For over 30 minutes of game time it looked like a repeat of the Arizona game for the Texas Tech offense. They failed to put more than six points on the board, struggled to convert on third down, and made simple mistakes that killed promising drives. Everything seemed to be going wrong until R.J. Turner caught a tunnel screen and took it 79 yards inside the Baylor 20, which directly led to a Sarodorick Thompson touchdown two plays later. The offense collected over 300 yards in the second half, however the yardage only resulted in 14 points due to an interception in the redzone, a 4th down failure, and a generally slow paced Baylor offense. The offense scored on the first drive in overtime to tie up the game, but due to a couple negative plays the second drive stalled and led to a field goal by Trey Wolff. The field goal temporarily put Tech in the lead before Baylor scored the game winning touchdown to win 33-30.
With that being said, here are the grades (and general notes) of the game against Baylor. The format will be a little bit different for this week, as I added some extra notes due to the added element of a significantly different game plan from half to half.
What went well:
- Jett Duffey’s second half performance was a lot better than his first half, and a lot of that centered on the usage of RPO plays that attacked the center of the field for Baylor. Coach Yost developed a gameplan that directly attacked the weakpoint of Baylor’s seven to eight man coverage scheme. Using the tight ends and outside receivers to develop inside routes forced Baylor to move their linebackers back a couple steps, which in turn opened up Sarodorick Thompson’s ability to run against favorable boxes.
- Jett was able to utilize intermediate throws to the boundary really well, especially on the game-winning drive. We had not seen Duffey work the intermediate part of the field well until the last two games, but given how well he’s played when targeting receivers between 10 and 30 yards downfield it seems realistic to expect more routes attacking the outside perimeter of Big 12 defenses, especially considering the quartet of KeSean Carter, Erik Ezukanma, R.J. Turner, and T.J. Vasher are all mismatches for mmost Big 12 corners left on the schedule.
What went wrong:
- Duffey’s two interceptions both prevented potential points on their respective drives. The first was simply a poor read, as Duffey got baited into throwing a pass that the safety easily read and jumped an inside route that looked open. The second throw was a good read (T.J. Vasher had one on one coverage), but the arch on his throw was way too low and the ball got tipped and picked by an underneath linebacker that was sitting in zone.
- Jett failed to complete any true vertical passes downfield. Part of the issue was down to Baylor playing a lot of two-high safety looks, however Jett also missed two long balls that I noticed, one to R.J. Turner and one to KeSean Carter.
Overall Grade: B
What went well:
- Sarodorick Thompson had an incredible game. The freshman back had the most yardage for any Tech back (153) since Justin Stockton had 161 versus Kansas in 2017. Thompson displayed incredible durability with 28 carries, and showed a lot of patience and vision when running between the tackles.
- Thompson had a solid game from a receiving standpoint, as his five catches resulted in three first downs off of checkdowns from Duffey.
- Thompson looked great off RPO based looks, as he attacked the areas where linebackers vacated frequently, which then allowed more open space to develop. The go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter doesn’t happen if Thompson tries to bounce the run outside right as he reaches the second level. Those little things are a large reason why Thompson had the performance he had.
What went wrong:
- Thompson struggled some in pass protection, which is not unexpected considering he has not been used a ton in passing down situations in his career at Tech. Kliff Kingsbury seemingly treated him like a Desmond Nisby style back, and up until this game Ta’Zhawn Henry and Armand Shyne had seen a lot of third down reps.
- The screen game was virtually non-existent, which had to be due to the health status of Henry and Shyne. Thompson is not the pass catcher that Henry is, and even if he was there was no point risking an injury to Thompson by making him run plays that were not installed in the gameplan for him.
Overall grade: A-
What went well:
- The outside receivers finally ran some slant and post routes! The result was a Baylor defense that was forced to drop their linebackers further back when in zone, which then opened up the RPO game. Crazy how that works!
- The tunnel screen was used effectively all game by the receivers. R.J. Turner caught two that went for long yardage, and the fake tunnel opened up the defense, which allowed the inside receivers and tight ends to get a little open space late in the game.
- The intermediate outside routes were run to perfection in the second half. All four outside receivers stepped up in the intermediate range, and the result was over 250 combined yards from the quartet and a host of clutch plays along the sideline that made Jett Duffey’s life easier. T.J. Vasher was held in check in the first half but came alive down the stretch, as he had four catches in the fourth quarter and overtime.
- The downfield blocking by receivers allowed a lot of yards after the catch and also created more running lanes for Sarodorick Thompson in the second half. Going forward the blocking will be crucial if Coach Yost wants to continue utilizing the screen game.
- R.J. Turner had the best game of his short Texas Tech career with 137 yards. Turner looks to be a Eric Ward style receiver, which means he specializes in creating yards after the catch and being a dependable intermediate route target.
What went wrong
- The inside receivers had a tough time getting open against both man and zone defense. Some of that could’ve been down to scheme, however going forward we need to see a more balanced distribution of inside vs. outside targets.
- Downfield separation was scarce for all receivers. Baylor covered the vertical routes extremely well, as Duffey was forced to get most of his passing yardage through short routes and throws to the boundary
What went well:
- The Tech offensive line had their best performance all year from a run blocking perspective, Sarodorick Thompson had a lot of big holes up the middle, and the result was over five yards per carry. The line also did a good job of getting downfield on the runs that were sprung into the second level, which in turn allowed Thompson to make fewer cuts downfield.
- Only a couple of penalties were called in this game. No holding calls if my memory is correct, which was the first time that’s been the case since the non-conference openers.
What went wrong:
- The line gave up four sacks, and Jett Duffey was forced to the ground on a number of plays that nearly ended in disaster. Pass protection is still a major weakness for this team, and going forward it will need to improve to keep Duffey upright.
- Terence Steele played a solid game, however his two false starts are a part of a worrying trend of the Tech offensive line either jumping prior to the snap or missing assignments when going up tempo. The offense is designed to be played at a fast pace, however if the line keeps making a ton of mistakes it will be tough to continue going 100 miles per hour.
Player of the Game: Sarodorick Thompson
Thompson had an outstanding game as the lead running back for the Red Raiders. He carried the ball 28 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns. The 28 carries were necessary with both Armand Shyne and Ta’Zhawn Henry essentially being out due to injuries and personal issues. Thompson carried the team through the first half, yet still had the legs to break through for the go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
I am not sure if Thompson will continue receiving such a heavy load of carries when Henry and Shyne return, but it bodes really well for the freshman’s future in Lubbock that he was able to carry such a large role and still perform admirably. Make no mistake: Sarodorick Thompson will be a major part of this offense for years to come.