That felt good.
Our first complete game in all phases and it's not the score that convinces me of that fact.
Compared to last year's team, we're faster, quicker, have an identity on defense, and game changers on special teams. A focus on the offense's slow starts has obscured the fact that we're building quality units in the other two phases. I think we owe Texas Tech a debt of gratitude for reminding us of the urgency with which we need to play & coach, for showing our defense and special teams what they're capable of when they're clicking, and for giving us some teachable moments.
I've asserted since the summer that defense and special teams will be the difference maker for this year's team and I don't think there's any doubt about that now.
I can't think of a better way to go into a bye week.
The forgotten third leg of the gridiron stool gets first billing here. We finally have game changers at every return position and we're executing in almost all phases of the kicking game.
Malcolm Williams' destruction of the UTEP punter was fun not only because of the stick, but because of the situational awareness it showed knowing that the ball had touched the ground and the punter was now fair game.
DJ Monroe's 2nd kickoff return TD of the year squashed any UTEP momentum and the outstanding blocking that set it up is actually more encouraging to me than if Monroe had made some otherwordly run. Catch, run, score. Untouched. More of those to come, folks.
Shipley at PR is proving to be a great move and his 52 yarder flipped the field. Excluding that, he still averaged 10.5 ypr on his remaining two. That tells you something about our blocking and scheme too. We're a long way from the halcyon days of Courtnee Garcia.
Hunter Lawrence continues to be reliable and if you want to critique his 3 of 4 performance for knocking a 54 yard attempt off of the crossbar with no wind at his back (as an idiot friend of mine did via text message), then you have sterner requirements than the Marquis de Sade and you're probably raising your children like Marv Marinovich and your dogs like Michael Vick.
UTEP ran 51 plays for 53 yards. The Miners' longest drive of the game went for 23 yards. 4 interceptions, 3 Forced Fumbles, and 4 sacks. Held UTEP to 1 of 12 on 3rd down. Other than that, UTEP excelled.
Kindle is changing games. On UTEP's first series, he makes a great hustle tackle on the ballcarrier for no gain to open the game. On third down, he Taylor Potts-es Vittatoe. Sack, strip, fumble. Offense trots on and scores a lay up. Next UTEP possession, 10:07 1st Q, UTEP throws a sideline screen out past the far hash. Our DBs string it out and who cleans it up on the sideline from 35 yards away? Kindle. 8:57 Q1, we line Kindle up at standup LB and blitz him through the 1 gap (remember this look when we play OU). He gets a pressure and forces a hasty incompletion. This all occurred in one half of the FIRST QUARTER, folks.
Has there ever been a DT at Texas with more screen awareness and recovery ability than Lamarr Houston? I want you to watch his play at 3:50 in the 1st quarter. Outstanding.
Immediately after that play, Vittatoe tries a half roll to buy a little time and Eddie Jones reads it playside, abuses the OT, shrugs off the chip block from the UTEP RB and plants Vittatoe in the dirt as he throws it away. To recap: Jones is doubled, Vittatoe releases the ball in two seconds, he still gets driven. That's a pretty good summation of what Eddie is giving us right now when we tell him to go get the passer.
Acho with the leg whip sack in the 2nd Q. Inspired by Flozell Adams.
Emmanuel Acho is a guy that we can't take off of the field. His only weakness is at the point of attack (two knockdowns), but his ability to take a gap on a run blitz and to tackle in open space is top level. Like Aaron Williams, he's an intelligent, clean cut program poster boy that turns into an evil motherfucker on the football field. He led the team in tackles along with 3 TFL, 1 sack, 2 QB hits and a couple of tackles that looked routine where the RB got up shaking like a newborn giraffe.
Some boxers have heavy hands, Emmanuel Acho has heavy shoulder pads.
Keenan Robinson didn't have the wow plays that Acho did, but he was really solid for us. Muckelroy's day was quiet compared to his Tech heroics, but no complaints.
That's a good example of what we're capable of when we go man under with predominant press coverage. This is who we are. UTEP's combined QB statline was 7 of 22 for 38 yards with four interceptions. That's like Chris Applewhite's speed dating scorecard.
Curtis, Aaron, Chykie toyed with UTEP's WRs and our safeties cleaned up the garbage. I expect consistency from Curtis and AJ, but Chykie gave this game his full attention and that's an important step for him. Beasley gave us some solid snaps from the second quarter on (along with a PI) when AJ went out with a ding. Four picks were like rain in the Sahara and an important confidence booster.
Earl Thomas is playing like the best safety in the league. Apologies to Stuckey at KU, but that's how I'm seeing it. Smart, can play press coverage, ball skills, mean little shit. No one else has his flexibility or audacity. Three picks in four games.
Ben Wells! Thank you for giving me a mental image beyond a Baylor WR streaking by you.
Nice play in the alley by Nolan Brewster for a loss at 9:42 Q1. Knew what was coming based on film study (you can see him creeping in recognition before the snap) and played downhill and though the tackle was less than authoritative, it was good football.
Gideon made a by-God football play on a ball in the air. Congratulations, Blake. Let's do it some more. For doing that, I'm not going to dwell on your tackle attempt at 14:04 in Q2 when the UTEP RB set you up and ran by you for 18.
We blew the doors out. Very encouraging to see us go 300+ passing and 300+ running. I was intrigued to see us working out of some different formations and exploring some different looks.
He's baaack. Good fundamentals on display. He threw the ball well and the opponent was immaterial - I was looking at how it came off of his hand, his touch, placement. All good. 28 of 35 with four drops. The pick 6 was a confluence of our scheme and some of Colt's bad habits and we'll have another before the season ends, but that's the
opportunity cost of a passing game. For Colt to experience a horrendous start, rally, and then go into the bye week with the pressure off and feeling good about himself is really important for us.
You've got to be pleased with what our coaches have done with Garrett Gilbert. He's playing meaningful snaps, we're letting him run real offense, and Garrett is offering every indication that he's a player. He's filling out too. I really liked how he operated with so much comfort in different formations and like his accuracy throwing on sprints outs. We'll be a different offense with him at the helm - I think we'll marry some of the Colt offense to some of our Simms/Applewhite era play action game.
Whenever the RB personality cult starts to rise and I strike it down with logic and refocus the conversation on system, context, and opportunity rather than dumb player fixations, the football gods always reward me. Always. I know that there are several Tre Newton Is The Answer enthusiasts puzzled right now, but it's all going to be OK. Our RBs are like sushi boats. Sample a little of each, enjoy the overall experience, and don't get attached to one dish.
Vondrell had a fantastic game and it was nice to see him experience success. Amazing how holes restore a RB's vision. I liked the quick draw feel of his 51 yarder (it was base blocked with no delay - not a true draw) with the screen play fake.
Good to see Fozzy back healthy. I'd forgotten about his lateral quickness. I anticipate a part from a Chinese satellite falling on him soon.
Jamison Berryhill is the shit.
Aside from the early dropsies, these guys played well. Dan Buckner cracks me up. He's enormously talented and his hands are covered in flypaper, but his mannerisms and post-catch injury flirtations bring to mind an Italy-Argentina World Cup Final. The one hand TD was a really difficult play and it was nice to see him score on a crossing route. He's deceptively fast once he gets in his stride.
Shipley was his nifty self and absolutely worked UTEP over nibbling at the edges and breaking ankles. Chiles gave us his requisite WR screens and solid blocking. Malcolm Williams gave the coaches some confidence with some steady system play and I liked that Colt focused on him on the 4th and 2 conversion at midfield in the 1st half. Kirk was solid.
Have to write a word or two about Marquise Goodwin. Like DJ Monroe, this is a football player who also happens to be an elite track guy. Further, his speed sticks when the pads come on. He has legit hands. I'm enthused about this guy's future. Gilbert's fixation on him in the passing game amuses me to no end.
Great protection for Colt overall. Obvious struggles early in the running game, but once the offense established rhythym, UTEP tired, and our passing game forced UTEP out of gap control, they dominated. Chris Hall has yet to play a bad football game for us. I really appreciate how he battles in there on every snap. No rollerskates on his cleats.
We needed this. The national scene opened up for us nicely and now it's a matter of taking care of our own business. This was a great teaching tool for the coaches to show the team what it looks like when we're on in all phases. We've got two weeks to dissect where we can improve and to heal injuries. I wonder how much of our preparation time is spent on Colorado vs Oklahoma? Hopefully not more than half.