+
If you only looked at the box score in this one, you’re shaking your head at these grades. But all season long, fans have begged the defense to give the offense enough help to win games. After the early fumble recovery, this team never looked back.
Baylor is going to rack up yards on almost anyone when they snap it 100 times. However, this defense caused four turnovers and stopped the Bears on five different 4th down attempts. Baylor may be reeling and this defense certainly didn’t show up like this to every game, but this was something to be thankful for and gives the defense something to build on as they enter the offseason.