The game against West Virginia was tough, but there are some positive things to look forward to for the Red Raiders. For this team, 8 wins is still very much in reach and even nine wins if we can get a complete game at home. There’s a few things our team needs to do to ensure this.
Our defense clamps down
The first quarter has been horrendous for the Red Raiders and that ultimately cost them against he Mountaineers at home this weekend. We have allowed over 10 points in every game against FBS opponents in the first quarter of games. In addition to that, we allowed 21 to Houston, 24 to Ole Miss, and 28 to West Virginia. This needs to change, but there is a glimmer of hope as the defense has allowed zero points in the second half of both the games against West Virginia and Oklahoma State and allowed 7 points in the second quarter of those games. The ESPN commentators were talking about Will Grier as their Heisman winner in the first half but in the second half he was barely mentioned at all. This team gets better each quarter and that is a good sign. I believe that is when the team’s depth really sets in and the offense get tired. This team will need to improve in the first quarter, but the defense will win you games late with their amazing adjustments.
Running the ball
If you told me going into the first week of the season that the Red Raiders would have 5 solid running back options, I probably would have laughed at you. This backfield was Da’Leon Ward’s going into the season but after his injury, everyone else has stepped up in his place. It was good to see Ward get some good yardage in the second half against West Virginia, but it is also very reassuring to know that you have 5 guys with fresh legs looking to get carries. This type of committee running might just cause defensive coordinators to cringe a bit while scheming for this team. You have one big power back, two speed guys, and two more complete backs. If Alan Bowman is out for an extended period of time, you might also be looking at Jett Duffey for some yards out of the backfield as well. Running the ball will help whoever plays quarterback find some sort of rhythm and hopefully lead more touchdown drives.
We’re good at quarterback
No matter who plays, whether it be Duffey, Bowman or Carter, this team will be fine offensively. I believe the days of only putting up only three points are over for this team. This team has in Kevin Johns a great offensive coordinator who has been able to do something both Kingsbury and former offensive coordinator Eric Morris could not over the past two seasons, run the ball with consistency. Whoever starts on October 11th against TCU will be irrelevant to the outcome of the game in my mind, as this team can win with all three guys. When Bowman went down with a partially collapsed lung, Jett Duffey stepped in and led this team on a comeback that ultimately fell short, but he still looked good in moments. Bowman was just released from the hospital and looks to not be out for a huge chunk of time. If Kingsbury gets potentially a week and a half to prepare Duffey or McLane Carter, I believe that he will be prepared to face any opponent.
Bye week reset
This team has a bye week this week and it will be a huge blessing for the team. This gives the injured players on this team a chance to potentially heal fully as it appeared as though Da’Leon Ward was not at 100% (although he played) and other players who didn’t play last week such as T.J. Vasher and Desmon Smith will most likely play against TCU since they get an extra week of recovery. This will also allow Kingsbury to assess the quarterback situation and put a good gameplan in for TCU. If Bowman can’t go, look for the running game to be the focal point of the offense.
This might be the most important of all. This team hates 11 A.M. games but who doesn’t? They needed to wake up in the first quarter but after that, the team outscored and outplayed the Mountaineers for the remainder of the game. This team has now lost its starting quarterback in two separate games and somehow stayed in this game until the end. Not saying that this past game wasn’t winnable, the way the team played in the second half hurt me deeply because if the they could have had that kind of play the entire game, Tech wins by 15. It is still positive to see Coach Kingsbury rally his guys at the half, but wouldn’t you rather see the team play well in the first half? This team came off a very complete game against Oklahoma State and I was hoping to see the same thing against West Virginia.
Looking at the remaining schedule, it looks positive for the Red Raiders to be able to win 8 games. The remaining opponents are: TCU, Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State and Baylor. I see three games that will most likely be Red Raider wins in the remaining schedule but if we play an entire game like the second half of Saturday’s game, I can also see this team winning 9 or even 10 games on the season.