Since I was limited to radio transmission only, I couldn’t tell a whole lot about this game except that it sounded like we kicked their ass. And the box score would seem to confirm that. So instead, I want to focus a little bit more on trends and where this team is at as we head to the bye week.
Last week, the Batch/Woods combo totaled 30 touches for 301 yards. This week was a subpar performance with 29 touches for 284 yards. I like this trend…..a lot. That’s a two week average of 29.5 touches for 292.5 yards (AKA 10-YAT). They’ve also accounted for 4 TDs over that period. Over the first two games, the duo averaged 18 touches for 105 yards, and as a result, Harrell and crew struggled in the passing game. Now, all is well and our QB’s accuracy has miraculously returned……or, defensive linemen, linebackers, and safeties are busy doing something else besides pinning their ears back or dropping into zones. I’ve seen all kinds of stats and articles regarding our running and short passing game to the backs, and here’s an interesting one to me. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, Leach is 25-3 (89.2%) when his RBs receive 20 or more touches in a game and Tech averages 45 points per game. When below the 20-touch number, his record is 5-9 (35.7%) and Tech averages 25 points per game. Right now, we’re averaging 26 touches for 205 yards and 46 points per game. We’re also 4-0. *Sidenote: Leach’s Big 12 Record is 10-3 (76.9%) and 4-7 (36.4%), respectively, under the 20-touch scenario.
Now, granted, you could slice that record up several ways with legitimate, "yeah, but’s", however, I think it’s a pretty clear that Tech’s odds of winning go down when we put the game squarely on our QB’s shoulders’ versus providing a little help and diversity in the playcalling. No QB can go out and win every game on his own. Not Tom Brady, not Peyton Manning, not Vince Young. Somewhere along the way, they hit an "off" game and the running game, defense or special teams bails them out and they win championships. Tech’s OL is blocking as well as they ever have in the running game, and if Leach/Harrell, will keep leaning on it even the first time they go down 10 this season, then we’ll be in every game from an offensive standpoint. That’s how you finish 6-2 in conference with Cody Hodges as your QB. Production in the running and passing game to the backs, just like with any offense, makes everything work better for Leach, and will ultimately keep you in games even when your QB is sucking. It’s not uncommon to see a team pass for 300 yards and lose. It’s pretty rare to run for 300 and not win.
Once again, the Tech DL dominated an opponent, holding them to 258 total yards and 7 meaningless points. And you know UMass can move the ball as evidenced by their 468 total yards against Holy Cross. I said in my season preview of this unit that Tech would be improved at getting pressure on the QB, and thereby, creating turnovers. That prophecy has proven true as Brandon Williams notched another sack to tie McKinner Dixon for the lead in the Big 12 at 4 each. Darcel McBath returned a pick for a TD in this game as well.
Obviously, the competition to date is questionable at best, but there is no question that this unit is improved from a talent standpoint. The list of MLBs playing better than Brian Duncan in the Big 12 becomes shorter and shorter every week. He and McKinner Dixon have reduced Tech’s rushing defense by 50 yards per game. The DTs are playing well, especially Henley, Whitlock and Sesay (in stretches). All that added together, and I still don’t think it’s enough to successfully defend the top tier rushing teams in the conference playing 2-gap technique with your MLB, but it should help. McNeill has been doing some interesting things with Daniel Howard as a standup LB/DE in almost a 3-4 look. Combined with Brandon Williams/Henley or Whitlock/Dixon, this look has shown to be surprisingly effective at containing zone read plays and QBs on the run. They’re going to need it.
There are some holes in this team, but outside of the top 5 teams in the country, I’m not sure Tech’s are any bigger than the teams ranked around them. When I look at this team on offense, I see a good OL, solid QB, good RBs, and a gamebreaker at WR. On a bad day, we’ll still put 24 points on the board against the rest of the teams on our schedule. On defense, I don’t quite think we can hold every team we play under 24, but we've got playmakers at all three levels in Dixon, Duncan and Charbonnet. We’ll end up 9-3 one way or another and be about the 15th best team in the country, but 3rd in the Big 12 South. Harrell's good for two meltdown games a year; and, I think our running and passing game to the backs, and defense might be improved enough to overcome one of them, for a possible 10-2 finish. Shit, I'd be happy with that.