We finally learned what happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object. The stoppable force scores 34 and leaves another 21 on the field.
The stoppable force pushes lightly for a quarter and a half to little avail, surrenders a mystifying unforced fumble touchdown, has receivers drop sure first downs and touchdowns, blows some early protections and finally puts a shoulder into it and drives the movable object over the horizon line. "What do you know? This is easy! All I had to do was push!"
The Texas Tech defense is ranked in the bottom 15% of FBS football and they came by those numbers honestly. In review, I spent less time watching the Texas offense than marveling at the myriad ways the Tech defense relies on hopeful blitzes to compensate for a brain-dead secondary (the highlight where three Tech DBs allow John Harris to run past them for a 68 yard catch while they stand mesmerize was my fave) and a front that's hopeless against the running game.
Tech is not without some talent. OLB Pete Robertson is a pretty freakish athlete and should play in the NFL and I liked Awe (Awwww!), but they're more or less the anti-Kansas State.
The Texas game plan clarified once Swoopes and our receivers stopped their self-sabotage: run the ball between the tackles until Tech loads up and then throw deep. It worked. By the late 3rd quarter, Tech was done, the Longhorns scored two clinching touchdowns and we spent the rest of the game running clock.
Swoopes had a Keystone Kops fumble-turned-Tech TD early and some ugly first down and easy touchdown drops that shook his confidence, but he regained poise behind a running game that forced Tech into easy coverages that allowed him to drop back and sling it without fear of anyone in a Tech uniform making a play on the ball. 13 of 25 for 228 yards and a touchdown looks good statistically, but three sacks (one on him, one purely on protection, one an unlucky play call and a little Ty panic) and a 7 point gift to the Tech D marred his report card.
It's now apparent that his zone read calls are orchestrated. There is no read. That's a disappointing insight into how he's processing the game right now. Maybe Watson and Wickline are being over-protective, but I suspect it's risk mitigation rooted in evidence.
His next step in the confidence ladder? Have a big performance at home against a better team and get Texas to .500.
They had holes. They mostly ran through them. Gray demonstrated some elusiveness (17-77) and Brown finished his runs (22-116) while they combined for 3 TDs. I don't think they were the best RBs on the field, but they're sufficient when our OL is controlling the line of scrimmage.
Props to the interior OL for their ability to control the line of scrimmage in the running game. They dictated the game outcome once our receivers started catching the ball. I was unimpressed with our early protection - particularly on the outside, but some of that is on the TE position. Our tackles do need to realize that shoving an OLB really hard doesn't complete the play. He'll probably recover and keep running and hit your QB or make your outside zone run go for -3.
MJ McFarland is a foamy soap bubble in pass protection. Wow. Geoff Swaim played well, got hurt, decided he didn't have time to bleed and finished the game. Love that guy.
John Harris is a demigod from the Greek pantheon - massive fouls-ups punctuated by heroic moments of brilliance. It is his obligation to have an early head scratcher or three, but eventually win you back by cleaning the Augean Stables of our offense. Gotta love the guy and what he has contributed.
Marcus Johnson is still good for a key 3rd down drop a game and 2-3 wide open shots on a skinny post that we usually can't connect on. This week, a beaten Tech DB wrapped him up in his loving embrace and forced us to trade an easy 6 points for 15 yards.
Jaxon Shipley fumbled for no reason when Texas was driving for a TD, leaping in the air like a bottle-nosed dolphin through an imaginary hoop and losing the ball on the other end. There was something so emblematic of this team in that moment - the absolutely unnecessary leaping gesture borne more of unneeded hustle than showboating, somehow managing to pull a bad outcome from a good throw, catch and appropriate play call. We do stuff like this all game and it defines us. Pinning it on some neat whipping boy - coaching, Strong, Watson, player mentality, Mack Brown's penumbric tentacles - just doesn't ring true for me. If anyone has a theory, I'm all ears.
Daje Johnson moves at a different speed than everyone else - as evidenced by his gliding end arounds. We had him twice on vertical routes that would have gone for 6, but Swoopes didn't find him. Call this his acclimation game for the final stretch of the season. This offense needs easy upside and Daje's got it in spades.
We had better results on offense, but the Tech discount weighs heavily. Our awful 5 of 16 3rd down conversion ratio is a weird contrast to the ease with which we moved the ball once we stopped shooting ourselves in the foot. Honestly, I counted a fairly minimal number of failures by the headsets on those key downs. I saw a number of reasonable play calls that we simply didn't execute. I don't mean in the coach's platitude sense of execution where any failed play is chalked up to nebulous player error - I mean I watched the play develop, the receiver break wide open, the ball hit his hands (or saw it thrown out of bounds while he streaks up the sideline alone), or our protection get immediately whipped on some dumb breakdown or physical mismatch and our offense get no positive play result.
If we can convert on those opportunities, we can beat West Virginia in Austin. If we keep doing the same nonsense, there's no chance.