I'm starting with Special Teams because the play of the game was Mack's 4th down fake punt call inside the Texas 30 with the Longhorns holding on 17-14 late in the 3rd quarter. Our conversion and continuation of downs (along with the taunting penalty - seriously, is it necessary to taunt Greg Smith?) led to the 22 play, 9:17 drive that put the icing on the game and earned us the win in Lubbock.
Brown deserves huge props for making this call.
It was game-changing, called at a time when Tech couldn't possibly have expected it, and we've always executed that upback snap fake punt extremely well during Brown's tenure. If we're going to criticize Brown for his blind spots on offense, we also have to acknowledge the greatness and audacity of this call.
The special teams overall were very sound, except for Vaccaro running into the kicker and giving Tech a new set of downs. I don't mind hitting the kicker from time to time - it's part and parcel of an aggressive kick blocking scheme, but when it's 4th down and 5 or less and our offense is doing nothing, we need to have the return game on. Save the aggressive rush for 4th and 10 when an incidental running into the kicker penalty doesn't kill you.
Our net punt was 39.7 per and Tech averaged only 18.5 on their kickoff returns. That's getting it done. Watch Adrian Phillips - he's becoming a special teams player and I'm getting a Michael Griffin vibe from him.
Curtis Brown continues to be our best punt returner and we need to give him the gig outright. He will house it.
Total domination - there is no substitute.
The fewest yards allowed (140) against Texas Tech since 1982. If the offense plays at all, it's a 38-7 type ball game and the Tech fans begin Molatov cocktailing each other in the stands. Much credit is being given to the offense for the TOP discrepancy, but that's a bit lazy. Tech had as many possession as we did. The difference is that almost all of them ended with a quick 3 and out, a turnover on downs, or a turnover. Tech's longest drive possession was 4:14 and they had 12 drives under 2:01. That's a defense helping itself.
It's so gratifying to see a unit play so hard, so well, so smart, and so dialed in snap after snap. We dominated every unit matchup - DL vs. Tech OL, LBs vs. Tech RBs, DBs vs Tech WRs/QB - but they also played with great team cohesiveness. This is a true unit and they've gotten better every week.
Tolleson, Akina, Giles, Muschamp. Take a bow.
As disappointed as I am about the shoddy job of coaching we're doing on offense, I'm elated by what Muschamp is doing with this defense. My expectations for Muschamp are pretty much impossible and he still manages to exceed them. I expected a good performance from the defense - say, 330 yards, 2 turnovers, and 14-17 points allowed - but in no way did I expect to see such utter domination of a quality Tech offense. On our Tortilla Retort podcast, I predicted that unless Tech could make us pay for playing rush packages, we would injure Potts, we would score a DST touchdown, and Tech would lose the game. I was one monkey jumping on Curtis' back from getting all three.
-14 yards rushing, injuring the QB, and a dozen hard QB hits works for me, I suppose.
I always start with Kheeston Randall. Kheeston had a sack and 2 TFL and I don't think it's coincidence that when he lined up over center that Tech's first snap was air mailed to Monahans. On the year, Randall has 7 tackles and 6 of them are TFLs. Guess which side of the ball he's playing on? The other DTs were adequate, but this game plan was mostly about rotating a bunch of greyhounds and making Taylor Potts dress like a rabbit.
Jackson Jeffcoat is a 18 year old weapon, the likes of which we've not seen since Tony Brackens. Except that he's much more polished at the same age. He plays with motor and attitude and he can hold up at the point of attack. I can't even see his ceiling right now.
Sam Acho was his usual self. No stats in Lubbock, but lots of flushes and hustle plays. He played almost exclusively inside to allow the Jeffcoat-Jones reign of terror from the DE position, precisely the kind of selfless play we've come to expect from him.
Eddie Jones racked up two sacks, played the edge beautifully against the run, and a completely dominated whoever Tech rolled in front of him. He now leads the team in sacks with 4.
This was Alex Okafor's best game inside by far and the young man is already taking to his position change by Game 3. Coaching, IMO.
He's a real problem inside for a guard on a sure passing down. If he can keep his pads down, he'll help us against Nebraska too. Wide splits are enticing.
Dravannti Johnson quietly played some excellent snaps and I really appreciated his contribution on my re-watch. Great lick on Potts.
Keenan Robinson was tremendous - arguably his most fundamental game as a Longhorn. His 5 tackle stat line does no justice to his play. He brought the wood in the running game, he sprinted out to the flats faster than Tech's RBs and he smothered a very active Tech attempt to get the ball out to their RBs. It didn't happen because Keenan wouldn't let it happen. Emmanuel Acho gave us some excellent blitzes and his suddenness inside is something that OL really have trouble adjusting to.
I was pretty much in awe of our effort. I thought we'd give up a little more in front of our safeties, but Potts went 21 of 35 for 158 yards with 2 interceptions. When you're giving up less than 8 yards per completion and 4.5 yards per attempt, irrespective of pass rush, you're locking guys down across the field.
Christian Scott brought the wood in the running game and forced a fumble with a nice pop on a Tech RB. He also ran with Tech's WRs better than I thought he would. Blake Gideon had a nice a heads-up interception that Aaron Williams gifted him and another targeting penalty. As I wrote last week, I don't mind mistakes going full speed. Carry on, Blake. Kenny Vaccaro was quiet early, but had 4 solo tackles on defense and special teams.
Curtis Brown was completely dominant, and not just on his 74 yard interception return. He was so comfortable covering his guys that Tech WRs were just giving up on routes in frustration.
Aaron Williams did the same. His play to create the Gideon interception was big-time and it made Potts reluctant to force it down the field again. Tech using ball skills downfield on jump balls is a huge part of what they do. He and Curtis were off the charts dominant. Tech's lack of foot speed at WR was evident.
Chykie Brown played well. Yeah, Leong got loose on him for a touchdown, but that's sort of what Leong does. He was much more dialed in and focused in this game and in that way the hostile environment was helpful for him. This defense feeds off of hate. They dig it. If Chykie gives you a B+ as your #3 CB, you're in really good shape.
If you're one a dimensional passing team, we will destroy you. There's nothing you can do about it. No surprise, but it's still shocking to see how thoroughly we can do it when we're dialed in emotionally, mentally, and physically. That sort of congruence and improvement is what makes team sport competitive athletics so rewarding. There was nothing Tech could do and I can assure you you'll see a different Tech offense through the course of the year when they're playing teams not named Texas. That was a fairly solid offense that Muschamp waylaid.
I'm wildly enthusiastic about this defense, but some huge tests remain. Some that we can't scheme around. We're going to need the offense to step up if we want to live the dreamwagon.