While the Red Raiders showed once again the fight we hope to see reflected in The Brand, they fell short on the road against at the time 7th ranked Oklahoma State. What did we learn?
First Down: Behren Morton is the future, but could he also be the present?
Morton split reps with Donovan Smith this week in preparation for maybe having to go for his first start. Starting on the road, against a top 10 team, with no serious college football reps to draw experience from is about the worst possible situation.
Morton was absolutely sublime in this game, outdueling the vaunted fifth year signal caller on the other sideline. If had not been for a painful lower body injury that significantly hampered his mobility and limited the offense in the second half, I don’t think I am alone thinking Tech would have had a very good chance to walk away with the victory.
What will the coaches do if all three quarterbacks are healthy after the bye week? I believe Shough will still be your starter, you can’t fake the experience he has and I believe he is still the most ready to lead right now. But between Smith and Morton for the future, it will come down to consistency. Morton looked better than Smith by a degree, but whichever guy puts together consistent high level play will end up being your future starter.
Second Down: The secondary continues to improve
The secondary gave the OSU receivers and Spencer Sanders hell all night, and if it was not for some absolute circus grabs Sanders would have had maybe 200 yards in this game. As it was, he was a weak 49% on the day relying on his receivers to make some electric grabs to generate passing success downfield.
Credit the secondary, they picked the pockets of OSU all night and made Sanders look exactly as we expected. Kudos to this group, each week they have gotten better and better in coverage.
Third Down: The offensive line continues to hamper this team
Broken record at this point I know, but this group is killing Tech. Yes, Kittley needs to call a better game at times. And yes, Morton took a few licks he did not have to. But this line just continues to struggle mightily in all phases.
In the first half, it looked like they were playing a great game. Protection was improved and the running game was finding huge holes. But in the second half, the group fell apart. The backs were hit in the backfield every time and the QB protection weakened significantly.
Part of this is on your OC, the playcalling was just not good in that second half. The running formations were so predictable everyone knew the score and OSU checked into defenses to stymie it. But the big boys have to be better. They just have to be, or it won’t matter who plays quarterback after the bye week.
Fourth Down: Mobile quarterbacks continue to fluster Tech
Mobile quarterbacks are stuff to stop, full stop. It is is extremely difficult to be everywhere you need to be to stop them, even guys like Sanders that are not really the biggest threats through the air. But my god, you could tell before the snap when Sanders was going to pull on some of those reads and there was not a soul around to stop it.
That’s before I get into the I don’t know how many first downs Tech gave up to bad spy discipline. Sanders was who we thought he was, and Tech did not look prepared for it. A week after Martinez did the same thing to an extreme degree, this was pretty disappointing. You could see at times they managed to string it out, and when they did Sanders took unnecessary sacks or chucked it away. When Tech made him make decisions, he made the wrong ones or just gave up the ghost. When they lost him, Sanders used his speed in space to pickup backbreaking first downs.
Eye discipline and overall positioning just have to be better for this defense to take the next step. That is how this unit can keep growing as the season progresses.