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Texas Tech Post-Mortem: Nevada - Winning in Different Ways

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One of the more interesting games I can remember in my Texas Tech life, and that’s saying something. I’ve never come off feeling good about my defense after giving up 488 yards and I shouldn’t. Except I kind of do, in a way. Not real good, but okay.

First off, much like I said last week about Eastern Washington not being the typical D-II garbage Tech usually schedules, Nevada isn’t the WAC blow hard we thrash every year. They will beat some people this year. EWU kicked Colorado’s ass for 3 ½ quarters last week before giving the game away with a pick 6 on the game winning drive. Nevada will get thrashed by Mizzou this week, but I won’t be surprised when they finish 10-2. They’ll probably get beat by Boise State and a team they shouldn’t and finish 8-4 at worst. Big Col can play.

I should also mention here that I viewed the game courtesy of the Nevada Athletics website via the internet. This is a new thing the NCAA is trying out this season and there’s understandably some wrinkles to be ironed out. In 5 years, it will be the fucking coolest thing on the planet. Right now, not so much. Red Raider fans created some bandwith issues, so you had to refresh the stream every so often. The picture was actually impressive when it was working correctly. The audio has a really long way to go. For some reason, you kept picking up the audio cues from the program director as well as the voices of other studio personnel in the background. Altogether, it was like hearing your over-zealous uncle narrate family slideshows at Christmas with Satan’s voice from the B side of an Anthrax album played backwards to portray the director’s part streamed in. We thought we heard someone order a hotdog at one point. Anyway, it was the highest of frustrations and the highest of high comedy at the same time. I kind of hope they don’t cut that shit out and we get to hear someone get fired for on-air "off-air" comments. It will happen, trust me. They also replayed the audio of positive Nevada plays during the "refresh" periods, which made me throw my beer at the TV after Graham Harrell’s 6th interception. But, not.

Things That Concern Me

- Playcalling. I was baffled throughout the game. Our RBs were consistently ripping off 8-12 yards a play, our QB was struggling, and the OL was pushing guys around on running plays. Finally, Leach figured it out. From the 1st Qtr to just before Eric Morris’ 13 yard TD run at the end of the 3rd Qtr, Tech called 7 runs for 38 yards and a TD. Thereafter, Leach/Harrell ran the ball 12 times for 88 yards and 2 TDs outscoring Nevada 21-7, which is about how the first three quarters should have gone. Not saying we would have rushed for 350 yards, but 200-250 wouldn’t have been a stretch. I’ve seen this before when Leach QBs are struggling and it seems he/they just press more to throw the ball in an attempt to get in a rhythm. Whereas, it might be easier to stick with the running game and then have your QB find his funk by throwing to WRs that are 2 steps more open.

- Defending dual threat QBs in the Big 12 Conference. Kaepernick is as good a dual threat QB as Tech will face this season. He’s got one of those quirky, Bernie Kosar/Philip Rivers delivery points, but the dude can run and throw. That being said, it’s no excuse for allowing him 356 total yards, 92 of which were on the ground. Robinson, McCoy and Reesing will chew this unit up as it stands right now. I’ve finally figured out what it is with Marlon Williams. I’m his kindred spirit and we both suffer from the same affliction. We’re slow. If you’re going to play an undersized LB, he better be fast enough to run down a QB on the perimeter when he has an angle on said QB. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Jordy Rowland here. Dude is a little undersized, but he looks bigger and faster than Williams when they put on pads. Plus, he hits harder. Rowland currently sees time as our nickel safety and sometimes gets abused in coverage, but he would appear to be a good fit at Williams’ LB position.

- Penalties. Down from over 160 yards versus EWU to 81, which I guess is improvement. I said at the beginning of the season this was a 9-3 football team that could beat every team on their schedule. I still believe that, but penalties will cost Tech at least one game this year and I’m guessing it will come on the road against a well-disciplined opponent. Good thing we only have one of those on our schedule.

Things That Please Me

- We won by more than 2 TDs on the road against an above average opponent. With our offense playing like shit. The last 2 years, this would have been a 17-point loss, which leads me to believe this may not be typical Tech. There are some teams ranked higher than Tech, which have struggled against much worse competition. The #12 team in the country should be able to beat a top tier WAC team on the road by more than 2 TDs on their worst day and that’s exactly what Tech did.

- Running game. Specifically Baron Batch. Dude looks good every time he touches the ball. Batch finished with 7 touches for 58 yards. He’s faster and stronger than what Tech typically fields at the position and I would enjoy seeing what this guy could do with 15-20 touches in a game. Woods looked solid as well and overall they produced 126 yards on 20 carries and 3 TDs, if you include the 13 yard Eric Morris run.

- 3rd Down defense. 3 of 16, not bad at all. Big plays via sacks and turnovers are becoming a trend. That will win a team like Tech some ball games by giving the offense more possessions and plays. The statistical odds of averages will start to swing back to the Tech offense’s favor, if given plenty of opportunity.

- Brian Duncan and Bront Bird. These guys aren’t perfect, but they make some plays in stretches. Though it has only been two games, Duncan appears to be the most productive MLB Tech has fielded since the Goodner days. Somewhere, Greg McMackin’s statistician disagrees with me. There was a series early in the 4th quarter after Harrell’s 2nd interception and Tech up 21-12 where Duncan made 3 consecutive plays to force a punt. Tech got the ball back and 82 yards later, Michael Crabtree was crossing the goalline to put the game away. Duncan has not only proved to be a run stuffing upgrade, but is pretty solid in coverage as well. Bird just flies around everywhere. He had a particularly good possession in the 2nd quarter by recording a tackle, a sack, and another tackle consecutively to force a field goal in the red zone after a 14 yard punt by Jonathan LaCour had set Nevada up with good field position. Duncan and Bird both finished with double digit tackles and many of those were within an acceptable distance of the line of scrimmage.

- Scoring defense. Twice Nevada started inside Tech’s 30 after cases of cranium analitis by Leach and only walked away with 6 points. The unit gave up some yards, but continued the trend of big plays to prevent points. I’m not sure how long we can continue to count on this.

- Defensive tackles. After a solid outing last week, once again they dominated an inferior opponent. Most of the damage Nevada did in the run game was on the perimeter, and Duncan stayed pretty clean for the most part. Backup Richard Jones also recorded the unit’s second interception of the season off a tipped pass.

- Pass rush. Brandon Williams recorded two sacks and McKinner Dixon notched one, and by the end of the game these guys were giving Kaepernick some consistent trouble. The DE position still has a ways to go with regards to the run game and discipline on zone read plays.

Things That Could Go Either Way

- Special Teams. Eric Morris returned a punt 86 yards for a TD, we blocked a punt, and recovered a surprise onside kick. We have also yet to make a field goal this season, having another attempt blocked. LaCour also shanked a punt that resulted in a Nevada field goal.

- Graham Harrell. I’m not worried about him, but he’s looked more like the 2006 version through two games. The Tech offense goes as the QB position goes and Harrell is good for costing you at least 2 games per year. I like him, but one theory is that Michael Crabtree makes him look a lot better than he really is. Against Nevada, he looked like Josh Freeman on his worst day. 19 of 46 with 2 interceptions. I’m confident he’ll bounce back, but I also don’t think we’ll be playing for anything significant if he throws 4 interceptions against an above average team, like he’s done a couple of times a year the last two. That being said, he’ll give you a chance to win if you can keep it close.

- Defense. Odd, I know, considering how defense oriented the things that pleased me in the game were. But, that still doesn’t change the fact that they gave up almost 500 yards of offense to a WAC, 224 of which came on the ground. In the second half, we saw why Chris Ault is in the College Football HOF and Ruffin McNeill is not. Halftime adjustments resulted in Nevada rolling up 265 yards in 30 minutes of football. Tech lost the time of possession battle by more than 10 minutes and still won by 16. To Ruff’s credit, Ault is an outstanding playcaller. At times, he had me on my heels sitting on the couch. Why was I wearing women’s shoes while watching this game? Nevermind. Also, on a positive note for McNeill was that it seemed like he was doing some counter-punching, especially with regards to personnel to rotations along the front 4. It may not be much, but it may be enough for this team. I’ll leave you with this bizarro Nevada drive chart from the 2nd half:

13 plays, 80 yards – Fumble

5 plays, 15 yards – Field Goal

11 plays, 53 yards – Missed Field Goal

3 plays, 0 yards – Punt

4 plays, 65 yards – Passing TD

8 plays, 52 yards – Turnover on Downs

All that shit, but what really matters is they only got 10 points.

Also see Seth C @ Double T