Texas - Texas Tech Football Postgame Reaction: Longhorns-41, Red Raiders-16

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas OL and DL beat down the Red Raiders in Austin.

A satisfying throttling of a Texas Tech team that proved increasingly irritating and chippy as the game wore on, becoming tough guys after the whistle while getting worked over during game action.  If you can go through every one of your pre-game keys and check each of them with a thick crayon, the Longhorns probably just turned in a thorough ass whipping.  Given what Texas Tech brought into Austin at OL, DL, and CB - personnel that would have been more at home in the bottom half of the WAC - I'm actually amazed that they've only lost their last five in a row. That game told me more about Tuberville than Kingsbury.

These were my pre-game keys, posted on Ian's excellent game preview and in the GameThread pre-kickoff.  Here's the prose version:

Tech’s run defense is awful and they’re a tiny defense (atomic, in fact – 5-8, 160 pound cornerbacks, small DL, greyhound LBs) and I wonder if we might just run well anyway even if they load up the box. Our OL has proven pretty solid all year and anyone still caught in the "Dominic Espinosa is hurting us" groupthink hasn’t been watching. I don’t think a combined 55 carry, 270 yard rushing effort is out of the question for us – which means McCoy can throw the ball our preferred window of 18-22 attempts against single coverage, convert some third downs, and hit a big play downfield to Davis or Johnson against a Mighty Mite cornerback.

Tech’s competent O vs our D probably tells the tale. They have shown zero ability to run the ball against honest, much less loaded, fronts without using the QB position. That gives Gerg a shot at creating some diversity in our coverages and blitz schemes. Their OL gets zero push and their RBs are mediocrities. So we don’t need to load up and smother the run as we have been all year.

Or if you're a bullet point type (post-game commentary in bold)

Keys to game:

1. Run the ball 50+ times. Find different sets and looks to repeat the same plays. The Tech D is tiny. Texas ran the ball 61 times.  85% of those runs were the same two plays.
2. Limit McCoy pass attempts to favorable situations. Tech’s cornerbacks are small and have trouble in pure bump and run. McCoy threw the ball only 19 times (within my 18-22 attempts target window) and most of those balls were to wide open wide receivers (see his two TDs).  He missed several gimmes, unfortunately.  Tech's corners were atrocious.
3. Jace Amaro is going to get his. Limit his teammates. Amaro went 6-83-1td (13.8 yards per catch) with two drops and some excellent blocking on screens.  The rest of his teammates averaged an awful 8.8 yards per catch.
4. DL needs to dominate. Let's put a check by that.
5. Safeties and corners have to challenge the Tech screen game.  Check.  Tech moved the ball out wide between the 20s in spurts, but never turned this crucial part of their offense into points.
6. Play honest numbers against the run and make Tech prove that they can run the ball. Check.  Tech's leading rusher was their punter and we spent 90% of our snaps even or undermanned up front.

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The game's most surreal moment featured the announcing team showing Tech WR Eric Ward blindsiding Steve Edmond on a devastating block on A PASS PLAY WHERE THE BALL WAS STILL IN THE QB's HAND (and remained there for another three beats as Mayfield scrambled about looking downfield) with both announcers repeatedly pronouncing it a good, clean hit and hard-nosed football.  They had an official (Mike Pereira?) watching the game back in the studios offering call explanations.  Nary a glimmer of realization despite ten minutes discussing the replay. Note: Looks like this a legal play if the LB is behind the LOS, which raises some interesting questions if an offense wants to knock out a defense's entire depth chart at LB.

Back to the game...

Defense

A dominating effort created by a strong game plan by Greg Robinson that exploited the talents of Jackson Jeffcoat as a free Bandit type rusher in a "Spinner package" with complementary nickel and dime personnel packages (last seen vs. Texas Tech in 2004, according to Robinson in the post-game presser, but we've used Jeffcoat in this role before under Diaz). The Texas Tech OL was horrid, Mayfield looked like a true freshman walk-on under withering pressure, and Tech's inability or unwillingness to run the ball effectively decided the game by halftime.

Best defensive effort since OU.  If an opponent has only one dimension on offense, The Gerg is probably going to do some work.

DL

Please evaluate the entire Tech OL for post-traumatic stress disorder.  Nine sacks, countless pressures, ball tips, and several QB hits later, Baker Mayfield probably slept Saturday night slathered in Tiger Balm. Malcom Brown singlehandedly stopped Tech's run game from guard to guard while sealing off interior scrambling lanes and Cedric Reed (4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 QB hits) held down the fundamental fort while Jeffcoat freelanced his way to three sacks and a number of pressures lining up anywhere from standup 3-4 style OLB to 0 gap late blitzer.  Even Caleb Blueitt got into the act late, rushing Michael Brewer as if he were the punter.  Throw in a sprinkling of cornerback and zone blitzes and it looked like a game of tag where the Tech QB was home base.

LB

Dalton Santos has developed into an average LB.  Which is a steep improvement.  And he still has upside to fulfill. He's delivering at least two bone rattling hits a game and getting out to the sideline better as he learns to cheat on offensive cues. His role model should be OSU's Caleb Lavey, a similar body type who logged improvement every year he played in Stillwater and will earn 1st team all-conference this year (at least from me).  LB was hugely de-emphasized in this contest with our formational use of Jeffcoat and our nickel/dime heavy packages and it's probably no coincidence that meant a dominating performance.

DB

I will not let the good work turned in by Carrington Byndom go unappreciated.  He lost one close 50/50 ball early, but then spent the rest of the game dominating whoever Texas Tech put on the field side of the formation in single coverage without safety help.  I don't think people appreciate how tough an assignment that is, but I saw you Carrington.  Our other senior DB Adrian Phillips quietly led the team in tackles last night, doing a very nice job of keeping the Tech screen game from running amok and playing an effective de facto LB role when asked to do so. Very proud of how AP and Byndom closed out their college careers at DKR.

Diggs was solid, primarily because Tech did little to challenge his deficiencies - so capably illustrated by Ian B in his OSU post-game review.

Duke Thomas had a nice game, getting an easy sack and a deflection interception - he nows leads the team on INTs for the year.  As he should, since he also leads the team in targets.

Josh Turner and Leroy Scott got extended looks in our DB heavy packages and I appreciate Scott's willingness to mix it up in the run and screen game.  Turner had four tackles over 35 or so snaps.  Mykkele Thompson even turned in a physical sideline double leg tackle/slam.

Offense

We had the right pieces against a Tech defense as lacking in upfront strength and overall physicality as any team I've seen in the Big 12 this year.  Better players at QB and RB would have accentuated our WR and OL dominance to the tune of a 56 point effort, but I'll take a 25 point win.

There were some easy yards out there.

QB

The perfect Case McCoy game plan - lots of handoffs, a few throws to open receivers, < 22 attempts overall. His solid if modest statistics don't illustrate the fact that he actually played poorly when measured vs. opportunities available and left several medium to big plays on the field.  His scrambling was good for a smile, though his ball security got a frown. Nonetheless, he was the QB for a Longhorn win.  Let's add that to the faint praise lexicon.

So Tyrone Swoopes is a nifty runner?  Okey dokey.  (Pencils in Jerrod Heard on depth chart above him for 2014) Annnnd...we'll just keep that there for now.

WR/TE

Mike Davis dominated the Tech Shetland Pony CBs (4-112-2 TDs, appeared ridiculously open on 90% of his targets) and throws down a 200+ yard effort with more reasonable throws.  Jaxon Shipley threw the prettiest pass of the evening. Marcus Johnson demonstrated poor ball control as frequently as his underrated speed.  A crew that could have easily had a 350 yard receiving effort with a different game plan and QB, but whatchagonnado?

Geoff Swaim killed Tech's LBs for four quarters and his penalty was bogus.  Great addition to the team.

OL

Dominating effort.  All they can do is maul the guy in front of them.  The backs have to add value. Joe Bergeron added a good bit, Malcolm Brown, much less.  In pass protection, they're not responsible for the extra man.  Or Case self-pressuring and deciding to demonstrate his Michael Vick if he had two broken legs act.  When evaluated under what they can actually control, this was their best effort of the year, despite Tech outnumbering the box on nearly every play and our run game more or less declaring on every down what our intentions were.  61 carries for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns running the same 2-3 plays with no QB in the run mix tells the tale.  Nice to see Kennedy Estelle growing by leaps and bounds (though he had a couple of regrettable moments) and the Hopkins/Espinosa duo is the strength of the line.

RB

Brown's 27 carry, 128 yard effort was underwhelming considering several of the holes he had, and he pretty much just ran the play for what it was blocked for all evening (his longest run went for 14 yards).  He's workmanlike. Anyone else think he was actually a bit more athletic making cuts and eluding tackles as a freshman?  And is that a good commentary on our S&C? Joe Bergeron was the better back last night, averaging 6 yards a carry on his 17 totes, trucking several Tech defenders, and making a few nifty cuts once he found his game legs.

Jalen Overstreet short circuited the STARTZ OVERSTREETZ fan movement by demonstrating a gift for running to darkness.  Seriously, I like him.  But our best RBs are playing.

Special Teams

Didn't lose the game?  The punt run by Erxleben is a good illustration of staff inattention to detail.  Hear me out before you just chock it up to flukiness in an otherwise dominating win.  Given the field position, there's no chance for a return (Tech was punting at exactly mid-field). So don't call for a hard return where everyone bails out, right?  Nor should you attempt a block, given that's it's 4th and 17 and you don't want to gift a new set of downs and a near guarantee of Tech points.  So you go neutral punt (no quick release, no heavy rush), tell your guys to contain, and play out the percentages.  Instead, we combine a hard return call (so Shipley is going to field it inside the 10? Really?) and an open lane to the chains (and eventually the end zone) while one rogue rusher meant to contain attempts to block the kick.  He flushes the punter, startled to see wide open grass.  The worst possible combination of a dumb call mixed with blowing an assignment. In fact, the only combination that can allow that play to occur.

And then there's the Blueitt roughing penalty - our fourth of the year.

Lightning strikes are flukes.  They're not flukes if you're hiking on a ridge line with a flagpole during a thunderstorm. Basic football IQ stuff and I'm loathe to mention it in a game that I enjoyed, but c'mon.  This is getting absurd.

Overall

The Big 12 is wanting if Tech represents the solid middle of the league, but we can only play who is on the schedule, and should always Give Our Thanks for a thorough crushing of an in-state opponent.  Fun game.

On to Baylor...

Hook 'em.

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