In the preseason, among Viva the Matadors brilliant minds there was the impression that one of the main strengths of the 2017 team could be an unusual depth, as many players, both JuCo transfers and recruits, could immediately contribute and help the team.
I’m glad to see that these expectations have momentarily been confirmed, as many unheralded players are finding playing time and making impact plays. Meaning that’s who we’ll focus on in this week’s film room, because in my opinion the Red Raiders are 3-0 also thanks to these dark horses.
I know I should talk about Keke Coutee’s umpteenth magnificent game, Dakota Allen’s impact on the defense, and the way Nic Shimonek faced a tough defense, but this week let’s give credit to our foot soldiers instead of the generals.
I have to spend a couple words of presentation about Eli, a sophomore defensive end recruited by North Texas in 2015. He transferred to Texas Tech before last year’s spring practices and in 2016 he sat out due to NCAA transfer rules. He barely played against Eastern Washington, however in the following two games he already recorded nine total tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.
Here’s a look at how he impacted the pass rush against Houston.
In this situation, the Cougars lined up with three receivers and two running backs, while Texas Tech aggressively was in cover-1 and rushed five players. Howard (red) was lined up in the B-gap (outside the guard), but at the snap Houston’s right tackle and guard (blue) didn’t pick him up and went to the second level.
Defensive lineman Nick McCann (#98, black) slowed down the center enough to allow Howard to break into the backfield and tackle running back D’Eriq King (yellow), who was running towards the right side of the field, for a loss of four yards.
In the second quarter Eli had his second highlight.
Houston lined up with four receivers and a running back, as Texas Tech was again in Cover-1 (yellow) and showed an aggressive six-man blitz. At the snap, the Red Raiders attacked Houston’s offensive line with only two players, Howard (red) and Kolin Hill (blue arrow), dropping nine in coverage.
Eli was fantastic working on the left tackle, hitting Kyle Allen’s arm before he began the forward movement. Unfortunately, in this play Howard also made a costly mistake, as his block in the back neutralized Tony Jones’ run after he recovered the ball.
A JuCo transfer from Kansas, Tre was at least the fourth or fifth running back in the preseason depth chart, but climbed over Da’Leon Ward and Demarcus Felton early in the season. He already had a nice 12-yard run in the first quarter, helped by nice blocks by center Paul Stawarz and right guard Jake Anderson, but had his moment of glory in the third quarter.
Immediately after Jordyn Brooks’ interception, Texas Tech lined up with two receivers on the left side, Dylan Cantrell on the right, King in the backfield, and a blocking tight end on the right side of the line, No. 17 Donta Thompson. It’s a formation that we highlighted in last week’s analysis.
The key blocks were made by the two guards, Madison Akamnonu (blue), who motioned to the right side to block the linebacker, and again Jake Anderson (red). The latter moved on a pull to the right, over right tackle Terrance Steele and Thompson, to block the blitzing safety.
Consequently, Tre (yellow) had a big hole to hit with his run off-tackle, and gained 73 yards.
He isn’t a freshman/sophomore nor a JuCo transfer, but Justin is worth noting, as he’s rebounding from a horrible 2016 with convincing performances. In these first three games he’s already gained 196 rushing yards, more than the 154 he gained in last year’s 11 games.
Against Houston, he made two outstanding plays in the fourth quarter, in the drive that gave Texas Tech a 27-10 lead over the Cougars that they couldn’t recover from. Let’s see.
On a 1st & 10 from the 6-yard line, Texas Tech lined up with Stockton in the backfield, three receivers and a blocking tight end/fullback on the right side (Mason Reed, No. 29, red). At the snap, the offensive line easily pushed the three defensive linemen to the left, while Reed blocked the blitzing linebacker efficiently.
Stockton tried to run to the left side, but he saw a highway open up to the right, and with a nice cutback ran into it. We have to say the offensive line performed well run-blocking, as the last time Texas Tech had 200 or more rushing yards was in November ’15. On the other hand, it struggled mightily in pass protection, as half-injured Ed Oliver and in general Houston’s defensive line put a lot of pressure on Nic Shimonek.
And now, let’s go to the final Texas Tech touchdown.
It was a complicated scheme that needed the cooperation of every player on the field, and I’m personally pleased to see a more elaborate gameplan in some situations.
A holding penalty forced Texas Tech to play a first and goal from the 20-yard line. Shimonek was under center and everything recalled the winning touchdown against Arizona State, with Keke Coutee (black) instead of Dylan Cantrell (pink) motioning to the right to receive the handoff.
Keke only faked to take the ball, while center Paul Stawarz (blue) and Akamnonu (yellow) immediately slipped to the left to create spaces for Stockton’s run. The running back was supposed to block, but when he understood the pass rush was under control, he came out from the backfield to the flats and run behind Akamnonu for the score.
Now, it’s strange to admit but the defense won this game, and it doesn’t happen so often to the Red Raiders. The offense had to utilize some unusual weapons to score, but it was nice to see how coaches worked on the gameplan to limit this tough Houston defense.