Sometimes all it takes is one game for every opinion about a team to change. That was the case with this Red Raider offense against Arizona. The offense produced only 14 points, had two turnovers, and constantly squandered promising drives with bizarre decisions and poor execution. Three years ago in Tempe, a Mahomes-led offense put 55 points up in a losing effort against a similarly bad Arizona State defense. On Saturday, against a defense that literally had to publicly defend their defensive coordinator before the Tech game, an Alan Bowman led offense only scored two touchdowns. The offense was simply atrocious, and going forward some changes will have to be made internally to avoid a similar fate against even better defenses.
Before I start these grades, I want to mention that I am factoring in the offensive gameplan for these grades. I’ve watched some of the tape and took notes on certain areas where I felt the offense was hindered, and thus these grades may seem lenient in some cases given the production levels. Here are the offensive grades for a (disappointing) week three performance:
By far the worst grade of the year so far for Alan Bowman. The sophomore threw two early interceptions that both looked like miscommunications with his receivers. The first was a throw to the endzone where it seemed like he was throwing for a fly route, while T.J. Vasher peeled out on a fade route about seven yards from the goal line. Bowman’s second pick came on a route over the middle intended for Dalton Rigdon, and it looked like Bowman was throwing it towards an underneath moving route, while Rigdon had found a spot and curled. The result was a ball that went straight into the defenders hands underneath.
Bowman did have a few bright spots in the game, including a beautifully placed deep ball to Vasher (more on that later), however his night was compromised by contsant pressure that ultimately resulted in a shoulder injury. Bowman had a horrendous 5.6 YPA, however some of that can be explained by a horizontal gameplan against a fast Arizona defense. Bowman played the worst full game of his collegiate career, but thankfully he will have a week off to heal and evaluate his performance.
Running Backs: B
This is where the ratings get a little subjective due to my thoughts on the gameplan. I actually think the running backs played a great game when given opportunities, however David Yost (and to a lesser extent Bowman) gave them a variety of really terrible situations to deal with. The backs only ran for 109 yards on 24 carries, however they were extremely dependable on short yardage situations, specifically on runs to the left side. Despite this, Coach Yost continuously called plays that were to the right side boundary, and outright abandoned the run at certain points in the game (after halftime, post first touchdown), and the running backs were never given real opportunities in the passing game. Yost called at least three swing routes with no second options, and multiple screens with no counter action. The result was an Arizona defense that’s one strength was speed getting out of jail by only having to move laterally, and Texas Tech running backs that had no chance to get yards after the catch with Wildcats swarming them.
Ultimately, I think the running backs had a solid game in Tuscon. A lot of their issues were caused by mis-use , and I can only hope that the coaching staff figures out how to maximize them.
This was the hardest group to grade for me. Vasher and Mannix had the only great offensive plays in the game, however the receivers also constantly had plays where it seemed like Bowman was not on the same page with them. The most notable example was in the fourth quarter when Bowman barely got a play off and two receivers ran the same route. The result was a near interception for Bowman and a confused look for everyone. Once again the only receiver that consistently beat press coverage was T.J. Vasher, and that allowed Arizona to play physical and also rush the passer.
The receivers were also part of some questionable playcalling decisions. Vasher had several open routes over the middle throughout the game, yet Yost refused to consistently go after them. He also failed to recognize that Arizona was leaving a single high safety look for much of the game, which should have opened up intermediate routes on either side. There was very little action across the middle and in intermediate zones in general, which was shocking against an Arizona defense that struggles in vertical routes and is fast laterally. Let’s hope the OU game features a more diverse route tree.
Offensive Line: D-
Bowman somehow didn’t get sacked, however he was under constant pressure and was injured on a simple screen play. The right side of the line struggled in both pass and run blocking, and Terence Steele had more penalties in one half than the entire offensive line had combined over the first two games. Rough start for the senior, but hopefully he can return to form. We need the offensive line to protect Bowman or else it will be a long season in Lubbock.
Player of the Week: T.J. Vasher
I honestly did not want to give this award to anyone, but Vasher had a solid game and was held back by his quarterback and play calling. He had six catches for 96 yards, had a 39 yard highlight catch, and won battles at all three levels. Unfortunately he was not utilized on intermediate and deep routes enough, which mitigated his height advantage. Vasher has to be used more if Tech wants to beat the press. His size and speed combination makes it extremely hard for defenders to size him up at the line of scrimmage. T.J. was a bright spot in this game, but if we can start giving him a more healthy dose of 15-20 yard targets it will greatly improve the offensive balance.