Looking at the box score it would be hard to try and convince you that Texas Tech’s defense was a big reason they won this game. The first half was easily the worst half of the season as they couldn’t seem to stop the Longhorns from doing what they wanted. But the second half saw Tech take advantage of the Longhorns offensive line and make some huge plays down the stretch.
Texas used Bijan Robinson in every way that they could early on, and Tech’s defense was keying on him the entire time. He was used in play-action to spring open the first touchdown of the game, and used his unique running abilities to get in the endzone twice as well.
One factor that helped Tech get the Longhorns off the field is that Bijan only ended up with 17 touches, including one catch that went for 22 yards. Getting one of the best players in college football more touches is usually what teams do when they want to be efficient on offense, but Texas had a lazy second half besides one amazing run by Bijan.
Star receiver Xavier Worthy was also injured and didn’t play any of the second half, which took away a lot of the deep shots.
With all of that being the said, let’s take a look at these defensive grades and get a better understanding of how this game went.
Defensive Line: B
Giving up near 150 yards on the ground usually isn’t grounds for a B-level performance, but with the way that this front held up against what is the best running back group in college football it’s warranted. Besides a few big plays, there wasn’t really room to run for the Texas backs, but sometimes that’s just not enough for Bijan Robinson. The other backs were contained on the ground entirely, but Bijan would find that space and turn negative plays into five yard gains because that’s just what he does.
Tony Bradford Jr. and Tyree Wilson teamed up for the lone sack on the day, but the pressure was there frequently whenever Hudson Card dropped back to pass. Texas Tech was able to use their depth and allow for some fresh bodies to get in there and control the line of scrimmage, which is what Tech did all game.
Obviously you would’ve liked to have seen these guys set the edge better and disengage from their blocks quicker, but they did enough to keep the game close enough for Tech to get back into it.
The only reason this grade isn’t lower is because Krishon Merriweather is the best off-ball linebacker in college football and forced the Bijan Robinson fumble in OT to set up Tech’s offense with a chance to win the game with a field goal.
The rest of the game was the Texas running backs making the majority of these linebackers look silly in coverage as well as guys just blowing their assignments and allowing big plays. The run defense was fine besides some missed tackles, but that’s just the name of the game when going against Bijan.
Pass coverage is tough on linebackers as it is, but you would’ve loved to have seen these guys play better in that first half. The second half was a lot better and they showed plenty of improvements.
Edge Defenders: B+
Tyree Wilson and Jesiah Pierre were on the outside a majority of the game and were both solid all game. Wilson had three pressures and Pierre had four, and the two of them were constantly putting pressure on this Longhorn offense.
Wilson has been putting performance after performance together that is showing that he is one of the best pass rushers and overall defenders in the nation. Pierre was also good after seeing an increase in snaps with Bryce Ramirez’s season-ending injury, and he looked comfortable enough out there to show that he can be relied upon as the guy opposite the talented Wilson. He’s going to need to take advantage of the double teams and extra attention that Wilson will see and capitalize on those opportunities.
The secondary as a whole was solid besides the long touchdown to Xavier Worthy, which was credited to Malik Dunlap who let Worthy get behind him from across the field in Cover 3. Other than that the Red Raiders held the Longhorns receivers in check for the most part, with Jordan Whittington being the only guy that had an impact after Worthy missed the second half.
This was the second week in a row that the Red Raiders corners played at a high level and kept the big plays to a minimum. The experience of this group is showing and should have everyone excited for how this group will play this year against some explosive Big-12 offenses.
This might be one of the best safety groups in the nation. Reggie Pearson has been making game changing plays all year, and Dadrion Taylor-Demerson has shown off his versatility on defense as well. This group has done an amazing job of keeping things in front of them and making it scary for quarterbacks to try and take shots downfield.
Marquis Waters is technically a safety but has taken most of his snaps in the box and along the defensive line, and has been great for the Red Raiders and has allowed them to do a lot on the defensive side of the ball.
Pearson had an interception early on and pounced on the fumble that Merriweather forced in OT. He’s been around the football all year and has been one of the best players on this defense.
Defensive Player of the Week: Reggie Pearson Jr.
Pearson Jr. had some competition from Merriweather for this recognition, but ultimately he made some key plays and is the Defensive Player of the Week for the Red Raiders.
The interception he had showed off his range, and it would’ve been awesome if the offense could’ve capitalized off of it with a score of their own. His ability to play in the box as well as be the main free safety on defense is great for his future if he decides to go pro.
Having him and DTD in the defensive backfield adds a sense of stability for this team and helps Tim DeRuyter dial up some pressure. This also helps our pass rushers get to the quarterback easier if he has to hold the ball longer because of how great these guys are playing. Now that conference play has started, we’re really going to need both of them if we’re going to be contenders for that Big-12 title.