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Late collapse spoils upset attempt

Defensive grades against South Florida.

NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-Texas Tech vs South Florida Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Texas Tech Red Raiders had over an 80% chance to win the game late, in the 4th quarter and lost. For the third time this season, the defense let up a late score to seal the team’s fate after being in the lead for most of the game. This bowl game could not have been a better example of the 2017 Red Raiders: 11 A.M. start, game in which Tech commits multiple mistakes early but good defensive play keeps them in front, until defense breaks and gives up scores late. Tech finishes the season 6-7, in which there’s no reason this team shouldn’t be at least 9-4. With a bevy of players coming back and most of the coaching staff staying in tact, there won’t be many more excuses if this keeps up next year.

Defensive Line

That glorified running back USF had, was a terror to keep up with during the game. Flowers constantly evaded his way to positive yardage and the D line was not able to get hands on him in the backfield throughout the game. That being said, there were two instances during the game where Flowers should have been sacked, and instead he threw the ball away in what looked to be intentional grounding, yet no penalty was called. The first moment came in the first quarter on a drive that was punted away anyway, the second came on a 2nd down with less than 30 seconds to go in the game and would have turned the following 3rd & 10 into a 3 & 20.

Kolin Hill was the big man for the line in this game forcing two fumbles and recovering one for himself, not to mention the big fourth down stands on two separate occasions for this group, that should have swung momentum but alas.

Grade: B+

Linebackers

For a second, I thought Dakota Allen was headed to the NFL. He was an absolute killer in this game, with scouts in the crowd watching and the game being played on national TV on midday Saturday, he couldn’t have picked a better day than to have this type of game. Eight solo tackles on the day, and when the coaches watch film, they will see his number at the end of virtually every play including the fourth down stands. Allen showed scouts the player he can be at the next level and by announcing he’ll be back for another year, will have 13 games to prove it some more (I am speaking that 2018 bowl berth into existence).

Riko Jeffers played the most he’s played all season, which makes me wonder if we may see a heavier dose of him next year. He and Brooks played consistently throughout the game totaling seven tackles, with one going for loss, however this entire group struggled trying to contain Flowers as he rattled off 106 rushing yards primarily off of scrambles. Defending mobile quarterbacks should be a talking point in the off-season and with this full unit coming back, there’s no reason for them not to strive to be the best linebacker group in the Big 12.

Grade: B-

Secondary

This group truly makes me want to rip out the small amount of hair I have on my head. The final three games of the season were thought to be signs of an improving secondary. They had played much better to close the regular season and it had seemed as though they’ve turned the tide. However, Saturday was more of the same ole secondary that we have seen all season long. Jah’Sahwn Johnson and Vaughntae Dorsey made an impact throughout the game combining for 15 solo tackles, two for loss, and a pass breakup. Those two did a wonderful job from the safety positions throughout. Though Flowers completed some nice passes, the secondary kept the receivers contained for most of the first half.

It wasn’t really until midway through the third that the USF passing game really got going and completed two devastating passes that won the game for the Bulls. The first one was a 65-yard dime to Valdez-Scantling in what looked to be an absolute blow coverage. It looked to be a cover two play in which Morgan released the receiver behind him and Coleman was caught sleeping and failed to rotate over in time. When the secondary was then given another opportunity to make up for the previous mistakes, they were caught with their tails between their legs again as Flowers threw a game winning touchdown pass with 16 seconds left. This time Demarcus Fields, who had a decent game before this with four tackles and a fumble recovery, was duped on a twist route and bit early, leaving Tyre Mccants wide open in the end zone.

This entire group will be back next season so they have an entire off-season to work on their consistency issues, but they will have to do it without DB coach Karl Scott as he has taken on a new position as the Louisiana Lafayette Defensive Coordinator. The talent is there, but bringing it every play will be the next step in this group’s evolution.

Grade: D+