What a tale of two halves it was for the Texas Tech offense on Saturday. After not touching the ball until there was around 3 minutes left in the first quarter, Tech found themselves in a 21-7 hole and not much offensive production besides a couple of big plays.
The second half saw the offense wake up in a big way and put up 24 points en route to a 38-21 win at NRG stadium to open up the season. Erik Ezukanma finished with 7 receptions for 179 yards, and Tahj Brooks added 134 yards and 2 touchdowns to help provide a majority of the offensive production.
So how did the offense perform by position? Here’s a look at what I saw from the Red Raiders on Saturday night.
Tyler Shough was the lone quarterback to take snaps for the Red Raiders, and boy did he show out in his first game in the red and black. He never really put the ball in a bad place, and gave his guys opportunities to go up and use their size to bring the ball in. His command of the offense was key, and he was able to get up from some pretty big shots from the Houston pass-rush.
We knew that he was fairly mobile from his tape at Oregon, but boy was that touchdown run nice to see. Being able to use his dual-threat ability as a way to open up lanes for our running backs and draw the defense in to free up some deep shots will be huge for our offense going forward.
Running Backs: B
If this was an individual grading system, I would give Tahj Brooks an A+ for how amazing he was at finding the open lanes in the running game and using his size and speed to run over and run away from the Houston defense. While he didn’t get a reception on the day, seeing him run a few routes to keep the defense honest was nice to see.
Since this isn’t an individual grading system, I have to give the Running Back room a solid B today due to Xavier White’s lost fumble. It’s one thing to fumble the ball but have the offense recover it, it’s devastating to have the defense recover especially when you’re at the 2 yard line. You could even throw Chadarius Townsend’s fumble on the kickoff return that the Red Raiders recovered in as well as he is a running back.
I will say that I didn’t like the idea to run a hurry-up offense after Ezukanma’s big play, which left White in at running back close to the goal line in 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 receivers). I think putting Tahj Brooks into the game, who is more suitable back for that situation, would’ve been better for Tech’s chances even if it would’ve given Houston a chance to switch personnel as well.
White didn’t really perform that well in the passing game either, catching four passes for a total of four yards.
Overall, Brooks performance was amazing and is a bright sign for the future, but you have to hold onto the football.
Wide Receivers: B+
The receivers are a similar story to the running backs, with one guy carrying the entire load and the others not able to find their groove during the game. Ezukanma is one of the best receivers in the nation, and proved it with his ability after the catch to go along with his jump ball ability.
Kaylon Geiger and Myles Price were on the field more than the rest of the guys and took a back seat due to Houston dominating time of possession and Ezukanma taking in the most targets and receptions. Trey Cleveland, McLane Mannix, Dalton Rigdon and J.J. Sparkman also saw some time on the outside, with Rigdon and Cleveland being the only two to log a reception.
Next week should be a much more productive one for this receiving room that will look to capitalize on their opportunities at a much higher rate.
Tight Ends: B+
Texas Tech has been lacking in production from the tight end group for quite some time now. If this opening game is a sign of anything, it’s that Tech is looking to change that narrative starting now. Both Travis Koontz and Mason Tharp found themselves on the field quite a bit, with Koontz being the main guy.
While he didn’t light up the stat sheet in the receiving game, Koontz had an impact in the running game where he found himself in a fullback position from time to time lead blocking for a running game that showed out. Tharp mainly lined up on the outside in a receiver position and didn’t get any catches, but his 6”9 frame really showed as he was noticeably taller than anyone on the opposing team.
I would like to see Koontz used more in the short game as the season goes on and for Tharp to get a few targets his way to see how he is with the ball in his hands.
Offensive Line: C
When your quarterback gets sacked three times, you’re usually not going to have a high grade at the end of the day.
The pass blocking was atrocious for a huge part of the first half but seemed to improve much more with some half time adjustments. T.J. Storment locked down the left side which was nice to see from the TCU transfer, but Caleb Rogers left a lot to be desired on the right side where he was constantly giving up some sort of pressure in the passing game. The interior seemed to handle Latrell Bankston pretty well as he didn’t have much of an impact on the game at all.
The run blocking was a much different story, as these guys opened up some big holes for Brooks to take advantage of on his way to a big game. Houston couldn’t seem to get off of their blocks and Brooks was sometimes not even being touched until he was a few yards downfield which is what you like to see.
At the end of the day the offense put up 31 points, which I pointed out during the offseason as a key for this team if they wanted to have a shot at winning some big games. The first half lack of production could be chalked up to the defense not being able to get off the field, as well as the special teams unit giving up an onside kick that gave Houston all of the momentum. While I did enjoy seeing Ezukanma get a majority of the targets, I would’ve liked to have seen a few more deep shots in certain situations that could take advantage of the height of this receiving corp.
The second half was a huge improvement from the first, as it was the Ezukanma/Brooks show that helped lead us to victory. Allowing Shough to use his legs was something that I really wanted to see Sonny Cumbie do on occasion which he did, and it led to a nice touchdown run.
Feeding the playmakers will be the key for this offense going forward, along with making sure to be more diverse in the passing game as teams will begin to shade towards Ezukanma in an attempt to take him out of the gameplan. Why Houston left him on an island the entire game is beyond me but you won’t see me complain about it ever.